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Guusje’s PARALLAXploration in Austin, TX and Washington, D.C.

IMG_1779bI’m very happy to be an American but I have not always loved America. As a Dutchie who moved to the U.S. almost 15 years ago, my initial not-so-positive view of this country was influenced by America’s foreign politics, which felt pushy and nosy to someone who grew up in a tiny country. When I’d travel to Thailand, Greece, Mexico, or Hungary, I noticed that American brands, movies and music were replacing local, unique, colorful, culinary, cultural expressions and traditions. The fact that America exports its pop culture so abundantly saddened me.

It wasn’t until I met Jonathan and had the opportunity to move to the US that the country captured my respect. I had been feeling stagnant in my graphic design career in Holland. I wanted something more, something bigger. I just wasn’t sure what that would be. By becoming a visual communicator in another country with a foreign language and a totally different culture, my old profession in graphic design suddenly became much more interesting.

It is here in California that I found my passion for being able to help others communicate. Here I learned that visual communication combined with a purpose can create meaningful impact. This country inspired me to find my purpose and I found it!

I love the freedom and space in America. I love that so much is possible here. And that’s why I chose to stay in the US for my PARALLAXploration trip. I’m inspired by how friendly and generous Americans are. I’m loving the sky-is-the-limit attitude. I admire that people don’t hold back when it comes to expressing their taste or preferences.

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And that what you don’t know you can’t judge. So when I finally visited Texas I discovered that I love Austin’s down-to-earth, retro culture.  And that Austiners love type as much as I do. It’s everywhere!

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The light looks always warm and filtered and the air feels like velvet. Austiners embrace Mexican culture and just enjoy the good things in life.

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It could not have been a better juxtaposition to visit Washington, D.C. right after Austin. Business was the main motivator for this part of the trip but I have always wanted to visit the capitol of my new country, especially after becoming an American citizen. While Austin became what it is today in an organic and natural way, D.C. is designed to impress and intimidate. The stark geometric layout of The Mall conveys a sense of clarity and strategy.

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Wandering through the parks and along the monuments makes you feel that America has got you covered. That here, we know what we do and we do it well. The simplicity of the Washington Monument exemplifies my ‘less is more’ sense of design and communication quite well although I may not think that bigger is always better.

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And then there’s the type. It’s everywhere. On all the monuments. And everywhere it’s the same: all caps, serif type chiseled out of marble. Impressive, classic, and again, very intimidating. It’s hard to emotionally connect with the subject matter – to truly feel what the folks involved in all those horrible wars have gone through. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was an exception for me. The ultra simple design of the slow V-shaped stone cut into a barely sloping, grassy hill, made you think twice. The names of all the fallen soldiers were cut into black marble (all serif caps again) and there were so many names that soon they seemed to blend together as a single wall of type. But the understatement of this design created such a strong emotional impact on me that I was tearing up… quite strange for a 40-something year old whose original country wasn’t even involved in this war. But I guess that’s what good design does to you.

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This country continues to surprise and inspire me. All in all my trip was colorful, impressive and insightful and it made me realize a thing or two. I am thankful for the opportunities and inspiration this country has given me. I am happy to be an American and I will continue to seize the beneficial moments that I encounter and do what I am passionate about: creating a meaningful impact on society by helping others communicate their stories and purpose. Cheers to that!

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Click here to check out photos from my cross-country adventure!

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