Degree shows

Tips for students on preparing for their degree shows

Above: Part of the splendid LCC Graphics Degree Show 2017 exhibition space

Notebook: 24 May 2018 | DEGREE SHOWS

This year’s summer art and design degree shows are less than a month away. If you are a final year graphic design student, it’s your one big moment to show off the culmination of your three year’s hard work studying at university – hopefully you will have a collection of brilliant design work that you are proud of – so make the most of your opportunity to display it to its very best – it might just help you secure your first job.

For many years I was Creative Director at Archant Dialogue, a large content marketing agency based in Norwich. We produced a wide range of different types of magazine for companies that included well known brands such as Saab, Harley-Davidson, CenterParcs, British Showjumping, London Symphony Orchestra, Porsche, Rolls Royce, AGA and Royal Ascot. I had a large team of designers, and over the years, many of them were recruited as graduates directly from the excellent Design for Publishing course at Norwich University of the Arts which we were lucky to have on our doorstep. Each summer I would visit the degree show with my senior designers and we would look out for talented young designers who might want to join our team. We were on the hunt specifically for magazine designers and so we kept a sharp eye out for those students who clearly had a good understanding and flair for typography and picture use. The shows were important to us – they were a quick and easy way for us to recruit new blood. Here are my thoughts on how a student can best present their work and increase their chance of being noticed:

• Try to ensure that your exhibition space is clean, free of clutter, airy and generous, with plenty of room to display your work and room for visitors to circulate freely around it. Don’t try to cram too much in. Plan your space carefully – treat it as a design project in its own right. You may not have much say in the space that you are provided with but you can spend time plotting what you will show and where you will place it.

• Make it easy for visitors to digest the work on display. Friends and family may struggle to understand the work and prospective employers may be pushed for time –  so ideally every design needs to have a simple caption that quickly explains the project. A couple of years ago I visited a show where the work was beautifully presented but because it was a course that was pushing at the boundaries of, and questioning,  graphic design and visual communication, it was difficult to understand many of the exhibits on show – there were no captions, no printed guide, no website and not even a student around who I could ask to help explain it. I needed a way ‘in’. Remember – graphic design is all about communication. Make sure your audience understand your work – otherwise you’ve lost them at the door.

• Prospective employers need students’ contact details and these are best provided by a show guide or brochure as well as a website (if the course has organised these), rather than business cards which can quickly run out. And make sure that your space is clearly labelled with your name.

• Employers like to see a range of work, rather than just one piece on display, so have additional work available to view on a show website, or better still in a portfolio or book of extra work tucked to one side.

• Ideally the work needs to be a mix of projects that demonstrate more experimental creative thinking alongside designs that show that a student is industry-ready.

• Some shows chose to split up students’ work and this can help the visitor make a comparison between project types (such as the cluster of book jackets pictured above). If this is the case, it is important that tutors/exhibition organisers make sure that it’s easy for the visitor to locate the rest of a student’s work.

• Go easy on presentation fads such as bull-dog clips or particle board. Personally, I prefer to see work mounted, and crisply trimmed out, on good old Featherlite board.

• Remember it’s the one big moment to show off the culmination of three years studying at university so plan it well, make sure the production qualities are 100% and select only your best work.

Good luck!