Start spreading the news! I’m leaving today… This past month, I had the opportunity to participate in a Parsons School of Design Summer Intensive Program in New York City. Intensive being the keyword. This is my second summer participating in the program. Call me a semi-pro, so I at least I knew what I was getting myself into. Completing an entire semester in three weeks definitely requires a few venti coffees and some naps along the way. Here is my account of my adventures at Parsons and the Big Apple in 2017.
New York, New York
For those who have been to Manhattan, you’ll be happy to know that “that feeling” you get never wears off. Millions of people flock to New York every year in search of inspiration, those “movie” moments, and a perfect photo to rack up some likes on Instagram.
New York is without a doubt my favourite place to be. Maybe I’ve watched too many TV shows and want to embody the likes of Don Draper from Mad Men or Harvey Specter from Suits, but I never get sick of it. Yes, you have to deal with summer humidity and fly into the worst airport in the world (*cough*, LaGuardia), but the Big Apple is the perfect example of beauty in chaos. Bored? Take a walk and discover the best dumplings you’ve ever had. Get a slice of pizza from Joe’s. Enjoy one of the city’s amazing museums (Guggenheim is my top choice). My favourite thing to do is just relax and work under a tree or sit on my grandparents’ bench in Central Park. New York never sleeps, and neither does that magical feeling that anything is possible.
Parsons, founded in 1896, is one of the oldest, largest, and finest professional schools of art and design in the world. Located in Greenwich Village, it a short walk away from Washington Square Park (and lots of coffee shops!)
While I am an incoming Junior at UofT’s Rotman Commerce business program, I have applied and been accepted twice to Parsons for undergraduate degrees in Communication Design. I have never thought of myself as an extremely artistic person – the thought of painting, sculpting, or sewing actually scares me – but have always enjoyed the systematic and controlled sense of art achieved through graphic and web design. While I am extremely happy with my current education at UofT, it has always been a dream of mine to study at Parsons, and I have found its summer programs are the perfect opportunity to pair my business degree with my sense of design, while not diving too deep outside my “artsy safezone”.
Last year, I participated in the Graphic Design I program, and moved to Graphic Design II this summer. This meant the use of more Adobe software programs, and professors looking for more refined and thoughtful problem solving, production techniques, and attention to detail. While I won’t bore you with all the details, I have selected three of the projects I am most proud of.
Coney Island Black and White Photo-Book
As a class, our professors took us on a field trip to Coney Island. Our professor wanted us to “frame” our book as a journey, an encounter, or a visual experience, by taking lots of photos, notes, and sketches.
Last year, in Graphic Design I, we completed a colour photo book. This year, however, we had to convert our photos to grayscale. When I first read these instructions, I was in shock. For those who have not been to Coney, my best description of it is an explosion of colour. Heck, my theme for last year’s photobook was colour!
This year, I decided to spend most of my time on the beach, near the waterfront. I knew I snapped some great photos of children playing near the water, bringing back memories of my brothers and I playing and the shores of Lake Erie as a kid. I decided to center my book around the emotions and expressions of these children’s’ joy and freedom; similarly thinking that Coney Island is also a place to take a break and be free, as it is such a stark contrast to the atmosphere of Manhattan.
In class, using a combination of Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, I created my accordion book. I used The Beatles song, “Across the Universe”, as the messaging for my book. We also had to create the covers and bind the book. For someone who enjoys the comfort of hiding behind his computer screen and keyboard, I was extremely pleased/surprised with my handiwork and final physical product of my book.
Coney Island App
The second part of our Coney Island trip was to create a smartphone application. This project was centered around our study of iconography. We see and utilize icons every time we pick up a device, but how do these icons become seamlessly recognizable graphic images? For our project, we had to create an application about Coney Island, creating at least five icons to represent pages in our application.
Using Adobe Illustrator and Muse, I created Coney U; an all-in-one app for discovering ride information, galleries, and requirements like tickets and height, in addition to maps and ticket capabilities. This was probably my favourite project, and I went all out, studying Apple’s Human interface design guidelines and even going above and beyond the requirements of the assignment by creating an Apple Watch application. It was an amazing experience and showed me that a future in UI/UX design would be an exciting avenue.
Driven by Data – Apple in the Big Apple
Our final project was called Driven by Data. We were given a blank cheque for an idea, as long as it was about some form of data that we collected from an experience in New York City. As a complete nerd (and hopeful, future Apple employee), I took this as the perfect excuse to visit every Apple Retail store in NYC. I collected information about date of construction, store square footage, travel time from Parsons, and interesting facts and tidbits about the stores in general.
For this project we had to create a 50” x 30” infographic and video that were cohesive (looked like one entity, not two separate ideas). This was my dream project, creating an on-brand graphic for Apple. I brainstormed colour choices from Apple’s history, contemplating using colours from Apple’s original rainbow logo, to Apple Watch activity rings, finally deciding on iMessage bubble blue. This project, and specifically the video, is one of my proudest accomplishments (and I am hopeful someone from Apple will see it!). This video portion of project was also a great learning experience mastering Adobe After Effects. I had shied away from that program because I thought it was too daunting, but loved the final skyline animation I created with it (watch the video to the end to see what I mean).
Somehow, I was able to complete all of the demanding tasks and perplexing projects for the Summer Intensive program, while still managing to enjoy the surrounding environment that is New York City. I am incredibly thankful to my professors for pushing me to think critically, problem solve, work hard, and create impressively flawless designs. Most importantly, my professors stressed that the process is more important than the final product; an important lesson in both life and art. The past three weeks have added some stunning projects to my portfolio, and allowed me to explore every crook and cranny in the Big Apple. After all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Till next time, New York!
Editor’s note: We were blown away with the work that Ben produced during his Parsons experience this summer. Now we are encouraging him to apply this newly acquired knowledge at Muse over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for some exciting results! ~The Muse Team