ASU design students travel to New York City

Nearly a dozen 20-somethings walk quickly with luggage rolling in suit and eyes glued to the skyline above. The dirty, uneven sidewalks pose as an obstacle as we try and prevent our large suitcases from getting caught and risk falling behind the pack. The smell of raw seafood is in the air as we make our way into the depths of Chinatown. We swiftly pass the bodegas being stacked with fresh meat and produce for the Sunday morning shoppers. Finally, we get to the hotel. Within five minutes, we drop off our bags, freshened up and head out the door to seize our first day of adventure.

We are the Graphic Design Student Association at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Every year the GDSA committee chooses a city and plans a week full of visits to design firms and studios to help students make connections and learn more about the possible careers in graphic design. We had a month-long USEED campaign to raise money for the hotel expenses and studio visits.

In the weeks approaching the trip, my friends and I couldn’t contain our excitement. We tried making plans on where to go and what to do — luckily we had a tour guide in Willow Greene (SPM’s lead photographer) who lived in Manhattan last summer and knew of the coolest places to hang out, eat and photograph. She led us through the streets and underground subway systems, making our experience truly authentic.

Our first stop was breakfast in Tribeca at Two Hands Cafe. If Free People had a coffee shop, it would be this one. Colorful artwork hung on the white-washed brick walls and between the strings of light, clumps of cotton were dangling from the ceiling as beautifully crafted clouds.

When our strikingly-attractive Australian waiter brought us our avocado toast and coffee, I couldn’t tell if it was the food or his face, but I was in love. We definitely started the trip on a high note.

After our meal, we walked around what felt like the entire borough of Manhattan — we went past NYU, stopped by Washington Square Garden and took in the bustle of the city. I remember thinking New York was one of the few places that I could walk aimlessly around all day long.

We made it a priority to find the best place to eat wherever we ended up. Every meal had its own unique experience, but there’s one meal in particular that I’ll never forget. On our second night, we went to a local Indian restaurant, Panna II, on First Avenue.

Right next to Panna II is another Indian restaurant, and outside of both these seemingly-identical places are two men yelling in heavy accents for you to choose their restaurant and not the other’s. The intensity of this “restaurant battle” is amusing, and it almost makes you afraid to choose.

Once you make your selection and walk through the door, you enter a cramped narrow dining area that has a red glow from the birthday decorations and christmas lights that cover every square inch of the room. It’s past 10 p.m. on a Monday, and it’s packed, but we find a table for the seven of us in the back.

The meal consisted of delicious, exotic food, laughter and a surprise verse of “Happy Birthday” with free mango ice cream. It wasn’t any of our birthdays.

We continued our adventure at Washington Square Park where we ended up playing in a children’s jungle gym, hysterically laughing and goofing off. We were convinced the Indian food made us crazy.

Along with our food expeditions, we had a blast visiting the studios in New York. We met with art directors and designers, saw their work and heard their stories. One particular studio caught my attention: Rivington Design House on Kenmare Street in SoHo.

The creative director, Brion Isaacs, never finished college but his connections made from deejaying in the city helped him earn his start in the field. Now, less than 10 years later, he has a boutique studio with a ground floor art gallery that his dog, Hazelnut, wanders around aimlessly. Hearing his stories, seeing his work and being in his space sparked my imagination about the possibilities of my future in design.

The last studio we visited was Hugo & Marie in Brooklyn. This studio was a bit larger in size, and their space had the most beautiful aesthetic and creative atmosphere.

In 2008, Hugo & Marie started as just a team of husband and wife and now the agency is filled with artists and designers. They have collaborated with well-known clients such as Rihanna, American Ballet Theatre, Google Inc., Visa Inc., Nike Inc., Dolce & Gabbana, Converse, MTV, Capitol Records and more.

When we left the studio tour, we all felt starstruck to say the least.

Everyone that talked to us was so stylish and suave with their words and movements. We all wanted to be the new intern for the next six months.

Everything about New York felt special — exploring the busy streets, taking late-night trips on the subway, experiencing the environment of designers and making memories with amazing friends.

Although it was just a week, I felt like, in a sense, it was one long moment. One moment of pure happiness to be in the best city in the world with the best people.

On our flight home, we all felt a sort of emptiness, like we shouldn't have left. Still after, we talk about the trip and how nothing can compare to the city. We all caught the bug and now our plans after college are clear: we’re becoming New Yorkers.

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