Graphic & Media Design
Design in the 21stcentury has evolved far greatly in the past 19 years than it ever has done before our time, a practice that relied solely on the use of practical and physical work now can be done at the touch of few swipes on the trackpad of our laptops (or even mobile phones!) – devices unknown to the world before the digital age. In our current climate, design is a vital part of marketing that attracts audiences into consuming a product, imagine you’re going to purchase a pair of shoes on the web, if the imagery on the website is weak and the website as a whole looks cheap and hard to navigate, this is more than likely to deter your interest in the product and your trust in the company as a whole as opposed to clean, well photographed images that are consistent throughout the site and a sleek navigation system that will allow you to find the product of your choice.
Before starting my placement year I was struggling to find what my practice might be within the industry, many companies were looking for multi-disciplined students that had skills in moving image, proficiency in top video editing programmes, and the means to work for free whilst living in the most expensive city in the UK – this was alien territory for myself, whose graphic design strengths excel in the static image and coming from a low-income family, it seemed that no company would have the space, time or money to support a placement student like myself.
I knew what I was good at, so I searched for jobs that were looking for retouchers, designers proficient in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, image-makers with an eye for detail, and a lot of these jobs were working for fashion companies and becoming apart of their in-house design team, this was perfect for me as on top of my interest in design, I love fashion also. I managed to secure a phone interview with a luxury golf shoes brand called ‘Royal Albartross’ based in Vauxhall – the phone interview was a success and I was soon called in for a face-to-face interview in their office, the interview went well and ultimately the choice came down to myself and one other person whom was a bit more experienced than I, they decided to go with the other. I was disheartened to say the least, but I knew that it was just down to experience that gave the other candidate a better chance.
Weeks had passed and I was struggling to secure any type of interview, missed opportunities were constantly ending up in my Junk Mail folder (always check!) and I was almost ready to give up on my placement year. Then by chance, the content-creator from Royal Albartross had given me a call to say the other candidate had left them and offered me a year-long placement starting the following Monday! I was over the moon! This was perfect!
For my first day, I had a 7am call time in which we were travelling on location to ‘The Wisley’ in Sussex where I would take part in assisting with a photoshoot for their most recent campaign. My roles included: Taking behind-the-scenes images for their social medias, assisting with styling of the models, helping out with lighting, and chiming in with any opinions I had that could help the shoot go smoothly. It was the perfect first day, getting to meet the team that I’ll be working closely with for the next year and getting a real taste on what it’s like to work for a fashion brand on their design team.
Since my first day, I have learnt so much about my practice and have really been able to work on my skills that will help make me more marketable in the future thanks to the training I have received from my manager, I now have started being able to create moving image graphics that are absolutely gorgeous and work perfectly for the brand – those areas no longer seem completely alien to me, I still have a long way to go but right now this is the perfect starting point for the rest of my working career.
Graphic & Media Design
Working under the brand name Lucie Lemonade, my specialism involves exploring materiality and how different materials change the perception of design. Combining my photography work that analyses individuals and their personalities and the notion of escapism through dance. Embarking on the Diploma in professional studies I expect to learn an extensive amount about the direction I wish the specialise further. The opportunity will allow me to build up confidence, through working in studios as well as discover new skills and develop existing ones. Giving me an in-depth understanding and first-hand experience I will need to succeed as a creative professional.
To start my DPS year, I am flying to Berlin tomorrow to work at Any Studio as a graphics intern for the next 3 months. At the studio, I will be working on client briefs such as Hellerau - a European centre for the arts and The High bar, a drinking spot located in Munich. I will also be taking control of studio documentation and creating content for their social media platforms. As I start work on Monday, I have become slightly nervous about the experience, as I have only worked in a studio for a couple of days previously. A perfect example of when my anxiety can do its thing! :( … the fear of the unknown.
From the very beginning of showing interest in doing the year in industry, I always knew I wanted to go to Berlin to work in a studio, so my current plans have followed my expectations and aspirations made in the initial proposal. Working at a studio that's identity aligns with my own and who’s clients are largely independent and cultural organisations, which is an important element to me. My aim is to design that holds a purpose within society and which creates an atmosphere for discussion. Designers hold a responsibility to use their skills proactively, to initiate change from the smallest issues to the largest. Upholding the proposals made in Ken Garland’s First Things First Manifesto originally published in 1964. My move to Berlin in mid-September shifts my timeline for the whole duration of DPS, meaning I will come back to London in January to work at another studio. This will be arranged on my days off whilst on my internship at Any Studio.
Not to bring it up again… but the uncertainty of Brexit and what implications this will cause later on in my career has been playing on my mind recently. Political changes (could) make it incredibly difficult to move across Europe to work in design studios after I graduate as countries in Europe (could) introduce a mandatory visa which means permissions to work in the country will only be granted if you are earning more than 30k a year… which certainly isn’t the salary of a Junior Graphic Designer… Regardless of this, I am just going to continue as normal, as we don’t know what the future holds and everything surrounding Brexit is hypothetical.
When the internship was offered to be four weeks ago I started to reach out to people in Berlin, which has meant arranging meetups with other creatives based in the city. On my days off from the studio, I plan on arranging a photographic collaboration with my friend Lin, who has lived in the city for most of her life. The plan is to collaborate on an initial project involving pairing personalises and people with textures, which could lead to editorial designs and the incorporation of typography. Being in Berlin also allows me to grab inspiration from a new city, I have set out to document every little thing that catches my attention over the next three months.
Documentation across the city in the first few days.
Illustration and Visual Media
The summer break for me has been a time of introspection and reevaluation. Through the process of refining my portfolio, I came to the realisation that my current oeuvre as both an illustrator and visual communicator do not satisfactorily demonstrate my capacity to create meaningful and intriguing works. Additionally, my attempt at casting a wide net came at the risk of losing focus in my portfolio, resulting in something that could appear too amateur or vague to employers. In order to achieve this sense of focus and cohesion, I had to be far more deliberate in curating my works. This process was particularly difficult for me due to my lack of a specialisation, compounded by my diverse range of interests (illustration for graphic design, publication, packaging design, conceptual artworks etc.) My main challenge therefore, for both my portfolio and professional practice, is finding my niche — framing my works in a way that they can properly articulate my multidisciplinary skillset without making myself out to be a jack of all trades, master of none. My plan moving forward is to work on self-initiated projects, take part in competitions and other ad-hoc opportunities that come up (like the MA film collaboration). After building up and strengthening my portfolio through these projects, I will hopefully then secure a couple of internships for the rest of my DPS year.
Reflecting on my multidisciplinary practice raised the question of how I would like to position myself in the industry, and how might my works serve a wider function beyond the cosmetic. Design is a powerful tool for both communication and problem-solving. Brian Dougherty, creative director of the Celery Design Collaborative, breaks down the role of a designer into three levels — a manipulator of stuff, a message maker and an agent of change. In doing so, he recognises that a designer’s control can extend beyond that of the material and technical aspects of their work, but also influence brands or organisations who can then in turn effect positive change. Designers therefore have the potential, and perhaps the obligation, to become agents of change.
Having an interest in issues of sustainability and environmental conservation, I hope to be able to address these socio-environmental topics through my personal practice. In the past, I have created works that touched on issues such as pollution and species endangerment, however these were largely passive commentary. Through extending these concerns and beliefs into my professional practice, I hope to discover ways that design and illustration can play a more active role as catalysts of change. Especially within the branches of graphic or packaging design, which are commonly deemed as contributors to problems of waste and pollution, it would be interesting to subvert these negative impressions and explore how these creative fields can not only help raise awareness, but also influence behaviour.
Of course, achieving these goals will be easier said than done. More often than not, artists and designers have to compromise their ethics and ideals for more practical reasons. Still, I will strive to make sustainability the main focus of my year out in industry, and hopefully gain some insight from industry professionals. These experiences will inform my future practice and put me in a better position to effect change within my own community back home in Singapore, where sustainability and eco-consciousness are not (yet) prioritised amongst members of society.
Graphic & Media Design.
The technological world is capable of overtaking anyone, the rate at which technology is currently progressing is incomprehensible to the average person. I entered the design world unaware that I was capable of understanding the complexities of design from a digital perspective. Studying at Leeds College of Art influenced my creative progression, resulting in a better knowledge of print design rather than a well rounded understanding of digitally informed design. With limited knowledge, I presumed that the skills needed were too difficult to obtain.
Despite the incredible print facilities at LCC, I found myself in ore of the technological side of design, always eager to learn more about subjects that I haven't yet explored. LCC introduced me to the endless possibilities within design, making every goal seem achievable with the right help. As a result of this support, I have realised that understanding multiple disciplines is much more beneficial and enjoyable. I am now looking for a broader range of internships, rather than restricting myself to less technologically advanced studios. I found when meeting larger studios that they appreciate basic knowledge of motion graphics programmes, and value that more than print abilities. The studios that I plan to work for focus on the aspects of design that I consider to be my weakness, and require me to work for clients in a more restrictive manor. These experiences will prepare me for the design world, instead of working for pleasure.
The studios I plan to work for are drastically different from what I preposed months ago. Since working with YEAHFAIR I have realised that commissioned work is more enjoyable than I once anticipated, this opportunity has uncovered my appreciation for client based work. Despite this I still believe that creative direction is where I see my future heading, securing an internship with the Selfridges Creative Direction team has been a great achievement and I am confident that this area of design is most appropriate for me. The team have explained that the work I will do is more experimental, focusing on the concept behind work rather than driven by technique. This excites me as I am ready to return to a more creative mindset, working in a similar way to the teachings of Leeds College of Art.
Looking towards the future, I aspire to experience design in a variety of countries. Design is an ever growing discipline, which is constantly influenced by different cultures and mindsets. I am aware of the impact German design has had on the wider community of design and I am eager to experience this first hand. I have had initial discussions with studios in Berlin however nothing has been decided yet, I hope this goes well for me! I have gained a lot of confidence within my own abilities over summer, this is largely due to kind words from multiple design studios that I have reached out to. I hope that my enthusiasm for design is enriched by these internships and that I continue to produce work I am proud of.
Benjamin Hart +
Graphic & Media Design
With almost two thirds of the worlds population having access to a mobile or some sort of electronic device, its fair to say the world is heavily connected and technologically driven. This is an exiting but scary thought to process. Especially from a perspective of graphic design, it’s become very easy to use the internet to connect and become suffocated with different views and opinions within the design world, making you feel small and hard to form an opinion or style. It has always been a task of mine to keep the practicality in my work alive, working with my hands, weather that be making collages, stencils or working within a print room. This is always something I’ve really enjoyed. I however also really enjoy the digital aspect of design, I enjoy learning what artistic possibilities computers provide, I am also very intrigued by the fact that they are constantly advancing. From my current university practice I have discovered that having a balance between digital and analogue is very important to my learning and progression.
To visualise my interests of both digital and analogue ways of working I created a series of posters, identifying two different ways of printing. One side of the poster displays a 2-colour gradient circle, which was randomly generated in Processing software, then printed using a standard inject printer. This is the digital aspect of the poster. On the other side of the poster displays an emulated version except this is screen printed. This being the analogue side. These were created to send to potential employers.
My expectations for the forth coming year are very simple, they are to gather as much exposure into the design world as possible. Doing so by working at a variety of studios, small and large, nationally and (hopefully) internationally. Having this exposure to the real world of design will provide me with the clarity I need to be become a design practitioner in my chosen field. My first internship takes place in Brighton, working for a company called Fizz Creations working within the design department in a team of multidisciplinary designers. I expect to learn a considerable amount the brand identity, packaging, future design and retail trends. This will bring fourth skills that will be essential to my professional career, such as team working, entrepreneurial skills and ethical design choices. Going through my proposal I haven't stuck to it as much as I would’ve liked to. As of yet I have only one internship lined up, however discussing the internship details with my new employer, I’m set to learn a lot and be provided with lots of contacts for the future, I will also be looking at future internships in my spare time and days off.
Graphic & Media Design
Recently I was introduced to a podcast by a young designer named Rich Tu, who serves as a Vice President of Digital Design for MTV, VH1, CMT, and Logo and a member of AIGA NY’s Board of Directors.
His podcast, named First Generation Burden is a platform he uses to have conversations with immigrants and children of immigrants within the creative industry.
Started partly in response to Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Rich wanted to combat the fear and toxic
rhetoric surrounding immigrants and “the other” and so decided to provide a way of giving a voice to immigrants within the field he had established himself in – the creative. Since then, he has spoken to over 32 different designers and creatives who have lived through and understand first-hand the innate challenges that come with moving your life to another country. Through these conversations, listeners are able to grasp insight into the unique perspectives of these creative individuals. I personally have found value in hearing the different ways each of these individuals have carved a career for themselves with their interests. Being at a stage in my life where I’m seeking my place as a “creative”, I’ve been inspired and challenged by the podcast in different ways. Sophia Chang is a NYC designer/illustrator who tells about how she pursued learning many different skills ranging from illustration, to typography during her time in education so she could be a design “beast”. Essentially having multiple opportunities for revenue. This conversation in particular stuck with me being someone who so far has felt like I’ve had to struggle with having multiple creative interests.
For a while I’ve felt stuck not knowing whether I should spend my time in education honing and
sharpening one particular craft, or whether I should be working on diversifying my skill drawer. When asking about how to approach solving this, the seemingly conflicting answers; things like “the quicker you specialise and find a niche, the more chance you have of becoming successful” to “these days people want a designer that can do a little bit of everything” have done little to give me a sense of direction. All the while, the mounting pressure of time moving on, and the fear of stagnation hovers over me. ‘multidisciplinary’ or ‘specialist’? ‘One trick pony’ or ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’?
That is, until hearing Sophia Chang’s story. She speaks with a nonchalance and assurance about her
formative years as a design student trying to learn as much as she could. As a result, she is now a versatile designer who has worked with a myriad of high-profile clients. Her strong sense of self is maybe the other reason I was captivated by her interview. Especially since so far this year, I’ve struggled with a general loss of confidence. I feel like I’m yet to develop that sense of identity as a creative and the self-assured way that Chang has built her career is something I look up to immensely. Hearing her personal story was the confirmation for me to strive to continue seeking and forging my practice. I may not necessarily know what defines me as a creative yet, but I know what I want to.
Over the summer I was heavily involved in designing for a new student community in my church. Essentially a 360º branding project, with outputs ranging from flyers, business cards, and contact forms to social media, apparel, and banners. Projects like these are incredibly fun for me, and I have recognised this pull towards branding in the projects I work on, but like Sophia Chang I want to diversify and have a versatile approach to every design problem I face. As of now I am waiting for a studio in Germany to get back to me about an internship after having been interviewed. I am also still looking for other placements in London and internationally. Although my year ahead may be uncertain, I am assured by the longsuffering lesson I am slowly but surely learning; trust your instinct, believe in your taste. It's your strength & individuality as a creative individual.
Graphic and Media Design
The combination of a diverse skillset + the ability to learn quickly + excitable/curious personality might look great on a CV but it can be a stumbling block when it comes to making decisions on professional prospects. Amp up the excitable/curious personality trait by a few percent, and the process of defining what it is that you want to do becomes so much more difficult.
The good part is that, in reality there is an assemblage of contexts and practices that all seem equally viable. The bad part is that this assemblage as a whole might just seem plain abnormal and unconvincing (or somehow vague), ultimately - difficult to place eloquently as a tetris block within the puzzle of industries. And so a (too) diverse range of interests can result in the fear of being interested. Which, admittedly, is just plain stupid. Let’s be into things! Let’s be excited! It is okay.
With the (reasonable) pressure to specialise, I am brought to the conclusion of what I expect from this year - to halt the possibilities of illusive futures and to highlight the ones that materialise. At this moment in time, it seems possible that I could develop a career in anything from type design to creative technologies for experience design. The truth is that, with such a broad spectrum of possibilities, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle - balancing between both ends. So if inherent choice is not a possibility right now, then maybe a gradual method of elimination and realisation will work.
I think students can often be so hungry for experience that it seems possible to change one’s shape and tastes so to fit any opportunity. Yes, we are adaptable and that is great… But I hope all of us will be able to retain our core aims, even if they can be a bit fuzzy. Or otherwise - there might be opportunities that come and inspire a future that we never even conceived. So in a way, changing our minds is healthy as long as were not changing to fit where we don’t want to be.
It is good to remember that there are things that do not particularly excite me, for example, editorial, design for print or working with fashion. However, exceptions to these are possible, and I think it can be a great exercise to understand what these exceptions are made of. For example, I found out about a startup called Kniterate at a discussion panel during London Design Festival 2019. The subject of conversation was The Process of Personalisation, and the chair briefly referenced Joseph B. Pine - someone who has been prominent in defining the experience economy which is something I have been looking at for my dissertation. And so, even though the main aim for Kniterate is to change habits of fashion production and consumption, it is still of great interest to me - precisely because of the factor of innovation in terms of both hardware and software, as well as social terms of sustainability, service and economics.
In reality, my confusing soup of design passions is likely to be a result of the highly intertwined industries. I may have been under the impression that interests and skills are the same. Following a mode of If you’re interested in moving image, you develop a practice in moving image / if you have a knack for photography, you develop an interest in photography. While still relevant, this has lead me to merge parts of me that should stay separate.
Communication design is my skill, but my interests lay within the tech/digital world. Therefore, I should be offering my skills to the the industry that does not have my skills. Practically and theoretically, I have dipped into machine learning, biotech, voice assistants, interactive design, physical computing, UX/UI, etc. so I have a basic understanding of how these things work. Potentially, my most valuable asset is the ability to exist and communicate between these two nodes of technology and design.
A reasonable resolution: working in-house for a startup or technology company (for reference, Mozilla or Kano) or working in a design studio with a digital edge and/or tech-based clients (for reference, Studio XYZ or Normally). I have cared about digital production, digital spaces, ethics and futures a long time, and I can’t wait to make sure that it is what I want to be doing with my professional life. I might not have 100% clear idea of what that might look like but I am sure I will catch onto something along the way.
Graphic & Media Design
A few months ago, I had a video interview for an internship at LOCAL, a graphic design studio in Mumbai. It was my first time showcasing and discussing my portfolio in depth outside of university. I found it much harder than I thought it would be to talk about my work and, upon reflection, I realised that this is because I am conscious of having many interests and a wide range of skills, but no particular area of specialism. This left me worrying that my portfolio lacked coherence and I had the potential to be viewed as “a jack of all trades, master of none”.
My ever-growing list of interests meant that during the Summer, I found myself continually re-designing my portfolio and changing the way that I present myself as a designer. I couldn’t see how it was possible to describe my work in one, succinct sentence. The constant editing reached peak ridiculousness when I had eight different versions of my portfolio on the go at once. I started to lose track of which version of my portfolio was meant to be sent to who, and which version of myself I was performing in each one.
In August, I applied for the Samsung live brief: to design an interactive mural with a loose theme of technology for the new Samsung KX experience store in Coal Drops Yard. I wanted to link my design to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing as space travel has always been symbolic of technological advances and the future. I developed a concept for a playground in space, which I thought would fit nicely into the playful store environment. Excitingly, I was chosen for the first mural commission!
I had to overcome a few technicalities, respond to client feedback and then produce the work to a short deadline. When I saw it printed and installed on the wall inside the Samsung KX store, I felt a nice moment of achievement. The style of digital illustration doesn’t fit with anything else I’ve done prior, but it felt right for this project and it gave me the opportunity to expand my illustrative skill set. I’m beginning to see how being multi-disciplinary is actually an asset; it means that I’m flexible, willing to try new things and can adapt to the situation at hand. Whilst there will always be a place for specialists within a field, there’s definitely a growing demand in today’s digital landscape for designers who can work across a variety of disciplines to collaborate on global challenges.
After this experience, I changed my mindset from a position of vulnerability to one of strength. I cut down from eight portfolios to one and, despite any initial self-doubt, I got the internship at LOCAL in Mumbai. It’s for two months from November to December. I’m going to take the opportunity to travel in India a bit before and after the internship, which will give me the chance to work on a self-initiated project. Neither the Samsung project or going to India were aspirations that I had outlined in my proposal, but I’m embracing these new opportunities and staying true to my multi-disciplinary nature.
Illustration and Visual Media
I enjoyed creating art because it is visually pleasing and that was all I ever wanted to take out from the experience. I have always thought of design as something purely aesthetic; While that is true, it also entails a more important role in our current society. Our world is growing and expanding ever so quickly and to catch up with this technologically driven world we have to at least have method to ease our way in; and that is where design comes in. Everything you see around you is a design, the way your house looks, the position those plants were planted in, even the very keyboard I am typing on is a design. The common thing between all these is that they have a purpose, but what is MY purpose?
I had none - to begin with. I took a good look at myself, what are my skills? I did realistic paintings a while back, enjoy creating work that is more abstract and obscure, especially the ones that made you think you know? I know I am great with colour because that is how I convey the idea of emotion through something that is often on a flat surface. While I love to play with perspectives on a canvas, I really enjoy crafting, making things with my hands because that is how I display my unique set of skills of being able to produce something with great detail. Ok, now what am I passionate about?
At first I answered, “Not much, really” but it didn’t feel right. Why was that? You know you’re always really excited when you see new champion splash art from that game League of Legends, and I know it makes you really excited to draw time and time again. Didn’t you say that you were going to work there one day? How about the environment? You are always finicky about recycling and you’re constantly trying to change your flatmate’s habits for more sustainable ones. Always going on about less waste and getting the most out of what you have. That’s not “not much, really”. But everyone else wants to do such big things with their skills, support acts of activism and changing the world for the better…
I keep having conversations of such with myself to figure out what I want to get out of this year and how I can “benefit the society”; but I have come to realise that this isn’t really what is important. Sure, your discipline is so crucial to the ever-changing world but why is it wrong to do it for yourself? There is nothing wrong with doing it simply because you like it and wanting to do what others can because you admire them. Keep looking at those champion splash artworks and keep motivating yourself. Keep practicing drawing no matter how ugly you think they are. Keep pushing and you will eventually get there. I have high hopes for myself this year. As long as I am working and constantly reflecting to get the most out of my actions, I will grow. No matter where I end up, drawing, painting, animating, doing volunteer work – whatever it is, be ambitious and work hard. It is pretty hard out there so jump at every opportunity you get.