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I never thought I’d be designing for a graphics firm in London

March 1, 2011

I never thought I’d be designing for a graphics firm in London

Last spring, when Courtney Walker ’11 arrived for her internship at the London-based design firm Abstract Associates, she was fully prepared to be the office go-fer. “I thought I’d be doing coffee and tea runs for people,” Walker said. She never imagined she’d be asked to design work for actual projects – like magazine spreads or invitations to high society events.

“I was actually surprised I got to design for them.”

This wasn’t the only surprise for the graphic design major from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Just about every part of her time at PLU has been something of a surprise.

For starters, when Walker started at PLU, she thought she wanted to major in elementary education and become a high school art teacher. Then she took a course in graphic design and a new world opened up.

“I kept getting pulled toward art,” Walker said. “It just fit me.”

Interning in London wasn’t something she originally sought, either. In fact, as an athlete on the women’s soccer team, she never thought she’d be able to study away, let alone work internationally. But working with PLU’s Wang Center for Global Education, it was suggested she apply for a semester-long internship at Abstract Associates in London.

Before she knew it, she was on her way. She was the first American intern for the company, she said.

Being an American designer in London gave her a unique perspective on the trade, For instance, she says the intuitiveness of design in America isn’t the same in London. Magazine layouts in Europe have more of a “funky” feel to them, she said. “There’s just a different style,” Walker said.

Learning what worked in Europe gave Walker a broader understanding of graphic design. And she knows that type of international work experience will be the type of thing that makes her portfolio stand out from the others when she begins her career as a graphic designer.

That’s a big deal for someone who thought she’d be the coffee-and-tea go-fer when she arrived in London.

“At the time it was terrifying,” she said of being challenged to design magazine layouts for the London firm.

“But looking back, it was just exciting that I even got the opportunity to do what I did.”