South Korean students gain design and English skills during intensive ISU workshop

AMES, Iowa - The summer session at Iowa State University may have ended, but on the third floor of the Design Center building, one classroom still hums with activity.

Fifteen South Korean students hunch intently over laptops, their work punctuated by occasional comments in Korean, bursts of laughter and exchanges with the instructor that
make effective use of nonverbal cues like hand gestures and facial expressions. And, they check language-translation applications on their cell phones to communicate when the English term escapes them.

The ISU College of Design is hosting the group from Yeungnam University in Daegu, South Korea, for a three-week intensive design and English workshop, June 30 through July 25.

The students begin each weekday with a 90-minute English class with Lecturer Christopher Rodriguez of Iowa State's intensive English and orientation program, followed by about four hours of studio instruction with faculty from the college's graphic design program.

Associate Professor Paula Curran led the first week's project, in which students fashioned an accordion-fold book featuring letters on each page that together spelled a sentence in English.

For this assignment, students photographed objects in the environment that created all 26 letters of the alphabet, such as two tree trunks converging at the bottom that could be viewed as the letter "v". They then had to select a sentence and edit the "letters" needed for that sentence in Adobe Photoshop, then import the files into Adobe InDesign to spell it out. Finally, they printed the pages and assembled their books.

"The students come from a variety of design majors and for many, this was their first introduction to typography and book binding," Curran said. "A project like this can take several hours and a few tries to create a well-crafted book. With the limited time they had, they did quite well."

The second project, taught by Senior Lecturer Cheri Ure, was a different kind of type-and-image integration exercise. Called "1,000 Paces-Ames," the assignment asked students to create four vertical 8-by-10-inch color plates to visually express a journey across a thousand paces of a street in Ames, the inside/outside of a building on the Iowa State campus, or a campus walk.

"The plates are arranged sequentially from left to right, but they're driven by different parameters-type only, image only, type dominant with image recessive, image dominant with type recessive," Ure said. "What's difficult is that each plate not only has to work separately but also act as part of one unified piece, and this really forces students to think about the visual relationships among them."

Most of the South Korean students chose an iconic campus structure for their "paces" project. Yang Bo Mee, known as "Lindsay," focused on the Campanile because "the shape is very classic and I like the chiming bells."

Yang's "1,000 Paces" project. Photo by Alison Weidemann.

Yang created a clock composed of sentences about the Campanile for her type-only plate. Her other plates feature photos and line drawings of the building as well as type, depending on the parameters.

A second-year visual communication design (graphic design) major, Yang said she has enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people, improve her English speaking skills and learn more about typography.

"I'm interested in book and poster design and advertising," she said. "This workshop is a chance to gain more design experience, and it has made me think more about what I want to do when I graduate."

For her representation of the Memorial Union, Sim Jae-eun, also called "Jerry," incorporated text about the building's history and images of flags and soldiers. She said she wanted to convey the sense of peacefulness and reflection she felt in the Gold Star Hall.

Sim is a second-year industrial interaction design major with an interest in foreign languages and designing cars. "This project is not connected directly with my major, but it has been very interesting and I have learned a lot from it," she said.

In this final week of the workshop, Associate Professor Sunghyun Kang will guide a project on design and culture.

"Visual information such as color, imagery, context, layout and symbology differs greatly from one social culture to the next, and it is important to understand the differences to communicate in a globalized world," said Kang, a native of South Korea. "This class will expand upon the students' existing knowledge and skill sets and help them put cultural understanding into practice."

In addition to their design and English course work, students have engaged in other activities like Fourth of July fireworks, a barbecue picnic, campus walking tour, and field trips to Reiman Gardens, the Des Moines Art Center and Living History Farms. Some have also traveled to other U.S. cities like Chicago and Minneapolis on their own time to visit art museums and other cultural institutions.

This is the second year the College of Design has offered the South Korean Summer Design and English Workshop. Kang organized the first workshop in 2010. Assistant Professor Paul Bruski coordinated this year's event.