Dispatch From Retirement

Bill Davis, NESAD’s long-time chair, joins & Then as a guest blogger. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please drop me a line at makin@suffolk.edu. 

Since officially retiring at the end of June I have mostly been occupied with adjusting to some very positive changes in my family. Our first grandchild, Nathaniel Davis Tower, arrived late in August, weighing in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces. The son of our daughter, Mackenzie, and her husband Jonah, “Nate” has managed to keep four adults (his parents and grandparents) mostly focused on him. I have taken on the role of surrogate father to Mackenzie’s Golden Retriever, Benny, and we can often be found wandering through the Medford side of the Middlesex Fells Reservation.

billLate in October Patty and I will be traveling to France, where we will spend several days in Paris, followed by a week-long cruise down the Rhone from Lyon to Arles, with some serious wine tasting along the way. We will end our trip with three days in Barcelona. Hopefully we will be able to do some extensive traveling over the few years, as we have not had many opportunities to do so over the past 40 years. It’s hard to make time for traveling when you’re up reading emails at 3:00 AM.

I have also been catching up on many years of lost sleep, walking pretty much every day, reading biographies (I’m half way through the third volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill) and novels (most recently “Plainsong” and “Benediction” by Kent Haruf), drinking good wine (mostly Pinot Noir), and generally enjoying being alive.

I miss my many NESAD friends and colleagues, but I do not miss the pressures of the corporate approach to higher education, which Suffolk has embraced. At the same time, I am enormously proud of all that we were able to accomplish and I am hopeful that in the future NESAD will again get the recognition and support that it deserves.

The Many Forms of Inspiration

Elizabeth Benedict (Certificate, 2006) joins & Then as a guest blogger. If you are interested in being our next guest blogger please drop me a line at makin@suffolk.edu. 

SONY DSCI had just had my first kid when I went back to school for design. My husband could see that I was so used to corporate life, that while I loved being a mother, I certainly wasn’t ready to be a homemaker. He enrolled me in the Intro class at NESAD before my son was a year old and said that my path was up to me. I took the advice and ran with it – finished the then Certificate program and hung my own shingle in 2005. Happily still in business, I now have my own assistant. It makes me regret never being an intern.

Interior Design is so much more than what you learn in school. It is so much more than the confidence you have in your own style or the desire that you have to design for someone else. It’s time management, and people management, and math, and science, and scheduling, and billing, and dealing with so many outside forces that you have no control over (like shippers and receivers and dye lots and backorders and custom finishes that require more than one strike off). For me, I love the beginning phase of this cycle – the hellos and the dreams. I love putting together a space (or many spaces within a space). I love the collaboration between the client and the architect and the contractor and me. And then, there’s the middle, and a lot of junk. Junk that I never knew about, since I was never an intern; which, if you do intern, you will know about. And then, most importantly, I love the end, where it’s back to being a collaboration, that’s beautiful and exactly as you imagined it would all work out.

Recently, actually, within the past week, I had two people tell me that they wanted to go back to school for ID – both middle-aged women, with kids. I never thought that I would be one of the designers who would preach – GO BACK TO SCHOOL, WORK IN A FIRM, LEARN FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD – but suddenly, it was coming out of my mouth. And I was making sure that I fed them the intern speech – Real life is so much about what happens outside the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I learned so much in those classes (especially rendering from Tommy Yamamoto), but most of what I learned came from what I experienced as an active participant in design. Over the years, that participation has meant traveling (both personally & professionally), being part of trade shows and keeping up with new products, working with showrooms and peers, social media, keeping up with CEUs, learning new technology, and interacting with current students. It’s a big world, inspiration comes in many forms. Concepts grow from ideas that turn into conversations; conversations that you have in the field; experiences that influence you to take the next step.



Hope to see you there!

A guest post by Gallery Director Deborah Davidson. 

We are gearing up for our first fall exhibit Away For The Summer: Work From The Study Abroad Programs, opening this Monday, September 9 and running until October 7.

This exhibit reflects student work from three distinct Suffolk University Study Abroad Programs – The Italian Journal Program led by Wallace Marosek, Lens on Spain: Photojournalism in Madrid with Kenneth Martin and Painting in Prague directed by Susan Nichter. The students experience the art, architecture, culture and the landscape both intellectually and through the experience of making art in a particular medium and is a marvelous first-hand way to study and understand a culture outside one’s own. All three European locales are rich in history and are vibrant contemporary cultures as well.

Please join us in the Suffolk University Gallery for the opening reception reception on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.

italy watercolor

Rediscovering Boston

Kate McLean (Graphic Design, 2004)  joins & Then as our inaugural writer for our Guest Blogger feature. If you are interested in being our next guest blogger please drop me a line at makin@suffolk.edu. 

As an ex-pat and a NESADSU graphic design student in Boston from 2001 to 2004 I had a good handle on the city; I knew where the all the art stores were, I sketched in the parks and gardens, I ate at restaurants, was a regular visitor to any number of coffee and sandwich shops, and I embraced the city museum exhibition schedules. The staff in Paper Source on Boylston once asked if I was a scrapbooker because I spent so much time there.

I thought that I really understood “my new city”.

After a circuitous route through other European cities I returned to the UK and studied for an MFA in Graphic Design. At Edinburgh College of Art my interest in maps expanded as did my awareness of how we perceive our world through all of our senses. I researched deeper into the sense of smell and started to create Smell Maps. Every summer I returned to Boston to teach in the MA in Graphic Design program with Rita Daly at the place I call “home” – NESAD.


This summer I am back in Boston once again but this time as a researcher rather than a visiting lecturer. It was time to rediscover Boston through its smells. Smelling is a highly personalised experience and relates to the genetic make-up of individuals and since we can detect 10,000 odors smell perception varies greatly. A recent study has shown that ‘Sometimes, your sensitivity can even completely change the notes of a scent. Newcomb and his colleagues found that the violet compound smelled “fragrant” and “floral” to those with a heightened sense, whereas less sensitive individuals described it as unpleasantly “sour” and “acidic.”’

My smell walkers came from from NESAD MAGD alum (Nick DiStefano, Brittany Kearnan and Meghan Callagan), as well as a couple of food bloggers, a fitness blogger and social media guru and her husband and their 11 year old son. We were accompanied by Sarah Reynolds, working for US Public Radio’s show “The Story” with Dick Gordon.

dumpsterWe all rediscovered a city that we thought we knew pretty well. What follows are a selected set of the smell identification and descriptive notes taken from 9 smell walkers:

7:15 – Hamburgers – reminds me of BBQs and family cookouts and summer. Good feeling.

7:16 – Chlorine – nice, its the fountain @ the Greenway

7:17 – Sewage – fleeting smell. Not pleasant

7:18 – Garlic and calamari and oil and exhaust – home, Italian cooking

7:19 – Dough – yummy, comforting

7:20 – Sterile, cleanness, candy

7:24 – Wine, oil, fish – home, holidays

7:25 – Wood fire – hungry, it’s from a restaurant

7:30 – Cigar – Old Italian men enjoying a smoke

7:38 – Laundry – cozy, sweet, clean

7:45 – Salt water/Ocean – I’m staring at the harbour. Expected a more intense smell, must be high tide

7:47 – Salt water, seaweed – Sailing home

7:50 – BBQ – reminds me of my friends

7:55 – Cut grass – good, refreshed

8:00 – Greasy road – queasy, I don’t really like some stuff

8:04 – Plastic bags –

8:05 – Fried dough – summer amusement parks/carnivals

8:10 – Construction – like a new house

8:16 – Sewers and popcorn – smells like the city

8:25 – More grilled meat, touch of vinegar – lots of kitchens with doors open tonight

8:30 – Wax – at the Catholic Church. Surprised.

8:31 – Crayons – musty, stuffy

8:34 – Grass – Smells great, want to play…

The city I thought I knew had greater variety in small areas. The smell walkers said that it smelled far better than they thought it would, sweeter and with less expected “bad smells”.

What I do now, as a smell mapper, is to render the invisible visible through graphics and the creation of “scents” to communicate our temporal perception of a place. See www.sensorymaps.com for other city smell maps. Next summer I want to do further research in Boston and I love the idea that NESAD students and alum from all programs could be involved. Follow me @katemclean to find out more about how cities worldwide have very individual, and occasionally surprising smell portraits.


Image Credits:
Boston Skyline ©Erin Egresitz 2013
Kate McLean smells an unexpectedly fragrant Faneuil Market Place dumpster ©Karen Zgoda 2013
Kate McLean & Sarah Reynolds in Columbus Park, Boston ©Erin Egrestiz 2013