So I started school last week. Finally. I know we’re one of the last campuses to get going, and I took advantage of this by spending 7 weeks abroad: 5 in Rome as part of the design program, one in Paris, and one in London, just for fun and because I was over there already. I had never been to Europe before, so while my time in Rome was spent on photography (also in Orvietto, Civita, and other parts of Tuscany) and art history, my time in Paris and London (photos coming soon…) was pure play, with a little cultural enrichment thrown in. Though after a week spent living almost entirely on baguettes, it’ll be a while before I go to the grocery and think “ooh yum, bread!” Paris was unquestionably my favorite city on the trip, partly for architectural reasons: I found the coexistence of gothic, baroque, modern, and contemporary structures by far more interesting than the all-ancient-all-the-time feel of Rome, and I think I may have been a little too burnt out by the time I got to London to give it a fair shake, though I did still like it a lot. But if I could spend the rest of my life chilling by the banks of the Seine, or even Canal St. Martin (where I stayed), I would be a very happy camper. The excellent Paris Metro and Velib bike systems help a lot, too.
I only got in from London last Tuesday night, and started school on Wednesday morning. I am taking a graduate seminar with Alex Roesler, who is a hilarious and abstract guy, and Environmental Design with Kristine Matthews (again. I will explain this choice at a later date). Other than that, I am focusing a lot on my job as a TA for INFO 424: Information Visualization and Aesthetics, and on my thesis. Dun dun, dunnnnnnnnn.
Ah yes, the thesis: bane and glory of all graduate students’ existence. Kristine is my advisor, with Karen Cheng as my second committee member. I hit on my topic fairly early on, as an intersection of my interests in environmental design, information design, and alternative transportation, and will be designing wayfinding systems for bicyclists. I see a huge opportunity in this sector as gas prices rise and cities push their citizens to adopt greener forms of transport, install new bike lanes and paths, but largely fail to make people feel comfortable and safe in the use of these resources. Even in the bicycling capitols of the world, much signage is designed by transportation planners, not designers who are attuned to visual perception and movement through three-dimensional space, which I feel is a real shame and missed opportunity. So, my incredibly humble goal is to make a real impact in the field of wayfinding by addressing a need that designers have not been paying much attention to. Sounds easy enough, right? [/sarcam] Actually, of course, the weight of the realization that I am working in space that remains largely unexplored is enormous and slightly paralyzing.
And I swear, the fact that I can get out of studio to go for a ride and call it ‘research’ is purely a coincidence. Really.
(disclaimer: not my bike. Found in this condition in the Trestevere district of Rome. Strongly feel that I need to try out this position.)