10,000 Kilometres. 27 Design Schools. 9 Falafel. The smow blog #campustour 2017

According to the Chinese philosopher Laozi “a journey of 1,000 li begins with a single step”.

For a journey of 20,000 li that step is onto a bus to Malmö…. and is followed by a succession of trains, boats, planes and trams. If sadly not Laozi’s preferred mode of transport, the water buffalo.

While there are still a few #campustour posts to come, for now the rucksacks have been hung up, the red travellin’ socks are, finally, in the wash and we can start to try to take stock….

By the end of the #campustour we could really associate with the Leinaustraße Hannover tram stops by Andreas Brandolini. First stop the hairdresser......

By the end of the #campustour we could really associate with the Leinaustrasse Hannover tram stops by Andreas Brandolini. First stop: the hairdresser……

The smowblog #campustour 2017

We had planned to keep more statistics, rather than just how far we’d travelled, how many design schools we’d visited and how often falafel were consumed, and indeed even started to. And then it all got out of control, gathering the statistics became a task in itself rather than something which happened on the fly, for all in terms of the key statistics: how many chair, smart app and autonomous car projects we saw.

All three of which can be loosely approximated as quazillions.

From the statistics we did keep, the number of schools visited is a little lower than planned, owing to unavoidable logistical reasons Holland and Switzerland had to be abandoned at the last minute, which was very disappointing. The truly troubling statistic however is the somewhat low Falafel:Design School ratio.

While 1:1 was never going to happen, we often visited several institutions on one day and many of the towns visited we’re but staging posts, something around 1:2 should have been possible. A falafel in Aachen was planned, until we understood the propensity of chip shops in the town, and obviously chips are sacred and may never be knowingly passed over. But that still leaves us a good three falafel short of a satisfactory result, and so that is definitely something we need to work on optimising ahead of next year’s tour.

And leaving the design schools aside for a minute, what have we learned?

Braunschweig is an island; the Brothers Grimm are, more or less, to blame for the hated umlaut; Schwerin has three train stations, if we’re still not sure as to why; the Hanseatic League was enormous; this pulled pork thing is getting way out of hand; and Europe’s most pigeon poo beset train station is Hamm (Westfalen)

And that Europe’s great. We always knew it was, we are children of Europe, owe everything we are to the many lives we’ve lived here, but this last couple of months has really underscored what a privilege it is to live in a continent where different cultures and traditions co-exist without borders. And where each and everyone of us is free to explore as much or as little of it as we personally require. It’s not something you ever want to lose……

But for all it confirmed to us the intrinsic truth in the fact if you are interested in design, as in Design not Instagram styling, lifestyle tat and hygge, your local design school’s annual exhibition is well worth visiting. You won’t like everything that is on show, might not even like any of it, but the experience will help you tighten your understanding of design. And thereby help you decide if you like the directions contemporary design, and by extrapolation contemporary society, is going.

Arguably the time has never been more apposite…..

As we said, there are a few more posts to come, including more detailed considerations on our experiences, but for now a playlist of some of those earworms which have accompanied us……..

Our musings from the various design schools visited can be found at smow blog #campustour 2017

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