Cross Culture: German design interns at SYNTAX

German interns at SYNTAX

Over the past two years my company, SYNTAX, has been hosting German design students for the Bauhaus university in Weimar. Currently, in our office in Amman, we’ve been counting Anja Hendel and Michael Schinköthe as part of the SYNTAX family. Last year we had the pleasure of working with Daniel Faller (our first German trainee), Prisca Vogt and Jan Gerner.

The whole experience was great for SYNTAX and, I think, for those young talented designers as well. They left their mark on our projects and our team and I am pretty sure that they taken with them a piece of Jordan and the region that will stay with them for years to come.

The whole experiment started in 2004 with an initiative by our friend Marla Luther, a Berlin based freelance project manager and founder of the Arab Western Foundation. She convinced renowned German designer Alexander Banczyk, then visiting professor at the Bauhaus, to host us for a two day workshop with his students on the topic of cross cultural design.

At the end of the workshop the students were given a design assignment, namely to design a logo for an Arab-Western cooperation conference. The best design, the students were told, will get its creator an internship at SYNTAX.

What overwhelmed us was not only the great ideas for the design we got in the following weeks, but also the number of people interested to come to Amman. No less than 10 people expressed their keen interest. And that’s how Amman became the home of these young, curios and creative minds for at least 3 months each.

What the internship at SYNTAX offered the students went far beyond working on interesting design projects. They were exposed to the Arabic script and type. They had the chance for meaningful interactions with Jordanians. Jordan and the region offered them an opportunity for cultural exploration as well as recreation including Diving in Aqaba, desert experiences in Wadi Rum, floating in the Dead Sea, expeditions to Egypt’s Dahab and trips to Jerusalem..

Interesting outcomes from the students encounter with Jordan include Jan Gerner’s Arabic pixel font named Al-Abdali (after Amman’s famous bus station), Prisca Vogt’s ‘Zabbing Jordan’ web site that offers a lighthearted, yet informative, account of her Jordan and SYNTAX experience.

Our current trainee Anja Hendel is working on a booklet that will showcase the Arabic alphabet and, by the way, pieces of contemporary Arab life and culture as she experienced them.

Prisca, who just graduated, has made her first career step of accepting a design position in Dubai.

For now, we’re happy to be joined next March by accomplished German designer Annette Wüsthoff, who’s taking a sabbatical from her position at Frankfurt based design firm Xplicit to spend some time with us.

The whole thing has been great. We’re hoping to continue to attract foreign design students (as well as practicing designers) form Germany, Europe (and for that matter anywhere else). If you’re a design student with a convincing portfolio and a curiosity to explore the Arab Middle East, let us know.

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3 Responses to “Cross Culture: German design interns at SYNTAX”

  1. mozzy Says:

    This is really great.
    I was wondering if there is a possibility for you to cooperate also with other universities in germany.

  2. Safar: Travel for proactive Arab youth - 360east | design, media, technology Says:

    [...] Over the past few years my company has been hosting young German designers in Amman for a few months of training and cultural exploration. As I’ve written before, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive for both our young guests and us. [...]

  3. Counterparts - Ammani House 28 in transition - 360east | design, media, technology Says:

    [...] The old landlady and her old, bed-ridden husband have passed away. It seems like yesterday she was showing Ahmad Sabbagh and me through the apartment under the main house. That apartment became what I called the “SYNTAX house”. A succession of SYNTAX’s German Bauhaus design interns lived there over the past four years, anchored by couple of Jordanian SYNTAXers: Sabbagh and “Ibra” Oweiss. [...]

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