Monday, 25 November 2013

Graphic Design Graduation at Canterbury Cathedral 2013

Another great year for our Graphic Design students
Another great year for our Graphic Design students

Another year passes and another successful cohort of Graphic Design students graduate at Canterbury Cathedral. This year saw the small cohort gain two firsts, seven 2:1’s, three 2:2’s and no 3rds. Most of the students pictured here have secured work or placements with the design industry, including freelance design, book cover design, and one has gone onto postgraduate study. The BA coursework can be seen here. Well done to all.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

“What I wish I had known when I was a design student”

Marc Foley of type foundry Dalton Maag lending a helping hand to some of our BA students.

Rarely, if ever, can education mirror precisely what is happening in industry. Consequently, there is an ongoing challenge to identify workable solutions to help bridge the gulf between the two. One such way is by asking guest speakers from industry to come in and talk to and work with the students and staff, and yesterday we were very fortunate to be visited by former WKC design student, Marc Foley, who now works for international font foundry Dalton Maag.

During his studies Marc became fascinated by typeface design, and, largely by teaching himself the numerous intricacies of this field, he began working with Linotype whilst still a student at Reading, before more recently taking up his current position as a font engineer with Dalton Maag.

The overarching theme for Marc’s talk was ‘What I wish I had known when I was a student’. The talk was a fascinating and amusing insight into Marc’s journey from student to professional, and consisted of personal reflections upon study and professional observations on what the real work-a-day realities of a design professional are, including some of the dos and dont’s of job hunting.

Opening by outlining some of the possible roles that a design graduate might seek, Marc went on to stress some of the fundamentals of design that a graduate designer must be familiar with. It wouldn’t be right of me to repeat all of Marc’s lecture here, but I wanted to share just some of his key remarks simply because they are so valid and so commonly forgotten or neglected by students. Marc made many salient points and he weaved them together better than I’ve thrown them out here.

  • Learn to set one paragraph of text correctly.
    In other words, get the basics right first before moving on, and this included learning how to:
  • Use a baseline grid.
    Essential for the coherent structure of information is the use of a divisible grid. Learn how to set up a document properly. Calculate how to get well proportioned pages, types sizes and margins. I was particularly glad to hear Marc reinforce the value of these points, simply because having taught this and many other essential typographic conventions,  I often sense that some students can be a little dismissive of what might be perceived as the dry and old fashioned stuff, when what they really want to do is to get back to making pretty pictures in Photoshop.
  • Focus on being timeless
    Marc showed the students a range of designs that were fashionable in the 80s and 90s. He then showed a piece of work by Josef Müller-Brockmann and asked the group if they could guess in what year it had been designed. No one in the group gave a date an earlier than 2000 and they were surprised to hear it was designed in 1955—without a Mac!
  • Check your grammar and spelling
    Typos. We all make them, but in formal communications they indicate a lack of attention to detail. No matter how often I stress the importance of checking for errors, I am still amazed at how many communications I receive that use a lowercase ‘i’ for the personal pronoun or that are simply full of spelling mistakes, or portfolios brought to college interviews with work riddled with typos. It’s this sort of error that will end with your CV going into the bin and the chance of an interview being wasted. Marc recommended that students should have a book on grammar usage to refer to.
  • Make your final project count.
    Like Marc, I too did not make the most of my college FMP and wished I had worked on a live project that had had a genuine client and that might have more real world value. I’m pleased to say that for both FMPs and other projects, staff have for several years been encouraging our students to engage with client led briefs and to enter industry led competitions, of which they have had a good degree of success, including winning entries of the Design Museum’s Student Competition two years running. After discussing other topics such as money and finance, portfolio sizes, the Fibonacci Sequence, the price of beer and the importance of valuing your studio mates, Marc summed up with a few other gems:
  • Be yourself. Wear a smile. Having a good manner goes a long way.
  • Leave your ego at the door.
  • Have other hobbies outside of design.
    And finally…
  • Don’t be a dick
    Priceless.
The $64 million question

Friday, 1 November 2013

The AOI Illustration Awards 2013 at Somerset House

johnson_pj7
Kristen Stewart © Paul X Johnson from the cover of
Little White Lies magazine

Last week I took my HND and BA Graphic Design students to the ‘AOI Illustration Awards 2013′ held at Somerset House.  Overall, I found the work of this year’s exhibitors as equally impressive as last year’s. The awards are “the only independent jury selected illustration competition in the UK…that recognises exceptional work ” and which promotes “illustration as an essential contributor to global visual culture.” The exhibits certainly were exceptional and I believe these works addressed that latter aim too.

It was a genuinely refreshing exhibition with some unexpected approaches. For me, most noticeable was the absence of some of the clichéd styles of illustration that have hung around for some while now. This was a strong and mature show. By that, I’m not just referring to the high quality of the work in terms of technique and compositional skills but also its content. The work was genuinely engaging and that’s arguably been missing from certain genres of illustration for a while. Before anyone takes umbrage to the last comment, I should couch that by acknowledging that there’s room for all types of illustration, and that illustrators often have to do whatever they can to eke a living. I simply felt that it was refreshing to see illustration with substance dominate this exhibition.

Many of the pieces were placed into context to show the illustrations functioning as intended. It is so important for students of illustration to see illustrations working as pieces of visual communication, supporting a text rather than just pieces of image making. An image is not an illustration until it illustrates something. That might sound like I’m stating the obvious, but I am surprised at how often I find myself reminding students to consider that.

Most of my favourites came from the shortlisted pool; and of particular interest were the lively and well observed sketches and drawings of commuters by Steve Wilkin, captured with great character and then set within text as drawn without apparently being tweaked. Again, it was good for students to see that illustrative solutions often reside within the sketchbook. As a process to learning illustration, there can be a stultification of the work when taken from the freedom of the sketchbook and then overworked into what the student might view as a neatly polished final. One can ‘kill’ an illustration with too much tweaking. Knowing when to leave it alone is a skill in itself.

One of my favourite works had to be Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations for the Folio Society’s ‘The Box of Delights’ by John Masefield. I found these simply engaging and intriguing. They are illustrations to be pored over which is exactly what I did, returning to look at them several times.

Also intriguing were the beautifully drawn works of Jun Cen (see below). These graphite book illustrations possessed a slightly surreal, dreamlike quality. The images gave me the sense of having stumbled into a scene whereby one has to quickly determine what’s going on. The illustrations were sensitively drawn, yet the dark graphite gave them a density and contrast that creates a powerful presence. It would have been great to have seen these set within their intended book. (Perhaps I missed this if they were.)

Some of the work reminded me of the styles that were familiar to me from being a pre-digital student of illustration—22 years ago in my case—when many of us at my college would use just gouache or acrylics to produce painstakingly detailed works. I’m thinking particularly of Simon Bartram’s incredibly detailed acrylic works for the children’s title Bob, The Man of the Moon.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and already look forward to next year’s offerings. My students on the other hand, seemed to favour the appropriately titled ‘graphic art’ of ‘Pick me up’, the annual exhibition that also takes place at Somerset House. Perhaps because it’s more trendy, for want of a better word? However, I got the impression that they felt that the standard of work produced at the AOI Awards was a product of skills unobtainable to them, but they appeared not to consider the enormous journey that each illustrator has likely taken to attain such standards. With that in mind, I think perhaps the visit was in itself a good lesson in highlighting the importance of sustained practice, particularly as we live in such a culture of immediacy.

The category winners can be seen here, and those shortlisted here.

L'abbraccioA3
L’Abbracio © Giulia Ghigini
cARDS
Jonathan Burton © 2012 from the Folio Society
edition of playing cards Odd Bodds
Nate_Kitch_Lost Mariner (Re- Oliver Sacks)
Lost Mariner © Nate Kitch
Cen
Entrance/Exit © Jun Cen
balbusso_a_and_e5
Anna and Elena Balbusso © 2012
from the Folio Society edition of Eugene
Onegin

AOI_illustration

Somerset_House