The idea of a common project between HfG students and EnsAD students came from a feeling of mutual curiosity. Spending time at the Ensad during an internship at the Parisian studio of EnsAD professor Laurent Ungerer, HfG student Nina Overkott met numerous students who expressed interest in what it is like to study graphic design in Germany. This echoed with conversations she had at the HfG with other students intrigued by the French education system. From there, with the support of Prof. Rebecca Stephany at the HfG, the idea emerged of forming a bilateral group of students and working on a format that would create a bridge between the two universities.
Nina and EnsAD students Eliot Nasrallah, Camille Boubals and Paul Judic were the first body of students to start sketching the project in April 2018. We wanted to allow as many students as possible to participate, but we knew that a group of several students at the same time would not fit into the small class systems of both schools. It was also important to keep the project as self-reliant and low-cost as possible.
Over dinner and wine, we came up with the concept of a unique exchange program: a series of week-long immersive residencies, going back and forth between France and Germany, rounded up by a weekend reunion at the end of the semester. Even though only one student is traveling at a time, during their stay they will meet again with the students that have already visited their school before and get to know those who are still to come, creating a group dynamic among the exchange students. Camille and Paul had to leave, but soon our team was joined by HfG student Moritz Schottmüller and EnsAD student Eugénie Zuccarelli. Thanks to the support of Melanie Schillo from the International Office of the HfG, we would be able to cover expenses for the HfG students through funding from the DAAD, the German academic exchange service. From there, we worked as a team to make this exchange possible.
"Eine Woche/ Une Semaine"
We thought about a common project that each participant works on as a base for their mini-residency, meant to be put together in the end as a graphical documentation of the exchange. Each student had to produce 7 pages, about their experience in their host school, making use of the resources available on site. To allow everyone to experiment freely, the only set of rules we designed was the format of 24 x 28 cm, and the theme "Eine Woche/ Une Semaine ». We were very curious to see the results, as an interpretation of everyone’s experience.
The exchange took place over a the course of 14 weeks between October and February 2018. At the beginning of each week one student travelled to the partner school and spent the week there. Each person was hosted by the previous traveller, and hosted the following one after coming back. This way, the exchange worked more as a relay race than as partnerships, allowing to progressively constitute the group. On the first week, Moritz travelled to Paris where he was hosted by Eliot, and attended classes at the EnsAD. The second student to travel was Eugénie, who was hosted by Moritz and attending the HfG, and so on!
As the exchange progressed, we got to know each other more and more, either when visiting or in our own school. However, we never had the possibility to meet as a whole group, which is why we planned a reunion weekend in the end of the program. The weekend was meant to design and produce the 20 copies of our common publication, constituted by our individual 7-pages projects.
With two cars full of bookbinding material, three days worth of food and all seven pages projects we left our respective cities on a Friday afternoon. The meeting point was an old screw factory near Verdun, where we found accommodation and work rooms for all fifteen of us, and started the weekend with a dinner together. Just like the rest of the exchange, organisation of the weekend relied on the participation of all. For example, each meal was prepared by a team of two or three students and shared together. The next day, each of us began to design the handmade cover for their copy of the publication. The cover could be designed freely, the only rules were: only use elements from the seven pages of others and include the bilingual colophon describing the project. Of course we did not forget to conclude the Saturday with a little party.
On Sunday it was - a little later than planned - time to divide all the pages into 20 copies of the final publication, one for each of us and two for each university. In the afternoon, all copies were hand bound. Those with more experience in binding could pass it on to the younger students. After the covers were cut out and stuck to the spine, the 20 publications were finally in front of us. On Monday morning we parted ways, but not without a final group photo and a promise to see each other again soon.
Challenging, enriching, fun
That’s it. It was a very nice experience, we made friends, we had fun. We hope that these friendships will last and be the starting point of a creative exchange between two interesting schools. However challenging, such student initiatives are worth the effort and if you ever thought about doing something similar, don’t hesitate. Browsing through "Eine Woche/ Une Semaine" makes us more than happy, and we wanted to thank all participants for their motivation, enthusiasm and help that made this exchange an enriching experience for us all.
Micro-Exchangees Paris-Karlsruhe + Workshop Weekend, initiated by graphic design students of the HfG Karlsruhe and the Paris École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD) Paris. Under the patronage of Laurent Ungerer & Rebecca Stephany.