Designer turns oddities into global art

By Brian Benson

Many people would not consider food labels, toys and cell phones works of art. But for Harmen Liemburg, these objects are the muse for masterpieces.

“I’m always looking for inspiration in everyday life,” he said.

Liemburg, a graphic designer and artist in residence at the Visual Arts Department, spoke to students and faculty Monday at “The Power of Imperfection,” a seminar sponsored by the International Student and Scholar Institute (ISSI) and Phi Beta Delta.

He graduated from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands with a degree in cartography, but said he quickly became bored with the formulaic process of mapmaking and chose to pursue graphic design.

“I wanted to explore imagination and the freedom of expression,” he said.

Liemburg quickly excelled in this new field. Though based in Amsterdam, he has traveled throughout the world in search of inspiration. His work is on display in Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich and Boston.

“Once I have an idea, I go to a supermarket or toy store and look at packaging, or I look at pictures from previous trips,” Liemburg said.

After he finds these objects, he attempts to bring the different elements together to form an image.

“This is where the creativity begins. I like to add elements of surprise and never know what will come out until the project is complete,” Liemburg said.

In addition to packaging labels and toys, he uses parts of posters and signs, cell phones and even garbage in his works.

“I mixed a Nokia cell phone with traditional Chinese art,” he said, describing one of his more diverse pieces.

By showing examples of his designs, Liemburg said he hoped students would realize the wide variety of subjects graphic designers can use to experiment.

“I hope I can give my students a little taste of what you can do, Liemburg said. “Graphic design is connected to everything.”

Laura Kim, a senior graphic design major, said she was inspired by what she saw.

“It was really informative and interesting,” she said.

Melanie Parrella, also a senior graphic design major, agreed with Kim.

“It’s nice to be able to see a professor’s work,” she said.

Both students, who have Liemburg as a professor, said they planned to use some of his ideas in their own works.

Liemburg’s talk, part of ISSI’s International Carnevale, was sponsored by Phi Beta Delta, an international honor society that inducts scholars from around the world who share their expertise with the Northeastern community.

“Basically, we’re trying to bring the world to Northeastern,” said Elizabeth Diaz, International Student and Scholar Advisor , who helped organize the seminar.

Diaz said Northeastern was very fortunate to attract Liemburg.

“He’s a very creative, inventive and talented graphic designer,” Diaz said. “Some of his work is astounding.”

A sampling of Liemburg’s work will be on display on the first floor of Ryder Hall until March 15.

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