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.