Two weeks ago, I began working for the University of Chester, along with three other past students to develop a campaign that will promote awareness of Swine Flu to its new students in September. The project is only four weeks long, but in that time, we are to produce a full poster campaign, website, viral videos and anything else we deem necessary. It’s been given the support of the Vice Chancellor, along with many other departmental staff and is essentially completely up to us on how we go about delivering the campaign. It’s fantastic to be working on something that will potentially be seen by up to 15,000 students spanning Chester campus and Warrington campus. More information on this when the project is completed.
As part of my responsibilities, I, along with the others that I’m working with were asked to set up a small exhibition for the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. On Thursday, he opened a new building at Warrington campus and I got to meet him.
The Archbishop is certainly not what I expected. He’s quite down to earth and, well, normal. He spent time speaking with everyone who had taken the time to set up their relevant department’s exhibition and seemed interested in everyone. and everything he was shown. It was nice meeting him.
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.
As mentioned in one of my Tweets, me and my University of Chester graphic design class had an exhibition on June 18th to show off our finest work to design agencies and the public. As part of the promotion of the exhibition, I was tasked to produce it. This included invitations, posters and a website. You can view the work here.
Producing an entire exhibition is certainly a different experience than simply creating a one-off piece of design. Producing an exhibition means taking everything into account and being responsible for it all fitting together and I have to admit that there were times when it didn’t seem like it was going to be done on time.
It all started at the beginning of March, when the class were told about the exhibition and the need to form a design committee to help organise and produce the show. A group of seven students originally volunteered to help steer the production in the right direction. Over the course of the next few months, we’d slowly begin to develop the show. To help with this, I set up a Facebook group and liaised with the tutors to send out an email to everyone asking everyone to join it so I could keep the class up to date with developments.
We invited the whole class to begin coming up with themes for the show. Something that the design committee could work with to develop invitations, posters and anything else that was needed. We gave people two weeks to develop their ideas into A3 boards and then discuss them with the rest of the class. This proved to be incredibly successful and from this, the idea of using exaggerated facts and figures was chosen.
The committee begin coming up with a range of facts that could relate to design students and their three years at University. This included ideas, hangovers, swearing, paper pads and computer crashes. These facts were then given large figures, based on one person’s experiences, multiplied by 60 (the number of people on the course). So where the average person may have 20 coffees a week, 60 people will have nearly 200,000 over the course of three years. What was clear after coming up with these facts and figures was that there was one fact that would always remain at 1 – the design show itself. This realisation helped to steer the project into the interesting direction of thinking about the exhibition as a culmination of three years. A filtering of ideas, good times, bad times and arriving at one design show, hence why the show was given the name “One Design Show”.
The idea of the past three years being filtered into one show made me think of how it had been tapered to a point – the point being the show – and this gave me the idea of making the invitation a triangle. Something that had a (literal) point to it. Using a triangle for an invitation would give added impact when sending out to design agencies and colleges because how often does someone recieve a triangle-shaped piece of mail?
One of my tutors had mentioned in passing that the previous year’s students had managed to make the invitation its own envelope and this was something that I also wanted to do to so I began to experiment with triangles and how they could fold up into an envelope to keep it secure.
The first idea consisted of a hexagon, with a cut from the centre to the edge. The invitation would then fold up into a concertina, leaving a triangle shape. The problem was that in order for this to work, there needed to be enough copy/image to fill 12 pages (six triangles on one side, six on the other) and this proved to be too much and not necessary. This design also meant that a separate envelope was needed. Additionally, because there was a lack of bleed area between the triangles, it meant that some of the artwork was bleeding into another triangle. In short, the idea failed, but the concept was there.
Sticking with the triangle idea but simplifying it, I decided to try it with three panels next to each other instead. This was much easier to handle and it meant that by adding a tab at the end of the triangles, I could fold the whole thing up and the tab would secure it in place, thereby forming its own envelope. I went with this shape and started on the design work.
The numbers for each of the facts were quite big. I wanted some way of trying to relate these big numbers back to a digital medium and the obvious choice was pixels because that’s what any piece of artwork is made up from at some point or another before being printed. I have always enjoyed the work of people like eBoy and their method of using pixelation as an art form. I wanted to take this and try and make it work on a larger, invitation and poster-sized scale. For this reason, I decided that iconography would be great to use.
I love working with iconography. It forces you to be economical with your design because you only have a 16x16px area to work with. Communicating a computer crash or a hangover in such a small space is quite an interesting project on its own but I had to make the icons work at print resolution. When a 16x16px image is printed at 300dpi, it is less than 3mm in width. This meant that the icon would need to be blown up if it was to be seen. However, by blowing something up so small to such big sizes, it was inevitable that they would look blurry and messy. Photoshop’s default method of resizing images is “Bicubic”, which is useful for things like photos. However, Photoshop also has another resize method called “Nearest Neighbour”, which allows pixels to stay sharp at larger sizes even when resized to ten times its original size.
The icons that I designed, although nice lacked colour and so a few of them were eventually redesigned including a red coffee mug instead of a white coffee cup and a few of these icons were using on the invitation that can you see on the project page.
Once the invitations were designed, it was then a case of finding a quote from the printers. The design department didn’t have a large budget to spend on promoting the show and tasked me with finding a suitable printers to print 400 copies of the invitation. Luckily, the invitation was small enough that two would fit on one A3 page, which meant that it immediately cut the costs in half. Unfortunately, due to the unusual shape of the invitation, they could not offer diecutting for price inside the department’s budget and this meant that I, along with a few other people were tasked with cutting them manually.
After the invitations were taken care of, the next thing was Moo Minicards. At an early stage of producing the show, I had remembered a great website called Moo. They offer business card-like cards, slightly smaller called Moo MiniCards. I thought these would be a great addition to the show, allowing someone to take something away from it and keep a piece of student’s work with them. My idea was to put a piece of student’s artwork on a total of 100 cards and order 5 packs of them. Each pack costs just £10 so it was well worth it. I requested that all students send me three pieces of their work with their full name and website address. These cards were then scattered all over the tables between each student’s portfolio, making the tables come alive with colour and inviting people to pick them up and look more closely at the work.
The next thing to design were the posters which would help direct people to place in which the exhibition was being held. Originally, the idea was to produce 5 x A1 posters that would be easily visible around the campus. However, after walking around the campus and figuring out where the posters would go, it was clear that more than 5 would be needed. The budget didn’t allow for this. Instead, the posters were designed at A3, which meant that more could be produced and a fraction of the cost of 5 x A1 poster. A series of 8 posters were designed and printed twice, giving me 16 posters to place around the campus in preparation for the opening night.
So as to identify each piece of work on display, nametags for each exhibition stand were designed in the same style as the invitation and placed above each stand. Although a very simple part of the whole production process, these triangles, like the invitations had to be manually cut out of card.
Finally, a simple website was designed by myself and built by Liam Gallagher, another student on the course, that housed a few student’s work, descriptions of it and information on the show itself including when it was open and how to get there.
Overall, producing the University of Chester’s graphic design show was a really good experience. Liaising with so many people about so many different aspects of the show proved to be very difficult at times due to other coursework-related committments, but I believe that the end result was executed well. In particular, I was really happy with the quality and popularity of the Moo MiniCards that I had designed. As mentioned, I had a total of 500 cards printed and by the end of the seven day opening period of the exhibition, there were less than 100 left. Also, I was pleased to overhear some of the public who attended the opening night of the exhibition express their approval of the posters I had designed. It’s always nice to hear that something you’ve designed has been met with praise.
I’ve really enjoyed working on such a large scale project and I hope that I can do so again in the future.
On Wednesday, I went to the URBIS in Manchester. It’s a great looking building.
There were two reasons for my trip to the URBIS. Firstly was the D&AD exhibition of all of their annuals since its beginnings in the 1960s. It was interesting seeing how it had envolved over the last five decades but because the annuals were encased in glass and only one page displayed, the exhibition felt a little…stunted. Here was an opportunity to display 50 years of work, but it had been reduced down to just a few examples. The others from my class who had also come to see the exhibition felt the same way, asking “Is this it?”. It felt like a bit of a let down.
However, more importantly than the exhibition and the main reason I had decided to come was because I had been selected for a portfolio surgery. A portfolio surgery, as I found out a few weeks ago, was a chance to spend 20 minutes with someone from the design industry and simply get a chance to talk about your work and invite comments on it. An opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on. After signing up for one, I was happy when I recieved an email saying that I had been chosen to have my work looked at by a company called Thoughtful.
I hadn’t heard of Thoughtful before so I spent some time doing some research into them, getting to know them via their website and their blog. I think it’s so important for someone like a design agency to have their own blog because it makes the company so much more accessible to the public and those people who may potentially hire them. Thoughtful’s posts were interesting to read and I left a number of comments to which I recieved a nice email from Stuart Price, one of the top guys at Thoughtful saying thank you for the comments.
Putting my portfolio together prior to the surgery was a relatively easy task as I had already done it a few months ago for Univeristy. However, I had been wondering how to organise it so that it was in an order that would create the best impact. In total, I had 18 pieces in my portfolio, but since I only had a maximum of 20 minutes with the guys from Thoughtful, I knew that I had to trim that down. I managed to get it down to 15 instead, with more emphasis on my better projects, allowing me to spend more time talking about them and less time about some weaker projects.
In addition to my work, I wanted to leave Thoughtful with a copy of my work. However, just handing over a CD seemed a bit of a missed opportunity and so I created some simple packaging for it, along with including my business card and some of my stickers. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to show that I already had my own brand.
The interviews were being held in a large room, full of other design agencies. This included elmwood and The Chase. I could see into the room through the full length glass windows and managed to spot the Thoughtful team. It’s quite strange recognising someone you’ve never actually met before. I also noticed that Thoughtful had chosen to bring some students along with them who they were currently working with as placements. I think it’s such a great idea to give them a chance to see so many people’s work.
Just before my interview, there was a talk from Ben Casey from The Chase about the D&AD exhibition. While it was very interesting to listen to him, as said before, there’s only so much you can say about such a small exhibition. Plus, I had to leave half way through because it was time for my interview.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about the interview. I suppose I was treating it like a job interview in some respects. I’d shown my portfolio to other people before so it wasn’t the first time I’d done this, but every time is always different.
I sat down and Chris Jeffreys introduced himself to me, one of the guys from Thoughtful. He asked me if I minded if the three students sat in and looked through my work and I said I didn’t mind at all. It was quite interesting showing my work to four people instead of one.
As I began talking about my first piece of work – my Oxfam posters – Chris interrupted me saying “I’m sure I’ve seen these before”. “You have”, I said, “On my website”. “Oh, you’re Neil!”, he said, referring to the fact that I had been commenting on their blog. It felt quite nice being known without having met Thoughtful and even nicer that they had taken the time to look through my work on my website.
Chris critiqued my work for 20 mintues, saying what was good and what was bad. He noted that one of the things that I could possibly add to the portfolio was the actual artefacts that I had produced, such as my 10×10 book. I very much agree with that and next time I have an interview will definitely bring it with me.
The 20 minutes flew over so quickly that it felt like I had only been sitting there for a few seconds. I think I was right to reduce the amount of work in my portfolio and ideally, perhaps should have reduced it even further because it did feel like I was rushing towards the end to make sure I got through it all. I think next time, ideally, I should have about 10 pieces of work instead of 15.
At the end of the critique, I thanked the four of them for their time and Chris gave me a book called “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be“. I think it’s such a nice gesture to offer everyone a free book, especially one which had obviously been thoughtfully selected. In return, I gave them my CD with my work on it, shook the hands of all four of them and said goodbye. My only regret is not being able to spend more time talking to them.
Thoughtful seem like, well, a thoughtful design agency to me. They come across as a company who are very easy to approach and I think that was reflected in my critique with them. I’ll be continuing to read their blog and see what else they get up to this year. Having the opportunity to discuss my work with them was a really useful experience and one which I hope I have many more of.