Sessions Creative Director Patricio Sarzosa has spent a lot of time lately working on a project close to his heart. Entitled “Design Local/Study Global,” the project is an international showcase that features the work of Sessions alumni from all over the world. And we do mean all over the world: from Belize to Belgium, from Germany to Gibraltar, the Design Local gallery, which was launched on March 1st, 2012, aims to show design grads applying their skills in every conceivable cultural context.
It’s a pet project for Patricio because he hails from Quito, Ecuador. Earning his Double BA: Major in Graphic Design and Photography, and major in painting and sculpture, at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Patricio came to New York in the late 1990s, joining a young, upstart Internet company called sessions.edu. In its early days, Sessions was a very international school, located in New York’s Soho, staffed by a typical mix of downtown creatives from Norway, Sweden, Australia, China, and Korea as well as the USA.
And in those early days of dialup connections, many of the school’s first students were international too. “When I joined Sessions in 2001,” recalls the school’s current President Gordon Drummond, “our student gallery, our catalog, was populated with outrageously good work from far-flung places. I remember seeing terrific designs from Romania, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, India—in addition to great work from students in our own backyard. From the beginning one of the most exciting things about Sessions was the ability to work with students who could be literally anywhere.”
In the ten years since, many things at Sessions have changed. Once a little boutique New York school, the school is now an Arizona based, degree-granting institution with a growing enrollment, and a recognized leader and innovator in online education. But the international dimension has remained a constant and unique aspect of the school.
“After our 10-year accreditation cycle, we started looking for ways to celebrate what’s truly unique about Sessions,” notes Drummond. “And one thing that’s unique is our geographical reach over time. Sessions was the first fully online accredited school of design. Unlike many other traditional schools with hybrid programs, online art/design education is what we do. And it’s enabled us to reached a truly global audience. We’ve graduated students from over 80 countries.”
To celebrate the school’s milestone, Sessions staff started a project called Design Local/Study Global. The title was Patricio Sarzosa’s idea. “Design is an international language,” he explains “The concept of the international gallery was to find an interesting way to explore some alumni projects and also discover where we have graduated students. The basic idea was to create an interactive gallery, using country flags, location dots, and arrows to invite people to explore.”
Here are some notes on his creative process: “The logo treatment for ‘Study Global/Design Local’ was created with a clean font and in caps to enforce the importance of the concept. Two tones of the same color help us to differentiate the two parts of the name. Then we incorporated a shape of the continents, and since the alumni group at Sessions comes from everywhere, with different cultural backgrounds, we decided to represent that with a multicolored map, in which different continents have different colors.”
The gallery includes images of students and featured professional projects, together with interviews that reflect on applying design skills where they live. The process of thinking about design or working with a client is often translated into another language.
The gallery features some fascinating case studies of design projects that could only happen in one location. There’s the story of Grenadian designer Kurt who created a packaging design for a rum brand, using the Caribbean island’s geographic coordinates as a concept. Or South African designer Lesley designing a coffee table book on the Hermanus whales that surface just off the coast in her native town. There’s Zaur from Azerbaijan designing the country’s first yellow pages app, or Gregory from Belize packing out night clubs with his vivid Soca music event posters.
And in a nice twist of fate, the project also featured some wonderful CD cover art created by Ecuadorean designer Jose Garcia, a former Sessions student from Patricio’s home town. “What better for me than to see a school alumni from my own country doing something great, and thinking out of the local box,” says the creative director.
In the months ahead, staff expect the school’s international alumni project to grow as Sessions College prepares for its first annual commencement ceremony, another landmark for the school. Interviewed in New York, the Scottish-born Drummond remarked: “What’s important to me about this project is firstly to celebrate student achievement, and secondly to celebrate what online education can mean for students at a distance in the U.S. and abroad. We live in a time where there is a lot of misunderstanding of distance learning (not to mention some politically fueled hostility). It’s too easy to forget that online education can do amazing things for students—or to put it another way, it can help some amazing students achieve their potential.”