I found this note by accident while cleaning my room and trying to throw away as much paper as possible (yes one day I may litterally drown in the amount of paper and sketches and proof prints that I have in my room, thank you art and graphic design). This little note was written by a first-year graphic design student in early 2012. She has now probably graduated and become a wonderful and potential designer, though I no longer have any contact with her.
I remember sitting in a cozy café at Ukkel, Brussels on a Wednesday afternoon after school (I was only 16 at the time), listening to advices and opinions of this college student about choices of art school in this city. Newly in Belgium, I spoke hardly any French; she was Vietnamese of origine but was born in Western Europe; so we communicated in English. She had straight black hair, wore rectangular glasses and casual clothes, and had a scar on one side of her face. She spoke enthusiastically and paid attention to every word I said. She appeared to me to be someone who knew everything, but was very modest and communicative. A social nerd, as I might identify her with my categorizations of people.
I knew less, and was also less social and communicative. I came to ask for advice on design schools, and she came to give me the best advices that she could. I was still hesitating between the two directions: graphic design and graphic novels. She had passed the entrance exam to her school, been to classes and loved it. I still wasn’t sure of my notion and understanding of what graphic design really was. We talked about drawing, art schools and music. She ordered a capuccino. I ordered nothing, saying I had just eaten. She asked me about my favorite music. I said Eminem, hiphop and rock. She said hers was Arcade Fire. She took a pencil and a piece of paper, wrote the name of the band down for me, drew something that resembled an arcade below the writing, and a fire on it. She turned the note in my reading direction and said: “Now, this is graphic design.”
The rest of the note is names and characteristics of different art schools in Brussels, which was meant to help me have a better comparison between them. A few months later, I met her again, this time at her school, ERG, on its open-door day. She showed me around the school, let me see the works of fellow students, walked with me to St-Luc, while smiling all the time. I visited La Cambre on my own the next year, applied for its preparoty course, passed the jury but didn’t go to more than 2 classes because I found it boring and unproductive. My mom and I came visiting her and her mom once. We ate croque-monsieurs at their dining table together at noon. They had a yellow toaster with the image of Sponge Bob on it. The college girl showed me what she was making for a school assignment and the portfolio she made for the entrace exam. My mom looked at the abstract paintings on the wall and learned that her mom had painted all of those. We got home, I found her blog, but we never contacted again.
But is was the beginning of everything. Studying to be a comic or graphic novel artist wasn’t an option to my mom; and her suggestion about economics wasn’t something for me either. I gathered more information about graphic design, read Ellen Lupton’s book about typography, watched Karen Kavett‘s videos and decided that it was something that I really wanted to do. It was for me a reconcilement between art, languages (which I also liked a lot), job opportunities in the future and the perfect way to convince mom to let me go to an art school.
Four years has passed since I was handed this little piece of paper. I’ve learned French and Dutch, known a bit more about the Belgian culture, been able to decide which drink to order each time I go to a café, moved to another part of the country and chosen a totally other school from the options on the list; but I’m now a graphic design student just like this college girl used to be. And as I’ve survived my first year and my second year is coming nearer to an end, this note reappeared and brought back memories. Thanks to this note I am now in a school with a beautiful garden, have access to a huge collection of books on art and design, attend classes of the most devoted teachers and together with the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever met in my life.
And this, surely, is just another beginning.