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Wednesday 25 February 2015

Senior lecturer delivers graphic design workshops in Shanghai

Susie Long, a senior lecturer in graphic design here at Southampton Solent University, recently visited Shanghai to deliver a series of workshops to students from the Shanghai Institute of Technology.

I first met Professor Fei Fei Wu in the Summer of 2010. She had brought a group of Shanghai Institute of Technology students (home of her award winning graphic design course) to attend a summer school here in Southampton. They have returned to undertake our international short course every summer since.

In August 2014, I was delighted to receive an invitation to teach her students in Shanghai. Delighted, but definitely daunted. What could I bring to the country that had invented much of the visual communication practice we take for granted today?

Making a mess in the Shanghai studio

After much thought I settled on a programme of experimental typography tasks and assembled laser cut type, printing inks and teaching aids to take with me. Fei Fei’s students work mostly on computer, and a week of hands-on experimental work would probably be messy, but hopefully it would be a refreshing change of pace for them.

On Monday morning, forty students and twenty staff arrived for my first lecture and workshop. The students had great fun, making some incredibly creative ‘type as image’ prints. I called this workshop ‘the frenzy’.

After clearing up and leaving the prints to dry, I was taken for a well earned Shanghainese ‘hot-pot’, a local specialty.

During the rest of the week, we developed type themes in a series of cut and paste collages, with each student creating their own typographic journal.

The student cohort was a gathering of all four years of the course. A fourth year, Alan, who had made a series of typefaces inspired by his love of British pop group ‘Blur’, was very interested in the rare typographic journals I had brought from England.

Students working on their typography skills

Alan happily agreed to give a talk to the group the following day on his work. This was one of the many highlights of the week.

As I was the lone visiting lecturer for that week, groups of students, kindly took me to various Art installations, and Art galleries in Shanghai.

Student life is very different, with students sharing rooms for their four years of study. There are no cooking facilities in the dorms. Instead, there are massive canteens, serving the healthiest breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The chefs can make noodles fresh to order, from a handful of paste, in seconds.

During my visit I learned so much about Shanghai, its history, and Chinese culture. How lucky I have been to work with Professor Fei Fei Wu, a leading expert in her field, and her excellent staff and students. The warmth and friendliness of the people of Shanghai will not be easily forgotten.

We created an exhibition of our books at the end of the week and I realised how much I had learnt from the staff and students. They, very graciously, told me they had also learned a lot during the course of the week.