High Stakes Graphic Design
A University Extended Education program brings together Danish and CSUF graphic design students for high-impact study with outside industry leaders UST-Global and Lego.
“It couldn’t be more intense,” is how CSUF’s Graphic Design Professor John Drew described the collaboration between his students and the 28 visitors from Denmark’s University College of Northern Denmark (UCN).
This September, the students were divided into 12 groups. Each group was tasked with creating one of two different mobile apps for their fortune 500 clients.
One option was a mobile travel app for company executives. It would provide assistance with itinerary/hotel reservations, security (such as emergency contact numbers and local alerts) and country-specific insurance information.
The other option was a mobile safety app for factory staff. This would be a digital tool for reporting and following up on safety hazards. The company’s current safety procedures are tracked entirely through paperwork.
While the discovery process for a project this ambitious might take a single person over a year to complete, these teams had only weeks to ramp up and get to work.
“We believed the students could accomplish so much over a short period of time because of the sheer number of people on the project,” said Drew. “This compressed time frame speaks to one of our goals: providing a high-impact learning environment. We couldn’t have packed in more information within this two-week period than we already did.”
Before leaving for Fullerton, the Danish students interviewed company employees—including the Senior Director of CIT Business Enabling for Lego—and created case studies to share with CSUF students. The groups then corresponded remotely for a week in preparation for the flurry of work that would commence immediately upon arrival.
"This compressed time frame speaks to one of our goals: providing a high-impact learning environment. We couldn’t have packed in more information within this two-week period than we already did."
But working on the project wasn’t the only activity on the schedule. All students attended a series of seven lectures, including some given by guest graphic design faculty from Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly Pomona, and assorted industry leaders, such as CIO Tony Velleca of UST- Global. “We believe in giving back to the communities in which we serve through the educational process. This is a great opportunity for UST- Global,” said Velleca.
In addition, the Danish group received tours of three local marketing/design agencies: DGWB, Gensler and Saatchi & Saatchi. For students in the midst of a project designed to replicate a professional assignment, these visits provided immediate practical value.
“The agencies didn’t just show us completed projects. They discussed the process they went through to get there,” said René Bennyson, the UCN lecturer who was leading his students to CSUF for the second year in a row. “They explained that the focus isn’t just on outcome, but managing the time and resources available.”
"I never imagined I would be working with American students, or get to see how American companies work. It gave me new insight on everything."
Concurrently, Danish and American students were meeting and communicating outside of class on their mobile-app development and project presentations. This was because at the end of the two-week visit, groups weren’t just turning in their assignments. They had to present their designs to a room full of professors, classmates and company representatives.
“You have to be able to pitch your idea in a couple minutes,” said Bennyson. “It’s an exercise we don’t do a lot at home. But getting on stage to present—to sell—your idea is a skill you have to have.”
The students’ second week was devoted to the project. They worked on it during their six-hour class sessions, often into the evenings and sometimes late into the night. The professors knew they were pushing the students hard, but with a purpose.
“We were teaching them that when you get a certain amount of time, you need to work within that,” said Bennyson. “You have to deliver. No matter if you have trouble working in teams, or trouble finding a good idea.”
That lesson wasn’t lost on the students. These high-intensity practices provided invaluable experience that few thought they would receive while still in school.
“I never imagined I would be working with American students, or get to see how American companies work. It gave me new insight on everything,” said UCN student Nicolai Dahl Jeppesen. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but this really has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”
For more information on this program (“University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) Short-Term Incoming Study Abroad”), or other learning opportunities at Cal State Fullerton for international groups, please contact Melem Sharpe, Manager of International Programs & Partnerships—World, at firstname.lastname@example.org.