Today was our last full day in London. I accidentally slept in and missed out going to platform 9 3/4 but I needed to catch up on sleep. I started the day by packing and going out to lunch. Later on Sarah, Sheila, and I went on the London Eye right before our last dinner as a group. At dinner, we presented Regina and Ingrid with prints we had all signed just to say thank you for all they had done for us on this trip. Later that night almost all the students went out for one last adventure.
The next day we all woke up bright and early, packed up our final stuff, made our way through the airport, and embarked on the eight-hour journey back home. I was excited to go home to the people I left behind but I was also sad that I had finally gotten comfortable with London and everyone on the trip. This trip was by no means an easy breezy experience for me. I had to learn to adjust and be more flexible on this trip, it’s really hard to plan for a group of sixteen to do anything. Despite being so far outside of my comfort zone I really was blessed with such an amazing experience with the greatest group of classmates that I now can call friends. This trip taught me more about being a professional, functional, enjoyable adult than I could have ever imagined. Not to mention the unimaginable amount of exposure to design and experience in design thinking. I would not trade this trip for the world. I am so grateful to the people who made our time abroad such a rememberable experience.
Saturday and Sunday were spent at a Hackathon hosted by Big Radical. There were six groups trying to find the best way to help people who are trying to be supportive to a person with depression. I found the first day much more enjoyable than I had anticipated. I learned a lot about the process of creating ideas and being patient with individuals who may not know as much as you do about a certain subject, like depression, but feel the need to constantly talk. By the end of the day, we created Lola who was our client and Ava who was a personable program that can provide play by play support during a conversation. Ava can also simulate practice conversations for people who are nervous and want to run through difficult conversations before talking to the person they are trying to support. I found our idea rather safe and like done before but our more daring ideas definitely had privacy conflicts and conflicts with a diagnosis coming from a machine.
Day two was much more stressful. We had to now make our idea a physical prototype and half of our team just didn’t come back for day two. I also was personally drained from doing extrovert activities the day before that I personally wasn’t prepared to be super helpful day two. I was also pushed over the edge with an activity called extreme yoga, never again am I going to crawl on a floor under a bunch of strangers on video. Day two ended with presentations. I didn’t feel prepared or proud of our product. I actually had a really hard time standing behind it during the presentation. Finally, we got through the award ceremony and I could go back to the hotel room to be alone and recharge.
The weekend as a whole was a great experience which resulted in good connections for UMass Lowell as well as individual students. I am more confident in my ideas but and now extremely worried about my future as a designer being as anxious and introverted as I am. I’m sure everyone took something different away from the Hackathon, but I know we all got at least one positive lesson, experience, or connection from it.
Regina’s group presenting their idea.
Today we all went to Kew Gardens to see a botanical art show and some crazy plants. I think the majority of us were most excited to see Regina excited about something we know she is so passionate about. It was inspiring to hear her talk about how botanical art requires a perfect harmony between art, science, observation, and a good eye. I think graphic design is very similar in the way that it is a marriage of so many different types of information working together to create a great visual and function piece. I broke off into a group of four for part of the day which made exploring so much more manageable and enjoyable.
We finished at Kew Gardens in the afternoon and Sarah and I went on to explore Oxford Street including… wait for it… THE BIGGEST LUSH IN THE WORLD! I have never been so excited to be in a store in my entire life. I love and use Lush products in the US but the experience of a three floor, spa/ shop/ hangout, filled with helpful and friendly employees, was just like being at Disney (without the lines or crying children). I was physically jumping for joy while shopping for bath bombs and bubble bars to bring home and enjoy! It’s really the little things that excite me!
This morning started with the Victoria and Albert Museum, we had tickets to the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibit. The exhibit showcased how Balenciaga constantly influenced and pioneered women’s fashion as well as how his work influenced other designers. The biggest thing I took away from the exhibit was that it is possible for design to be timeless and inspirational to such a great extent.
Oscar De La Renta garment inspired by Balenciaga
After going through the exhibit I took a much-needed break from people and explored the rest of the museum on my own. I found myself awestruck by most of the Renaissance pieces. I walked into a room with just a cast of the David sculpture and I could feel my jaw drop to the ground the same thing happened when I walked through a room of diptychs and triptychs I had studied in art history. However, the most impressive space was The Raphael Cartoons. Each wall is covered with massive paintings that were originally commissioned to be hung in the Sistine Chapel. I was shocked and amazed by both the size and brilliance of each painting, I am pretty sure I didn’t close my mouth the entire time I was in that room.
Photo taken from www.vam.ac.uk/
After the V&A we ventured over to the Natural History Museum to check out their confusing wayfinding and many gift shops. One group went into to the Butterfly Garden sadly my group decided not to. I regret not making more of an effort to go because I have such an obsession with butterflies. I know it would have been an experience I cherished for many years.
While trying to figure what to do next a few of us got a little lost looking for a nearby underground station. By the time that we had eaten and found the underground I was ready to take a bath or a nap or both! Luckily Nina and Arthur felt the same way so we took the underground to a Lush next to our hotel picked up some bath products and relaxed before our dinner plans with my aunt later that evening.
Around 8:30 pm seven of us went to meet my aunt for dinner at the Babylon Restaurant. We started outside where we could watch the restaurants flamingos roaming around in the surrounding garden. We moved inside for dinner, where we were confronted by a rather mature menu. Most of us started with the truffle risotto, which was amazing. For the main course, I ordered the vegetarian option thinking that it was the safest bet, I was wrong. The other dishes came out looking like regular meat or fish with some form of vegetable. Then mine is placed down in front of me. It was just a pile of unrecognizable vegetables covered in a white mystery froth. The first fearful bite was just a taste of the repulsive foam on top, it did not go well. I mustered up the courage for a second bite of the food underneath. To my surprise, a fully composed bite of foam, cauliflower, and purple potato was completely tolerable. It took perseverance but, I finished the whole dish. For dessert, I had a wonderful brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was happy to end the meal on such a good note! We stayed until the restaurant subtle and then not so subtly told us to leave so they could finish closing. Before we left my aunt insisted we get some group photos, so we took elevator selfies and inconvenienced the staff a little longer, sorry guys!
Today we went to The Design Museum. There were three exhibits, California: Designing Freedom, Cartier in Motion, and Designer Maker User. We started in the California exhibit which showcased all the advancements in design and technology and all the steps that today’s technology and innovations required to get to the final product. A key point to make is that the tone of the exhibit is constant innovation and searching for something better (whether it be idea’s, human right, technology, or ways of doing things). So I felt very aware that even though everything was the most recent and advanced technology and information it won’t be long until an improved or updated version is created, that there is no true final product in design. After we had a chance to explore the other exhibits and the gift shop, everyone met in the Maker Space to do a design challenge. Our challenge was to create a logo for our new little family which we lovingly named “Lab 103”. Some students were influenced by London, others by the people in the group, and I focused more on what we have learned about and appreciate together as a group. Although I was really nervous about being sprung into creating a logo on the spot, it ended up being a really fun exercise. I am definitely am planning on doing more design prompts and challenges now on my own because I’m less afraid of them and can see how they can benefit my design thinking skills. The exhibit was incredibly impressive and up to date.
After finishing the museum and buying a few books from the gift shop all the students grabbed lunch at Byron Proper Burger. We finished the afternoon in small groups. The group I went with explored local shops. I ended up buying a dress and new jacket because I was not as prepared as I thought. Tonight we went to see Wicked. I really enjoyed seeing how people who had never seen it before react to such an amazing musical.
Tonight we went to see Wicked, my favorite musical. I was a little thrown off by the Brittish accents and slightly different pacing but greatly enjoyed the show none the less. I really enjoyed seeing how people who had never seen it before react to such an amazing musical.
Waiting for Wicked
Today we found about the new weekend plan, to participate in a two-day Hackathon. This sudden addition of an event I know very little about and feel underqualified for has struck me with anxiety and uncertainty towards the upcoming weekend.
We started the day at Madame Tussauds London. When we first arrived it was really uncomfortable for a lot of us to see such life-like figures scattered throughout a big open room. Some of us enjoyed the museum more and more as we made our way through. Some just became frustrated with the poorly designed wayfinding system. We all took a picture with the Royal Wax Family and some posed with other figures along the way. I personally have never been super comfortable with being photographed never mind posing around a fake human in front of a million strangers. I did snap one photo in my favorite section.
BB-8 and Rey
Next, we moved on to the British Museum. I found the building much more impressive than the exhibits it housed. Oddly enough the one exhibit that really stood out to me was The American Dream pop to the present. I think I was more invested in this exhibit because I could relate better to each piece of modern work, and what they were commenting on than I could to the more ancient craft pieces, which didn’t have much of a message. Sadly photography was not allowed inside the exhibit.
Today we explored London with the help of double-decker bus tours and a river tour. We saw what felt like every inch of London including Big Ben, The London Eye, and London Bridge. I learned a lot of history about the city and the significance of its iconic structures. The thing I was most surprised to learn was that tTower of London used to house exotic animals including a polar bear!
We broke off into small groups after the river tour to grab lunch and explore on our own. My friends and I found a small pub for lunch. I had the best fish and chips in the whole world, which was good because I was still really nervous about trying new food.
Best Fish and Chips Ever!!
Later we explored small book shops and candy stores while photographing all the diverse typography and design. I found it much easier to do things as a group of six rather than trying to account for sixteen people. Today was a great day full of laughs and photos; I am excited to see what tomorrow brings!
Today we arrived in London and everyone was exhausted from our six-hour flight. Although our eyes were half open on the ride to the hotel we saw something new and exciting with every passing minute. We drove past beautiful buildings that are older than America, and it struck me how much history is in this city. After everyone arrived and had a chance to get settled we all went out to dinner most people got steak or burgers, some got fish and chips, but I got a caesar salad. I am not an adventurous person when it comes to food and it is really hard to make a bad caesar salad. As a result, it is always my go to when I am in a new place. After dinner, everyone went back to the hotel and most of us took naps. Later in the night, a group of us took an adventure to McDonald’s. I felt oddly comforted by being in such a familiar place. The menu here has “Great Tastes of America” specials like a chicken bacon ranch and a Mississippi Mudslide McFlurry. I found it kind of humorous to see our cuisine depicted as specials. I was also very excited to spot a Lush store that I hope to visit when they are open! Everyone has been walking around today with their phones photographing various design and typography examples but I am taking a little longer to adjust to the new surroundings. Everything here seems so familiar but slightly altered. For example, on our way to McDonald’s, there was a TK Maxx instead of TJ Maxx. Thank god most streets tell you which way to look because I am not sure I am going to master it in the short ten days we are here. Overall today was a great first day not overwhelming but not boring by any means. I am excited to see more of London on our double decker bus tours tomorrow!