I’m Abi and I’m enrolled on the BA Graphic Branding & Identity course at LCC. During my DPS year I have had two internships; the first was with high-end fashion brand, JOSEPH, and my current placement is with The Evening Standard Paper & Magazine. I will be drawing upon my experiences this year, namely my time at JOSEPH as well as the live brief with Selfridges I worked on alongside my internships.
The role of a graphic designer has long been thought of as a communicator; they assist in visually communicating ideas, a story or brand. However, this role has evolved over recent years in line with society’s technology-driven advancements. I have found the developments in technology truly astounding throughout the past year; a recent McKinsey report suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically sped up the adoption of digital technologies by several years.
This pandemic has affected almost all business sectors in one way or another, retail is no exception. With brick and mortar being an impossible point of access for consumers during a state of lockdown, all sales are the result of online shopping. Online sales managed to achieve 33.8% of total retail during the peak in May last year. Footfall in retail stores is declining year-on-year, regardless of the government guidelines restricting consumer access. Therefore it is imperative that brands adapt quickly in order to remain competitive within the retail sector. I witnessed this urgency during my placement at JOSEPH Fashion and quickly learned the value of technology when combined with online retail. One of my research projects was to investigate how competitors were integrating technology to present their items in new and innovative ways on their product display page. I reported that many forward-thinking companies were incorporating videography as a means to showcase their product on their display page. This method is inherently less static and allows the consumer to get an idea about how, perhaps, a garment may move when modelled in motion. The response to this research was very positive and has led to the investigation as to how JOSEPH might utilise this tool themselves. These small developments to a brand’s website can have a significant, often positive, effect on a consumer’s purchasing decision; they are given more information regarding each product. This increased transparency, on the brand’s part, with regards to the presentation of their products will only elevate their consumers’ online shopping experience. All-in-all, this should hopefully translate to the reduced rate of returns and exchanges. This benefits both parties financially, logistically and practically.
Whilst JOSEPH was eager to adapt and progress their method of exhibiting some of their best-selling/higher priced items using videography online, I noticed they are, in general, rather resistant to embrace technology and change. Some other brands have really capitalised on this opportunity to expand further into the digital world. This is especially the case since they’ve been unable to rely upon their physical stores and traditional shop front window displays as a means of advertising their products and concepts. One brand that stands out in my mind is Selfridges. During this period of lockdowns and heavy government restrictions, they’ve continued to innovate. When I was working on Selfridges’ Project Earth live brief, I heavily researched their website and soon uncovered all the effort they’ve invested into creating such insightful and interesting content for both their website and instagram page. Noticeably, they developed a series of video material to keep their audience engaged; these varied from ‘Beauty Broadcasting’, which shared tips and tricks from various beauty and makeup artists, to more educational video clips which discussed important current topics, such as Diversity and Inclusion. I find this approach from Selfridges very strategic and rather ingenious; the past year has allowed many to slow down and reflect. It has invited people to spend time doing things they otherwise would not have had time for, for example supplementing their knowledge by learning new languages, skills or even, more about a subject area to which was unfamiliar. Education paired with technology has been truly invaluable, especially during this pandemic; it has allowed for the renowned homeschooling. However, this education has not been limited to children; it has been extended to anyone and everyone who desires to learn more in ways such as seminars, live workshops and other virtual events. Selfridges offering these very accessible resources has not only benefitted their audience, but also the brand itself. When working on the live brief, it was immediately apparent they had set their sights on becoming a B-Corp. By definition, this community of businesses are a force for good. Therefore, Selfridges is supporting their aims in achieving this certificate.
My current placement at The Evening Standard has really opened my eyes to the way a newspaper and magazine operates. I was somewhat nervous about starting a role at a newspaper publisher during a time when traditional newspaper sales are in decline. However, I was rather surprised to see their efforts to pivot the brand to become much more digital. They are really developing their online presence; this was first made apparent to me when I was introduced to their newly appointed Head of Social Media. I work closely with this individual to ensure the content posted on their social media accounts is designed in a way that aligns with their pre-existing visual identity. I am also fascinated by the power and influence social media can have in elevating, or in some cases, hindering a brand and its public image. I have learned that it is paramount a brand is conscious of the content it posts as feedback is instant and damage can be irreversible. I have also learned the nuanced art of content-making in order to avoid such instances. During my time here I have also learned it is very important to maintain, or even grow, engagement levels and increase a brand’s reach. I have enjoyed working with the Head of Social Media to develop new ways to drive interaction, such as creating daily posts that pose complex and thought-provoking questions to their followers. Additionally, I create moving image content, namely gifs and short clips, to fully utilise the platform and ensure content isn’t too static. I am keen on learning more in-depth about the strategic decisions regarding a brand’s social media and look forward to developing further ways to use these digital platforms to complement the brand and their work.
Abi Baker Smith