About Arthur

They say it's not what you say but how you say it. If you want to get real meta on that, you gotta type-geek it up. Then, how you're saying it, what you're saying, and why you've chosen to say it, they all get to shine a little. Which is awesome. Second year Graphic Design student at UMass Lowell.

Don’t Wanna See You Go!

Last day. Lots of hugs and good humor. Everybody was well-rested and ready to travel, met in the lobby, and we were off. The plane ride was a bit of a grind, being a couple hours longer than the flight there, but we all made it home. I met a couple of my classmates’ parents, which was cool. 

The best part of my day was seeing my cat again. We’re best friends and always miss one another when we’re apart. It was also a nice surprise to be met at the bus stop by my friend Dan. Our other friend, who was going to pick me up originally, had come down with something. Dan gives the best bear hugs, though, so I truly felt welcomed home. Then it was time to sleep. I’d been fighting a mild cough the whole trip, and didn’t think it was something contagious, but it seems my body was holding out until I got home. I woke feverish in the middle of the night and have been ill ever since. I can’t wait for it to pass, and I’m SO glad I didn’t get sick on the trip. (I haven’t heard from anyone else hit with the mystery post-travel flu, but if it turned out it was contagious—so sorry, guys!)

What an opportunity we had in just 10 short days. I’m into the role of humanities in higher ed, and firmly believe that the human element is where the best design comes from. After all, you’ve got to really believe in something to create the best version of it. You also have to be able to communicate and compromise with other people in pursuit of common goals. This trip perfectly balanced studying great work and technique with our growth as human beings together. We’ve been enriched by both kinds of knowledge, and I can say that because of this experience, just about all of us are chomping at the bit to make the resultant work great. 

See you in July!

Family Dinner

For our last day in the city, we bad more or less free reign, with a group meal planned for the evening. A few of us woke up early and went to King’s Cross station to visit Platform 9 3/4, of Harry Potter fame. I was over the moon that we got to do this. Sheila and I had been geeking out here and there all week, and we got to take our pictures with a trolley halfway through the wall. I also picked up a bunch of HP souvenirs for my cousins and a couple coworkers. I’m totally of the Harry Potter generation and it’s always been important to me, but even I was shocked by the excitement of visiting that attraction. Everyone in line was excited, too, and I heard our neighbors chattering away. We spoke various languages, but you can always recognize “Harry Potter”, which  brought us together in that spot. It hardly felt like waiting in line.

Lunch was cider and pie! So good!

After that I took a quick nap. I had the chance to hop across the river and visit the Globe super briefly, which I knew my theatre-geek friends would love, and one of the Tate gift shops. We didn’t have time to go in, but whenever I can make it back, Tate Modern is probably my first stop. I got to pick up a couple flyers with interesting typography, and we did find wrapping paper for the gifts there. A little more downtime followed before it was time to get ready for dinner. 

Earlier in the week, we’d picked out gifts for our professors, and tonight we’d be presenting them at dinner as a memory of the trip we all shared. Autumn & Otto did a stellar job of making sure everyone contributed their share and had a chance to sign them beforehand. We all poured the gratefulness and affection we had for Ingrid & Regina into those gifts. It was like seeing the culmination of our growth as a team come to life when the last signature was marked and we started to wrap them on the floor of room 515. A few of us made sure to get to the restaurant well in advance so we could hide them from view. The look on their faces when we pulled them out made us all smile and laugh. It was truly a team operation, too—we had a group chat without the professors, and made sure when we were in those gift shops that someone was keeping tabs on what they were looking at (and making sure they didn’t get the same for themselves). A couple of our original gift ideas were vetted by this process because the person acting as mole was able to warn us—”Regina already owns that!” and we all had a slice of the fun in being sneaky. It went off without a hitch.

After dinner, the others went out together. It sounded like a great time! It’s not my scene to be up late or around a lot of noise and people, so I was more than happy to tap out and pack my things. But I was stoked to see members of the group who hadn’t joined in on group activity much throughout the trip go all in and have a blast together. Their excitement was infectious. The motivation from this trip will fuel me to do my best with all the work, and the relationships I got to form will, hopefully, be part of the rest of my time at UML and beyond. 

Hackathon in 3 Acts


We arrive at Big Radical, start introductions, and receive a summary of the brief we’d been emailed in advance.

My teammates and I had a quick icebreaker to get to know one another. Then, we decided we’d generate the most agile ideas most quickly if we spent about 20 minutes broken apart to come up with a pitch independently—before deciding on a strong direction as a group. That we chose to do this step was important to design, in my opinion. Just like it’s quicker and easier to sketch something out on paper than mock it up on a computer, we leveraged one another’s’ creativity and different approaches to come up with a wide range of ideas. Most of us had initial concepts completely unrelated to our final pitch, too, meaning that we could return to develop them further one day down the line. It was super cool to hear how everyone at the table had a different take on what solving our problem might look like. 

After choosing a topic, we realized we’d fallen behind time. The race was on. 


Various timed goals and modules kept us on track throughout the course of the jam, and we bounced back quickly from our initial setback. The only thing standing in our way after that was one another.

I love working on a team. Working alone, or without access to feedback, you can’t possibly accomplish what you could with a partner or small group. A team is most effective when its members are united by mutual respect and dedication to the work, but a diversity of opinions and ideas. We certainly had a range of personalities and communication styles at our table, and I think we  ultimately negotiated the challenges of suddenly teaming up with a group of strangers well. We all got to know each other a bit better, respect one another’s input, and focus on a common goal. We had some fights and some sticking points where we didn’t see eye-to-eye, but everyone was able to communicate the reasoning behind their choices, and we became better for it. 

Getting to know my tablemates reminded me a lot of my team at my job. We’re 7 of the most different people you’d ever meet—if they built a sitcom around us, no two stereotypes would overlap—but we’ve become so close over the years that we’d just about do anything for one another. We’ve also gone through the ringer on feedback. I know I can trust my team to have my back or to offer constructive criticism or advice, and hear the same from me. I’ve grown a lot as a team player since joining them a couple of years ago. We share a genuine love of what we do, and a desire to contribute to the larger team, and that translates in our work and our friendships together. I could feel the same drive at my table at Big Radical, and it energized me at times both to speak up and to listen.

But—oh! I’m still on a time limit here!


Presentation time finally arrives. This was another time I was reminded of my job back home. I started working as a public speaker over 7 years ago, and my day job right now is delivering workshop presentations and internal trainings. I have to get up in front of people a lot. Sometimes I’m talking to a group of 5 in a noisy store, sometimes I’m on a panel discussion at a conference, and sometimes it’s 3,000 pairs of eyes staring back in a school assembly, but every scenario has its challenges. I’ve not yet found the secret to conquering nerves. (I’m starting to suspect, and this might blow your mind, that maybe there isn’t one.) My teammates and I squeezed in just enough drills of our presentation that we had our timing down pat, with 15 seconds to spare for all the unexpecteds that come with nerves, technical difficulties, and human nature. 

Yet another thing that reminded me of my team at work, as well as other people I’ve presented with over the years. Cultivating the focus needed for a short presentation, learning to craft a compelling narrative, and rehearsing its delivery are all skills that must be pursued and practiced in order to improve. It was clear that my co-pitchers were as excited to deliver as I was, and we amped one another up. I think I learned a lot from working with the team and delivering that pitch, and I’m super grateful for the incredible opportunity given to us by Big Radical and our professors.  I feel like I got to learn new ways to communicate every day on this trip.

Speaking of narrative, I know this hasn’t strictly followed the three-act structure, but we’ve now got just two steps to go.

Climax: The judges’ deliberation. People were buzzing with energy talking about things they loved in other groups’ work and discussing which would win the jam. Our concept wasn’t going to win, but I don’t really care that much about that kind of stuff. It does help the process and motivation for a lot of people, so I do appreciate competition as an element. I loved how passionate people were about the chance to impact depression in young people, which is a serious issue back home as well as in the UK. 

Denouement: We waited for the results, and then it was award time! Some of my team mates and UML classmates were called out by name. Some of the recognition was named after Kung Fu Panda characters, and I ended up receiving the “Po” award. I love Po dearly (I think everyone knows about my love for animation of every sort) and I was pleased to share a stage with him. We’re both a little goofy, have a belly, and get caught up in whatever we’re trying to do. My cool classmate got Tigress, too, which suited her personality and was also kinda fitting for the two of us—we did not know each other at all before this trip but it threw us together, and I would say we’re friends now. That’s true of everyone on the trip. None of us expected to love one another the way we did by the end of it. The design jam, for sure, contributed to that,


Kew-l Kids

Today’s visit to Kew Gardens couldn’t have come at a better time; this week, we’ve largely been in the heart of the city and major museums or tourist attractions, surrounded by people and noise. For most of the morning we just strolled and admired the plants. All of us had been eagerly anticipating Regina’s introduction to botanical illustration, because it’s a side of her career and her work that we don’t always get to see in-depth, since she’s teaching our design curriculum. (After today, I wish we had a botanical art elective by her at UML!) She treated us to an informal mini-lecture on the lawn after we all had the chance to look at work in the Shirley Sherwood gallery. Even though we had the option to not attend, we all had been talking eagerly about seeing our professor “in her element” for the days leading up to this visit, and we unanimously settled on the grass to listen in rapt attention. It was cool to learn about the process of creating accurate botanical art and see how both disciplines of design and botanical illustration inform one another. After that, we basically spent the whole day just wandering the gardens, soaking uo the sights.

Some of the best bits:

This restroom sign made me laugh because its limbs are so strangely proportioned and angled. We’ve examined many wayfinding systems on this trip. Many people who aren’t designers, or in a design program, hear our major and think “graphic design” is purely creating images. The reality is that the meaning behind something is the true root of design. For example, the most important part of a wayfinding system is that you can actually find your way. Everything else should be in service to that goal. Of course, that doesn’t mean the appearance isn’t important or part of what we do; it’s just that we start with the purpose before choosing trappings suited to it. Then, I see signs like these: a perfect example of an image that’s clear, functional, and simple, but just looks silly as an image. It was a good reminder to treat each stage of a design project with just as much care and significance.

This vain little peacock put on a show for us! We had started to walk away when he yelled, “come back!”, and started to lift his tail.

This package design was super neat and innovative. I love that it doesn’t just look like a matchbox, but functionally has the sharpener/striking strip.

Practically Perfect Day

Remember Disney’s 1964 feature Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews? (It’s set here in London! ?) Picture that scene, the one where they come across a line of sidewalk art and hop right in. If it’s been a while, or you haven’t seen the film, wandering through the Victoria and Albert Museum is more or less the real-life equivalent. Only, rather than dancing penguins and chalk trees, it’s as though you’ve stepped directly into the pages of all your art history textbooks. I think one of us passed by at least one work or copy we’d seen pictures of before—and many people got to look at different parts of the museum entirely. The British Museum was a little like this, but overwhelming in scale. The V&A’s size and organization make it easy to stroll around and focus simply on absorbing the awesome, awesome work. 

My best friend is a seamstress, so I was sure to take my time and nerd out properly over the Balenciaga fashion exhibit in her place. But afterwards, I knew exactly what I wanted to see first. I’d been particularly excited to see the Rodin sculptures. He and contemporary Degas are two of my favorite artists of all time, and it’s hard to find enough information about work online and in most books unless its one of the pieces with its own Wikipedia entry, like The Thinker or The Gates of Hell
I definitely prefer quantity over notoriety when it comes to seeing other artists’ work, because process is infinitely interesting to me; the more material to learn from, the better. Most people would agree, I think. It’s the same reason seeing a notable artist’s sketchbook is so cool. Anyway, checking out those works in person, I realized a photo wouldn’t have done it justice anyway: one could feel the turbulent energy in the shape and movement of each form just walking around it. Some of my favorite pieces were the ones I knew not to even bother photographing, because the memory alone would be more valuable as reference than a flattened imitaton. I also visited a couple original and cast/repro versions of classics we recognized with a friend, and nearly passed out in excitement at the Raphael Cartoons room. It’s always cool getting to see any original work in person for the opportunity to check out marks and surface texture more intimately, and learn a little history from the placards, but in the case of these drawings, the sheer scale commanded an atmosphere of total attention. While I’m not a religious person myself, I could almost understand how perfectly these works might inspire awe and wonder of magic forces beyond normal human understanding. I pictured devotees kneeling to pray and seeing these illustrations surrounding them, stretching far, far into the sky towards their heaven. 

The Natural History Museum afterwards was cool, too, but my favorite part of the afternoon was getting a little bit lost on the way out. We had to walk a ways to find a train station, and it seemed like on every block, we passed more neat architecture and interesting type. Everybody in the group found themselves pausing to take a photo almost as much as actually walking. It was nice, and a peaceful transition to the latter part of the day. We grabbed a quick, quiet lunch before regrouping to check out our next stop. This morning, above all the other visits, really put me in the mood to exercise more fine art muscles again. Since I’m so engrossed in design, and school gives us so much challenging and interesting coursework, I don’t paint as often as I used to, and certainly haven’t worked in sculpture since foundational classes. Now I really want to get more hands-on! I’ve heard more than a few classmates express similar thoughts and inspiration this week. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone in that.

Mind. Blown.

by the Design Museum today. We saw the California: Designing Freedom exhibition, which examined the global influence of California’s artists, activists, and industries in all aspects of design. There were too many incredible items in the collection to list! My favorite surprise was rounding a corner to see the original Gilbert Baker pride flag on display.

The exhibit also featured original sketches from Disney legend Glen Keane’s interactive film Duet, one of my favorite pieces of animation. The coolest thing is the unique nature in which it is viewed, which any description I attempt would not do justice—look it up! I’ve listened to the artist talk about this work on various interviews and podcasts both before and after it came out in 2014, and have watched it many times in both its interactive and 2D version. I would never have expected to see this work in person. I’m honestly still reeling; Keane’s expressive markmaking is even more interesting in person than it is onscreen or in a textbook.

Professor Ingrid Hess presents a highly conceptual logo design based on our brief.

(Pictured: Professor Ingrid Hess presenting a highly conceptual logo design based on our group brief.)

After that, we visited the museum’s interactive space and participated in a fun exercise to stretch our creative muscles a bit. Everybody had to come up with a logo concept, and then we all briefly shared our designs and process with the group. We have been spending our days soaking up a deluge of new information and learning about art and design, so it was fun to sit down and get hands-on for a short time.

To Those Who Can Tell Them.

On my bookshelf back home sits this particular version of the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes, dog-eared, scuffed, and scribbled in. It’s small in dimension, and therefore thick, as the complete works span just two volumes. I can’t recall how old I was, just entering my teens, I think, and with pocket cash earned under the table at the local ice rink burning a hole in my pocket, but I do remember pausing in the bookstore to stare at this simple paperback squeezed between more elaborate editions. I must have picked the thing up and put it back down again half a dozen times while browsing, thumbing through the thin pages, opening and closing—something about it was magnetic. It wasn’t my first introduction to the adventures and characters of Sherlock Holmes, but it was my first time holding the text in my own hands. When I finally stopped wandering around and brought that book up to the register, I began a lifelong love affair with crime fiction.

This little guy was actually my first Holmes.

This blog is about our study abroad, and not my relationship with Holmes, so rather than go on, I’ll leave this story just as it starts. But I’m glad I took the time to visit today. Today a classmate and I stopped by the Sherlock Holmes Museum, just for a quick look-see. The signage of the museum as we crossed Baker Street utterly transported me. Despite my love of Holmes and of the genre, I didn’t expect my own response. Looking up at what might be the world’s most famous address, I found myself right back in that bookstore. That moment was a little bit magical.

After all, there’s something about stories. The most mundane object, when given a story, becomes something utterly special and utterly unique. This is part of the magic of art and design. What is design if not the telling of a story? Whether it’s a brand, a product, or a page layout, the choices we make in framing our narratives are what breathes life into the work we do and allows other people to believe in the answer we’ve arrived at. We see this all the time in advertising: great advertising sells a product by bewitching and inspiring its audience, who will settle for nothing less than utter conviction. There’s a great little TED talk by Simon Sinek on success and inspiration, called “How great leaders inspire action.” He repeats, over and over: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

This was on my mind as we visited the British Museum. In a museum, collections are presented with context for this very reason. Museums, places constructed entirely of the narrative called history, can span miles and years even in the basement of a curio shop. A sprawling beast like the British Museum is a time machine with no end. (Side note: I’d certainly have liked an endless amount of time to wander and learn—I’ll definitely be back one day.) This:

on its own, is a beautiful statue. Its subject tells a story of its own. But when you study the legend of Ganymede itself, each depiction of this figure becomes a part of a greater history owned by no single statue or artist. As a queer artist, I was both surprised and heartened to see the #LGBTQ_BM feed at the museum, and the contextual placards placed beside works like these, because our stories don’t always get told.

Even this, I think, is a terribly incomplete summary of both the art and the myth, but it exists, and the story is out there for more people than there would have been otherwise.
On that same note, a couple of classmates and I had the opportunity for a rare treat: we were able to attend an informal gallery talk by researcher Ryoko Matsuba on the history of woodblock printing in the Edo period. As she led the talk around the gallery space, comparing works and providing historical context, the story of these artists and their work unfolded for us.

During the talk, Matsuba illustrates the connection between a particular print and the poem it was based off of.

Hearing the story behind the work always enriches our experience of it, as well as making it easier and more fun to learn. For me, today was all about this principle. The nostalgia of the Holmes museum, the gallery talk and world collections on display, and our walk through the American Dream special exhibition: all of these things were made meaningful by the histories they told.

In the spirit of delightful stories, I’d like to close with one last anecdote from our walk back to the Underground. I think this one speaks for itself.

Double Booked 

This man teased us about the Boston Tea Party, and we all laughed, because it worked.

Our first two itineraried days have already taken us on a tour of the city and a couple trips into the London Underground. The hop-on bus tour was a pretty great overview of major landmarks. We even saw a really big clock!

The clock is famous and his name is Ben. He was kind enough to sit for a quick sketch.

The best stops of the day, though, were our book adventures. We walked down a little lane called Cecil Court. It’s home to a series of shops for collectors, not only of books, but of antique maps, model trains, coins, and other items. Most were closed, as it was a Monday, but we peeped into a few little shops. The bookstores almost exclusively sold volumes of Alice in Wonderland in various editions and bindings, both vintage and new. The cool thing about seeing so many interpretations of Alice’s story is that, this semester, our final Typography II project was an expressive hand-bound book, and one option we had was to adapt a chapter of Alice. Seeing bookshelves upon bookshelves of the same text set (or expressed, or illustrated,) in so many different ways was a cool reminder that a design can have infinite possibilities from the same brief. 

Then we visited a chain bookstore, Waterstone’s. To us from the U.S., they seem like a Barnes & Noble. Despite the fact that it wasn’t quaint/local/artsy/et cetera, we were all such nerds about the design books that we spent a ton of time there just browsing and showing each other cool volumes we saw on the shelves. Harry Potter also had a strong 20th anniversary presence. That’s pretty wild. The first book came out in the U.S. on my fifth birthday, and I received it as a gift from my parents, who’d heard a coworker talking about the novel. Like most people around my age, it was a constant presence in my life growing up. So that was pretty cool to see. 

Good old HP.

Of course, one of our projects for this study abroad is a hand-bound book of found typography, so seeing a variety of different types of binding and covers was interesting research towards that. 

History Lessons


Wayfinding system elements, City of London.

Hardly a block’s walk from our hotel, a weathered stone church perches on the corner of a busy street. It’s directly across from both a towering hotel spire and a series of tourist shops. This neighborly anachronism seems par for the course in London so far; ancient stone walls cuddle up against the shady glass knees of shimmering skyscrapers, selfie-taking smartphone wielders line up for photo shoots in old-timey red telephone-booths-turned-WiFi-hubs, and, here and there, a chimeric fusion of “modern prefab” and “so old as to be mouldering” residential homes settle together in their stone, brick, concrete, and clay, sometimes with an entirely different century spelled in stonework across either edge of a single doorframe.

A sign embedded in the wall of our structure proclaims it “the oldest church in the City of London,” founded by the Abbey of Barking in the late seventh century. Curious, we took a walk inside, and found ourselves treated to a charming—if slightly creepy—tour through the church’s history. Beneath the floors of All Hallows lies a thematically appropriate combination of preserved and renovated artifacts and architecture. Beginning at a selection of second-century Roman artifacts and brickwork, and meandering our way forward through the centuries to a contemporary crypt, the church sweetly charmed us into asking for more. Sure, it was just a little bit unsettling to stare down approximately eighty not-so-distantly-deceased urns, indexed in a colorful binder by surname and year of death. Maybe I didn’t dare step inside the tiny, underground chapel near the end lest some otherworldly power snatch my breath. Superstition aside, before that point came a smorgasbord of fascinating historic items and documents. Here’s a couple interesting bits:

Cheeky cards made from postings on the walls of Talbot House.

Cast of a tombstone from Doodman’s Fields, 1787. “In memory of Flavius Agricola, soldier of the Sixth Legion. ‘The Victorious’. He lived 42 years, 10 days. Albua Faustina set this up to her incomparable husband.”

The whole place is full to the brim with neat peeks into history like these. But my personal favorite was this guy:

You’re looking at a full miniature diorama of London as it stood in the second century or so, a Roman port named Londinium. This doubled as a slice of humble pie for yours truly. Last week, my friend and I saw King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (in theaters), because my name is Arthur and we’re always down for swords movies. They kept referring to the setting as Londinium. (The movie, as delightfully terrible as we’d hoped it’d be, did not disappoint in either swords or people-named-Arthur quantity, but I wouldn’t purchase another ticket. The film’s treatment of women was, unfortunately, as dated as the city’s name, and left a sour taste in both our mouths.)

At the movie we rolled our eyes at one another, with not a smear of respect for history, and ignorantly assumed the name of London had been changed in service to some science-fiction aesthetic. It totally wasn’t. It was historically accurate. Sometimes, you just don’t know nothin’ about famous legendary figures, even when the two of you’s has got the same name. Sometimes, you learn!

I learned.

Visiting this church for a casual stroll down the halls of ancient history was definitely the highlight of my first day in London and a great way to kick off the week. I can already tell that the relationship between old and new civilization is sure to be a fascinating element to all of our adventures here. That’s pretty much how design evolves in the first place, after all. It also makes me curious to dig deeper into ancient histories back home. It’s fascinating to explore a place where you can touch something that was made by fellow humans millennia ago, and learn about those humans through record. Walking around this city is sort of like thumbing through that record and getting a glimpse of influences from ancient all the way to contemporary. We’ve already taken so many pictures of good typography, both in the crypt of All Hallows and in our brief time out and about. I was positively schooled by history today, and we haven’t even started our itinerary yet. Can’t imagine what lies in store starting tomorrow. It’s gonna be an enriching study abroad.