Last week, I attended D&AD New Blood at Olympia in London. A fantastic exhibition of University students displaying their work over the course of three days.
I had been lucky enough to be chosen to be one of the students representing the University of Chester’s graphic design course. A total of nine students were chosen. We were informed roughly a week or two prior to the actual event, which didn’t leave much time to put together our display. At the time, I was also still working on producing the course’s own exhibiton, which meant that I had a lot to do in a very short amount of time.
We had been told that the rough dimensions for the display board were 200x90cm, which in theory was a huge amount of space but it all depends on how you use it. We had also been told that it was a good idea to keep the number of projects that we wanted to display to one or two so as not to overload the board. For my choices, I decided to go with my Oxfam posters and my Royal Mail stamps. I believe that the work for Oxfam is some of the best work I’ve completed this year, while the Royal Mail stamps show that a good idea does not necessarily have to come with bells and whistles.
After the boards were completed, we then focused on our own exhibition. I had exhausted my supply of business cards by the end of it, which left me with just five days to get more printed. To their credit, after I ordered them on Sunday night, Cards Made Easy proofed the artwork by Tuesday, printed them and then delivered them Friday morning. This is the second time I’ve used them to print my business cards and I’ll certainly be using them a third time. Previously, I had ordered 50 cards, but because I wasn’t sure just how popular the event would be, I decided to print a batch of 100 this time.
A group of five of us decided to head down to London on Sunday, the night before the exhibition began because we had to be at the Olympia at 10am to set up. I’ve been to London before, but I can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure of discovering much of it. On Sunday, we did just that, taking a trip to the beautiful Hyde Park, Leicester Square and then to the London Eye and Big Ben. We got back to our hotel about midnight.
Upon travelling to Olympia the next morning, we got our first look at the area in which we’d be exhibiting. It’s a huge place, with roughly 200 different Universities displaying work from over 2,000 students. Some Universities had bought more than one stand, knocking them together to form an entire row of exhibition areas dedicated to them, with a total of 15-20 panels. We had just 9, but we intended to use them well.
One of the things that had been difficult to come up with a solution for was where to put everyone’s business cards. Since the area we had was quite small, it didn’t really allow for a table, which meant that they had to be either nearby or somehow over the work itself. Mike Moore, one of the tutors came up with the idea of making a U shape out of some unused mounting board. Each person’s 200cm tall artwork would slip into the slit of the U, and then one side of it would be attached to the panels, while the other side would have a business card glued to it. This would then leave a small platform for each person’s business cards. It worked surprisingly well, as long as we didn’t put too many cards on the stand. Its weight was limited to about 5 cards at a time.
We were lucky enough to be right by the “Hub”, a long strip of yellow carpet running right down the middle of the exhibition with couches, tables and bean bags scattered around a D&AD tower with people’s photos on it. It didn’t take long before we were quite relaxed on the bean bags!
After about 90 minutes of setting up, the space was complete and it looked quite good. Because our space was small, it meant that we had to continually rotate people’s portfolio’s throughout the three days so everyone got a fair chance of displaying their work, but overall, our stand looked great.
Opening night of the exhibition was very busy. I was surprised at how popular it was. Luckily, the D&AD had issued different coloured wristbands to everyone, depending on if the were exhibiting or visiting. Red for exhibitors, green for friends and family and yellow for VIP. It didn’t take long to discover this and it quickly became the aim of all of us to keep a look out for any yellow-banded people as we knew they were most likely from industry.
Over the course of the three day event, I managed to speak to a handful of people from industry and hand out a few of my cards. I can’t say that I handed out many, but it was good to start getting my name out there.
One of the highlights of London came just after we had packed up the exhibition. On our way back to the hotel to pack up, I met none other than Matt Dent, winner of a pretigious D&AD Black Pencil for his work on the reverses of all UK coinage. He was waiting for the same train as me. What was quite interesting was that even though his work on the reverses had won him such an important award, I don’t believe as many people know his face as his name. The train station was completely packed with people who had just left the exhibition, but it was clear that no one knew that there was a black pencil winner in amongst us. In fact, I had seen him walking around the exhibition earlier in the day and couldn’t quite put a name to the face and I didn’t want to go over to him in case I was completely mistaken. Luckily however one of my friends decided to take the leap and go and talk to him and I followed shortly after to find that it was indeed Matt Dent.
We spent a good half hour speaking with him while waiting for the train. My friend showed him his portfolio of work while waiting, with me holding it up while he flicked through it. To my friend’s credit, he managed to get through his entire portfolio just as the train pulled in. We both gave Matt our business card and he gave us his. We were getting on the same train anyway so we continued chatting while travelling and found out about how he had started in the industry. We also discussed what we wanted to do next after University. Matt is an incredibly friendly and approachable guy and even on a hot, busy train, he was more than happy to chat about things. I really appreciated his time.
All in all, I believe that going to New Blood was a great experience and one which I may even return to next year. I may not be an exhibitor next year, but I could still see a hell of a lot of fantastic work on display and meet a lot of incredibly talented students and skilled people from the industry such as Matt Dent. A great exhibition.