July 3, 2013 UT and Beijing Institute Students to Collaborate in Design Workshop

Students from the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication (BIGC) will join forces with those of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a workshop focusing on creativity, design and cultural exchange. 

U+B Workshop
Open to all UT students, participants can be part of one of two (or both) workshops with visitors from BIGC happening July 11-24:

  • IDS 425 / section #83725: 1 credit hour workshop (Thursday, July 11, through Wednesday, July 17). Sunday, July 14 is an optional trip to the Smoky Mountains to hike Clingman’s Dome.
  • IDS 425 / section #83765: 1 credit hour travel to Washington, D.C. (July 18 – 20) and New York City (July 20 – July 24), which involves journaling/sketching/photography exploring art and design with Chinese students.

The collaboration is part of a cultural exchange spearheaded by David Matthews, associate dean of communications and facilities and chair of the interior design program. Its curriculum reflects the growing emphasis on “designing thinking” at the College of Architecture and Design. (An initiative, created in partnership with the UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will kick-off in summer 2014.)

In early June 2013, Matthews went to the BIGC, where he conducted a workshop for their art and design students. He shares his experiences in China, and provides information about the upcoming opportunity happening at the College of Architecture and Design:

UT:      How many students are expected to come to UT from China? What are your goals for them and for UT students during this exchange?

DM:     Twenty-three students and three faculty and administrators will be traveling from BIGC. The goals of the program center on cultural exchange. The team format of the way-finding project will allow the students to find differences and commonalities in their design and creative processes. The outcome of the program is to build positive relationships with the students from China. The design project is the catalyst for creative expression and relationship building. 

UT:      How do these collaborations reflect education at the UT College of Architecture and Design?

DM:     Working in an international context is an essential skill students will need as they practice design in a global market. These experiences allow students to learn how to work with someone that grew up in a different culture and context. Creativity is an essential human activity to vision the future, but it is expressed differently based on cultural context. This is a chance for each culture to learn and grow together.

UT:      What is unique about UT’s exchange with BIGC? How did this relationship come to be?

DM:     The students from BIGC are from all over China and very talented. The ability to learn from each other, exchange creative ideas and processes is invaluable for learning how to collaborate. 

I first started working with BIGC in 2005 at Ohio University. We ran several travel programs with the students and provided cooperative educational experiences. The travel program emphasized a team design project as the centerpiece of cultural exchange. 

UT:      You recently visited China. What was your role there, and what types of activities did you do?

DM:     I have been developing a new course for the University of Tennessee on Design Thinking. I used the course actives and exercises developed for this course for the students at BIGC. This was a way to present current trends of creativity, collaboration, and holistic visioning to the students in China. Activities were hands on and emphasized empathy, field work and user feedback, and divergent thinking (coming up with multiple solutions). 

UT:      The Chinese are coming in July to complete a workshop on creativity and design. Can you expand upon this a bit more?

DM:     Professor [Mary Beth] Robinson is leading a workshop for BIGC and UT students to create way-finding between campus and downtown. This is a great opportunity for students from Tennessee to work in teams and collaborate with Chinese students.

To learn more about the upcoming workshops, contact Associate Professor Mary Beth Robinson,

Travel highlights of the workshops will include trips to Washington, D.C., where students will visit national monuments and museums; and New York City, where students will visit the city’s major art museums, see the 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and tour the High Line park. Costs for travel will be approximately $850-950. This includes transportation, tours, accommodations and some meals for six days of travel.

Images from Matthews’ workshop at the BIGC:

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