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European Design Capitals / FULL

London / Amsterdam / Milan

Faculty: Mara Holt Skov

May 20-June 10, 2019

Housing Check-in: London, Monday, May 20

Housing Checkout: Milan, Monday, June 10

Interested students should contact Mara Holt Skov to start the approval process for registration.

View of two floors of the Design Museum in London. One wall displays the word "MAKER" in a huge black font against a background of colorful triangles of various sizes.

Open to undergraduate and graduate students

Our first week is spent in London, the historic center of the industrial revolution, where we investigate the user experience of the London Tube, including wayfinding, train and station design. We visit the London Design Museum, which hosts traveling exhibitions of all types, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the most important design collections in the world, founded following the Great Exhibition of 1851. Our visit is timed to coincide with Clerkenwell Design Week, a chance to visit international showrooms and see special exhibitions and presentations from designers and manufacturers. Free time in every city allows students to explore their own specific interests.

Our second week is spent in Amsterdam, with a day trip to Utrecht, where we explore Dutch culture from a variety of perspectives. In Amsterdam we visit the Stedelijk museum design collection, Droog Design and Moooi showrooms in particular. We tour the city by bike learning firsthand how the Dutch define social and environmentally sustainable design. Throughout we experience the bike-friendly nature of Holland, visit the studios of Dutch designers and connect with former CCA students and faculty who will help us understand the current state of Dutch design.

a group of students visiting a lighting studio in Milan
Two students viewing a design exhibit

Our final destination is Milan, where the world-famous Milan Furniture Fair was founded in 1961, and the still influential, postmodern Memphis movement began in the early 1980s. We visit the Triennale di Milano museum to see current traveling design exhibitions and the Memphis Milano gallery for a contemporary take on Memphis. All throughout we learn how important domestic design is to Italian culture. Highlights of our time in Milan are hands-on sketching workshops with designer Larry Laske (who worked with Ettore Sottsass) and studio visits with Italian masters to see how they have merged traditional creative methods with contemporary materials to create lasting and inspirational design.

A group of students leaning over a table watching a sketching demo by designer Lawrence Lasky

Prior to departure, we meet for a three-hour seminar in which we discuss our schedule, travel plans, and expectations for the class and each student begins research on a historic Italian designer that they present on the trip. Students taking the course for 300-level SSHIS credit will do additional research on a topic of interest before leaving and complete an extensive research paper when the class is over.

While on tour, coursework includes on-site and internet research, relevant readings, short papers, visual essays, and presentations. This course exposes students to several different methods of historic, cultural, and visual research. All students should expect to carefully document our museum, studio, and site visits through photographs, sketches, and journal entries. At the end of each city visit, students present the design lessons they gathered from the past and present of each place. Ample free time in every city allows students to get their research and writing done for the class and also have time to explore their own specific interests.

This is the best class I have ever had at CCA. I learned a lot about how real industrial design works. And how to overcome the difficulty in life.

By exploring city and history in person, I remember more than from studying in school, and I’m inspired by fresh things that can't be experienced in school.

Art and design historian and curator Mara Holt Skov has been teaching at CCA since 2006, guiding the next generation of designers towards a deeper understanding of the ways that design impacts and is impacted by contemporary culture. Mara's graduate and undergraduate courses often take a material culture approach, making use of her extensive collection of historic design objects as teaching tools to bring design history to life through a variety of "object lessons." She believes that the study of objects has just as much to teach us about history, psychology, and culture as it does about form, materials, and aesthetics.

Mara has traveled extensively throughout Europe, traveling to over 20 countries as part of her art and design research since 1987. In addition, she lived for several years in France and Germany and speaks both French and German.

Learn more about Mara Holt Skov »



  • Undergraduate Students: Completion of Writing 2 and at least sophomore level by summer 2019, instructor approval
  • For History of Industrial Design credit: Writing 1 (WRLIT-100, 101 or 103), Intro to the Modern Arts (VISST-108) and Foundation in Critical Studies(CRTSD-150)
  • For 200-level Social Science/History credit (pending approval): Foundations in Critical Studies (CRTSD-150) and Writing 1 (WRLIT-100, 101 or 103)
  • For 300-level Social Science/History credit (pending approval): Writing 2 (WRLIT-201, 202 or 203), Social Science/History 200 level (SSHIS-200), Junior Standing
  • For 200-level Visual Studies credit: Intro to the Modern Arts (VISST-108)
  • Graduate students: Instructor approval

In addition, all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2018-19 academic year. Students who are on probation in fall 2018 are not eligible to enroll in a 2019 summer study-abroad program.

Course Satisfies

  • For undergraduate students, this course satisfies a History of Industrial Design requirement for Industrial Design majors, an H&S Elective, a Social Science/History 200 or 300 level Elective (pending approval), or a Visual Studies 200 level Elective.
  • For graduate students, this course satisfies a Grad-wide Elective.

Program Fee
$5,250 + $50 summer registration fee.

Included in program fee:

  • 3 credits, housing, local transportation, and transportation between cities visited, guest artists, field trips, entrance fees, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:

  • Airfare to and from Europe, ground transportation to and from airport in Europe, most meals

Extending Your Summer Study Abroad Experience

Ambitious students who would like an even more comprehensive summer European design experience may also enroll in the Urban Mobility Amsterdam program (June 11-27). These two courses have been designed with each other in mind; taking them together would provide students with a total of six credits.

Please see Frequently Asked Questions.
All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.

Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs