Notebook: 19 June 2016 | DEGREE SHOWS
June 2016 and it’s showtime for thousands of final-year art and design students pouring out of the UK’s universities and art colleges. I was keen to visit a handful of the graphic design shows just to get a small taster of the standard and range of work on display and to highlight some of the emerging talent making the big step from study to the workplace. I’d already visited Coventry, Norwich (NUA) and Ipswich (UCS) and you can see my review here. Now I was off to Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge and Southampton and Winchester art colleges in Hampshire…
Thursday 9 June Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art BA (Hons) Graphic Design
The Anglia Ruskin Uni’ is just on the edge of the city centre and on this warm June evening the streets were buzzing with life. The University is a tangle of corridors and backyards but I eventually tracked down the art and design block on the far side of the campus and it was alive with the hum of students, parents and friends enjoying the private views. I met up with Will Hill who showed me around. Years ago as a young art editor, I’d commissioned Will to produce a set of illustrations for a computer magazine but these days Will heads up the MA postgraduate graphics course at Cambridge which specialises in typography. The BA course however, covers all aspects of graphic design from branding and packaging through to digital design and multi-media work. As I worked my way around the displays my eye was immediately caught by a beautifully crafted set of ‘posters’ or pages by a young French designer, Constantin Chopin. In the students’ third year they focus on a major project and Constantin, who is obviously fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology and constellations, has produced an ‘Aratea’ – an illustrated collection of over 15 different constellations. Each constellation is depicted with a carefully arranged assemblage of illustration and type and demonstrates Constantin’s love for and mastery of typography. Three of the constellations are shown below.
Student Edmund Lock’s major project was ‘My life with dyslexia’ – a series of vibrant and colourful posters depicting his wrestle with words. Ed has taken the phrase ‘My life with dyslexia’ and has had fun distorting the words via photoshop. (See below)
Young designer Vanessa Dennis is a Londoner and her project ‘Misshapen Egg’ – a booklet, poster and bookmarks, draws on her knowledge of the history and traditions of Cockneys. I liked the simple typography of her series of bookmarks shown here.
Wednesday 15 June Southampton Solent University BA (Hons) Graphic Design
Six days later I was on the train heading south. I knew little about the graphics course at Southampton Solent but what I found was a revelation. The students’ work was laid out on tables with useful labels explaining each project and like at Anglia Ruskin, each young designer has the opportunity to focus on one major project in their third year which involves lots of research and the chance to really immerse themselves in their chosen subject. Typography, sometimes quite experimental, is strong at Southampton and this really shone through in the work on display. It seems unfair to single out particular students because pretty much all of the work was of a high creative standard. However, six designers’ designs that really caught my eye were:
George Ebblewhite’s Nice News newspaper – I love the hand drawn headlines and clever use of type and image. See picture at top also
Obsession by Kenneth McCarthy – bold photography, good use of empty space and carefully constructed typography
Megan Glynn’s major project Below the surface chronicles the ‘wild swimming’ community and won her the ‘Best final major project’ prize from the famous Dutch design group Total Identity. (Solent student Adam Lane won a six month internship at Total Identity)
Hands by Benedicte Jenssen. Simple but powerful design
More strong typography and image – this time from Zhenqing Du and his Fools Mate chess project
Solent have strong links with Scandinavian institutes. Norwegian student Andreas Hartveit’s project Missing Pages is about memory loss and aims to ‘explain amnesia through the experience of the reader, subtracting information to allow a sense of discomfort, while providing solace in the form of graphic composition’
Here is Andreas Hartveit’s design for the Solent degree show poster. Solent students are encouraged to tear themselves away from their computers and be more ‘hands-on’ and Andreas’ poster has been produced 100% ‘old-school’ using pens, ruler, film, scalpel and screen print. Take a look at how he produced it here.
Having gorged myself on all the graphics on display, I just had time to have a quick peek at the BA (Hons) Illustration show in the adjoining room. I had a feeling that it would be a good exhibition as I knew that the award winning illustrator Nate Kitch had been a fairly recent graduate and that Jonny Hannah (one of my favourite illustrators) is a senior lecturer on the course. I wasn’t disappointed and I particularly enjoyed looking at the drawings, paintings and hand lettering of Jen Khatun and Anine Hansen pictured below.
Wednesday 15 June Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton) BA (Hons) Graphic Arts
It was a short hop on the train from Southampton back to Winchester. I’d done my Foundation course in art and design at Winchester back in the 70s and I was excited to be rolling away the years and setting foot back in this art college which is now part of the University of Southampton. Winchester is a great city in which to study and the art college is in an attractive setting next to the river and park. The Graphic Arts course is structured around four pathways – Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography and Motion Graphics. In the first year, students get to do a bit of everything before deciding which pathway to take in their second and third years. I guess it’s a good choice for those students who are still undecided on exactly which discipline they want to follow after they leave school or Foundation studies. The exhibition spaces were light and airy and it was good to see photography students displaying their work alongside illustrators and graphics students. Illustration and photography is always easy to digest – you look at an image and you either like it or you don’t, but with graphics you often have to spend time with a display understanding what a project is about before you can decide whether it succeeds as a piece of design. I found myself struggling a bit with the graphics on show at Winchester – on the surface it was all presented very attractively but there were no captions to help the viewer understand the projects and I came away feeling slightly baffled – I couldn’t find a way ‘in’. I did enjoy Dana Alami’s strong portraiture, Fan Wu and Holly Walsh’s illustration and Elizabeth Adam’s posters representing profiles of complete strangers built from information available on social media. (pictured below)
You’ll probably be too late now to catch the Cambridge and Southampton shows but the Winchester Show ‘A sum of Parts’ will be moving to London to exhibit at the Archivist’s Gallery from 5-7 July. There are more shows on throughout the rest of June all across the country and It’s Nice That have compiled a useful list with dates and times.
This week and next, I hope to visit DMU in Leicester and Central St Martins and the RCA in London. I’ll report back.