Pictogram workshop at Tsinghua, Beijing

Me and Zhao Jian

Me and Zhao Jian

Early in 2014, Zhao Jian, head of the Department of Visual Communication Design at Tsinghua University, Beijing, invited me to give a workshop about pictogram design for two weeks. Convenient timing, since the Chinese translation of my book about Dutch visual identity was about to be published too. So near the end of March, Mike–the translator of my thesis, and by now a good friend–picked me up from the airport and drove me to Tsinghua.

Together with Peking University, Tsinghua University is one of the most important universities of China. It is also known for its beautiful campus which was in full bloom when I arrived. Now I finally understand why Chinese fireworks always carry names like plum blossom! It was a true explosion of yellow, white, pink and light green, breaking through the dirt and dust of Beijng. Or smog for that matter.

Housing was provided in one of the DDR-style apartment blocks. The guest rooms were in fact two connected student cells of about 2 by 3 meters. Uniformed receptionists–without exception young women–overlooked the entrances of the apartment buildings. With the aid of the Mike, I was soon in the possession of a bicycle too. Only 50 cts a day!

The workshop lasted 5 days in which the 40 students (in 8 teams) developed, tested and improved pictograms for themes such as a floriade, education institution, food packaging and a department store. The students did great, although not all were happy with the focus on user testing. Remarkable where their drawing abilities.

Thankfully there was enough time left over to walk and bike around in Beijing. An interesting trip. I might come back ; )!

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Beautiful blossom at Tsinghua University

Beautiful blossom at Tsinghua University

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Me and Mike Liu

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