Learning Outside the Classroom






Stockholm, Sweden.

After a week well spent in Sweden and Finland, I am finally “home” and will stay put in Copenhagen for a while. It feels good to be in a more familiar place for longer, but I also miss the wonderful excursions in Stockholm and Helsinki. We first took a train to Stockholm and visited many art and design museums and three design agencies.

Stockholm felt cleaner and had more of a US city feel but with European style buildings. But because Stockholm is made up of many islands, they also had a really beautiful nature to contrast the urban city. They had more stores around, for example, there were a few pharmacies within walking distance around our hotel, but back in Copenhagen, you would have to go maybe a mile or so to get to a pharmacy.

Stockholm is just a little bigger than Copenhagen based on population, but they are more widespread because of their many islands while Copenhagen is more densely populated. It was interesting that my teacher was able to speak Danish to locals and be able to communicate with them. As for the places we visited, I think it was amazing to visit and take with 3 different design agencies and see how they create.

We visited Snask, Stockholm Design Lab, and EssenInternation. Snask was my favorite out of these three as they were bold, unique, and quirky. They also seemed to design more based on what they thought and believed and had less of a reason for choosing something. For example, if someone asks why they chose that color palette their response would be “because it looks nice.” Their way of creating is so different than traditional design it makes it attractive and inspirational to me.

One thing Snask mentioned that has stuck with me was a conversation on the comparison of designing for European companies versus US companies. They said that they have noticed there are hierarchies in place in the US that don’t exist in Europe. When working with US companies, the US likes to be involved in the design process and suggest things and make the final decision.

So, Snask has “tricked” them by making a mistake in what they show them (ie. a bottle laying down), so the US can think they are helping with the process (suggest the bottle stand up), but really Snask has to lead them to the right decision (“yes let’s try that”). But when Snask designs for a European company, they believe it Snask are the experts and let them call all the shots and do what they think is best, after all, they are paying them to do the job.

All this is so true. The way they teach us in school is all about pleasing the customer, and that means sending them what we’re thinking throughout the whole process or giving them multiple options. We design for their approval and don’t have full creative power.

Helsinki, Finland.

The next stop was Helsinki, Finland by a ferry (aka basically a cruise ship). Helsinki felt so much smaller than Stockholm, and even Copenhagen (because it is). It also felt like it had a lack of character, not as strong of an identity. I can’t describe what Helsinki is like which is why I feel like it doesn’t have much character. We also visited many art and design museums here in addition to one design company.

The first day in Helsinki did not impress me, but there were two places we visited that were among the top of my favorites. The design agency we visited was Werklig. This tied with Snask as my favorite design agency because both have very different approaches but are super successful and highly creative.

Werklig typically developed their concepts from history, location, a story, or something that related to the company. Everything had a reason and helped build the bigger concept into a visual identity for the company. I enjoyed talking with them and seeing all of their work. My other favorite in Finland was Kiasma, an art museum. This is probably my favorite art museum I have ever been to. I enjoyed almost all the works displayed and they had some fun interactive installations.

I am now back in Copenhagen with 4 weeks left of the program. It is now time to get down to business and start diving into Copenhagen Jazz Festival’s visual identity. I hope to use some of my experiences from the study tour in my future work.