This summer, recent University of Houston alumna Isabella Serimontrikul will be joining the ever-growing list of UH designers accepted into ReProgram, an international summer graphic design intensive. The prestigious program, previously called DeProgram and launched by AIGA founding member Doug Kisor, gives emerging designers the chance to interact with professionals and push the boundaries of design in the Netherlands, a country where art and design is deeply rooted in cultural expression.
Known as a creative center, the Netherlands’ tremendous support from the educational system and government has given rise to a number of internationally recognized designers and artists, including typographer Piet Zwart and celebrated De Stijl painter Piet Mondrian. Serimontrikul is excited by the chance to study abroad from June 10 – 30 in a country that is essential to both art and design history, where she can focus on community-centric projects.
“The professors at UH give us projects that incorporate design into community development, like Encounter: Meeting Points on Buffalo Bayou and the Texas Central bullet train branding. The Netherlands has a much longer history of good public design, so I’m excited to experience that community-designer relationship,” Serimontrikul says.
“Beyond art and art history, design also has relationship with technology. I’m looking forward to learning from this year’s professor Bob Van Dijk, who has had a long career in tech development,” she adds.
When UH School of Art Associate Professor and Area Coordinator Cheryl Beckett attended the program nearly 30 years ago, she visited art studios, talked to leading designers about their work and enjoyed a great deal of camaraderie with her fellow design community. She says that the program offered her a chance to learn different approaches to design as well as an opportunity to expand her own understanding of the field.
“In the Netherlands, you get to see a different way to live life as a designer,” Beckett says. “It has a different kind of relationship to the community.”
Madeleine Sanchez, one of two UH students to attend last year’s program, describes the Netherlands as a hub, a meeting point where people come and collaborate. She also says this common meeting place can develop how one perceives design, which is all reflected in ReProgram’s curriculum.
“[ReProgram] focuses on where the idea for the design comes from. The program pushes you to ask all these really broad questions. Because the design isn’t necessarily about the artifact, it’s about the impact,” Sanchez says.
UH inspires and prepares its students for opportunities like ReProgram by encouraging its graphic designers to examine how design relates to culture and life. The UH Graphic Design Program gives its students the chance to work on projects with real parameters and clients. Serimontrikul says that these elements contributed to her growth as a designer and gave her the fine technical craft and soft skills needed to enter the industry and thrive.
“We come out of the program having practiced multiple facets of design. The nature of the studio environment and critique culture also hones our professional and presentation skills. We gain a sense of autonomy and confidence that we wouldn’t get entering the field another way,” Serimontrikul says.
Through this unique European experience and her time in the UH Graphic Design Program, Serimontrikul hopes to continue growing as a designer with the potential to promote social change. “Graphic design has the ability to move people and shape communities in subversive ways, and when you apply that to cases of social awareness campaigns, it’s very inspiring.”