International students show off their love of graphic design
The letters popped out of the paper, screaming to be seen. The colors and shapes had a vaguely familiar look to them, like signs from restaurants and establishments, each representing a different local business, all the way from “A” to “Z.” These are Cristiane Cunha’s alphabet letters of Iowa City.
“Life has taught me that curiosity leads to knowledge; let’s be curious and try new things, explore the unknown,” she said, the excitement growing in her voice.
Cunha and designer Maria Mandarim will put on a exhibition in the Drewlowe Gallery at the Studio Arts Building, beginning today and running through Oct. 22. Admission is free.
What Cunha has learned and experienced at the University of Iowa is shown through her exhibit, which is based on her several months of visual identity and branding and logotype research. There are pieces such as the alphabet letters that are from her M.F.A. project, which demonstrates that brands are a perception of values and are used to make purchase decisions. Specifically, she explored if people could recognize a famous logo simply by looking at one of its letters. But there are, other pieces outside of the project, like a mural made entirely of sticky notes.
“I try to be creative in a different way,” she said.
In her exhibition partner’s opinion, Cunha is a very dynamic and proactive person, which makes her easy to work with. The two met in the design graduate program; Mandarim has been working on her M.F.A, with emphasis in 3D, since the fall of 2008. This exhibition is her fifth one but the first for her M.F.A.
“We identified that we have design elements that are in common such as playfulness and background in fashion-company branding,” Mandarim said.
Cunha and her husband moved to Iowa from Brazil after her husband received an offer to work as an IT project manager in Muscatine. The two jumped at the chance to live out their curiosity in a new place. They wanted to live somewhere else to move out of their comfort zone, learn a new language, and experience a new culture.
“I left my job, and we moved to the U.S. [bringing] four suitcases, some professional experience, and lots of dreams,” Cunha said.
Like Cunha, Mandarim had interests in coming to the United States; she participated in study abroad when she was 17 years old. When she returned home to Brazil, she decided, with the help of her father, she would go into design as a profession. After graduating from college, she decided to return to the U.S. for a graduate program in graphic design.
Cunha has the professional experience of teaching fashion marketing in a Brazilian college, and she was a marketing manager of a fashion company.
The UI has provided a motivating and challenging environment that has helped her gain insights into her fields of interest.
“[Iowa City is] much more than a campus among the cornfields; Iowa City is a beautiful place to live, has a good environment, offers quality of life, leisure, and culture,” she said.
Though Cunha has enjoyed her time in Iowa, things didn’t come easily at first. Coming from a place with an average temperature of 85 degrees and living on the ocean, the cold Iowan winters were quite a shivery, shocking adjustment. A harder adjustment than wearing more sweaters was the language barrier and missing her family.
“The language is still a challenge to me,” she said.
Mandarim is excited to have design exhibitions because it gives her the chance to show what she is developing, challenges her to update her pieces and try different strategies.
“I feel more mature in my creative process, and I am also exploring new media such as animation and interactive motion graphics, so I am curious to know how the public will react to that,” she said.
Cunha is grateful for the whole experience of college here and achieving her own exhibition, which she dedicated to her parents.
“It’s challenging to me being not just a grad student but also an international student, plus being a mom of 17-month-old kid; I could not make it without a supportive husband,” she said.
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