Review: Geneva Motor Show 2014

My design career can be traced right back to drawing cars as a small child. This was pretty much all I did. I’d even get requests to draw certain cars. My parents took me to the British Motor Show at Birmingham’s NEC (and at Earls Court in London on the odd occasion) for about 8 years on the trot, before it shifted to London’s ExCel Centre and then fizzled out completely in 2008. So it seems fitting that although I once dreamed of becoming a car designer, I still work in the design industry and still love cars… and still go to Motor Shows.

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Final Degree Show: The Opening

On Thursday, the time finally came to throw open the doors to {Un}Lucky 2013, our Final Degree Show. Opening at 6pm, the show went on for two hours on its first night, welcoming visitors from across the country, including industry professionals, creatives and friends and families of us, the students.

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Behind the Scenes: Degree Show Ready

I’ve just finished my degree in Graphic Design by putting the finishing touches to my exhibition space of our Final Degree Show, which runs from 20-26 June 2013 at the University of Chester’s Kingsway Buildings.

It’s been a very heavy week. Since my last blog post, lots has happened. I’ve been at my exhibition space every day this week, trying things out, mounting, sorting technical issues and getting things printed. I’ve included some photographs that I’ve been taking on my iPhone as the space has progressed through the week.

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“Quotes” Degree Show Fundraiser: Film

This is the film accompanying our recent Quotes Degree Show fundraiser, which you may have read about when I blogged about it last week. The film shows a bit of a behind-the-scenes taster; the exhibition being set up, the prints being hung, an insight into the day and also scenes from the opening night at Watergates Bar.

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“Quotes” Degree Show Fundraiser 2013

Today, third year Graphic Design students from the University of Chester held their first major exhibition in the city. In order to raise funds for our end of year Degree Show, which will take place in June 2013, we held the exhibition of limited edition prints, inspired by quotes, at Alexander’s Bar. All of the posters were designed by us, the students, and printed in a variety of formats including screenprint, digital print and riso print, and limited to just 10 examples of each.

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This Week: Geneva Motor Show 2013

As part of my 21st birthday present, I received a trip to the world-famous Geneva Motor Show. This would be my first-ever visit to the world’s biggest car show (and the only one that happens annually) and I was massively excited – not only to see the latest cars on show, but also for the spectacle of it all, and the competition surrounding which manufacturer designs and builds the best/biggest stand. The graphic designer in me gets very enthusiastic about this! Being on Swiss territory also means complete neutrality, with manufacturers being given an even amount of space to display their offerings. Anyway, some pictures are attached, focused more around the design side of things than the metal on show!

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The Democratic Lecture: Craig Oldham

Today we were treated to a guest lecture from Music’s Craig Oldham. This was from his Democratic Lecture series, where students at the university are able to vote on what they would like to hear Craig speak about. I thought this was a great idea, and was impressed by the choice we were given.

Anyway, today was the day, and based on the votes cast, Craig spoke about what Graphic Design actually is, Music (the agency he comes from), portfolios, the importance of placements, and the debate surrounding the assumption that Graphic Design is dead. All of which were very interesting topics indeed, and I will go into more detail on that shortly.

Craig Oldham Lecture Poster

If there was a type of medication created to prevent people from swearing, then Craig would be the first in line to have to sample it. Or trial it. He just doesn’t stop. In fairness, he did warn us about his language at the very start, and I remember him being quite swear-happy in his lecture 18 months ago. But even so, pretty much every sentence features one. So if ever you’re going to one of his lectures, be prepared.

He began by talking about what graphic design is, and the two types of graphic designer. He suggested two types – A and B, with A being the logical, rational designer who loves modern, Swiss, functional design and gets obsessive about kerning. B, on the other hand, is the emotional designer, who uses every form of communication and aims for human emotions by being witty, or nostalgic, or funny. He said that we, as designers, need to decide which camp we fall into, but he did acknowledge that some designers do fall into both camps from time to time – me being one of them, I think. I’m really into the emotional side, but I also enjoy the technical side of things too, and getting the details right. Craig made the valid point that we therefore shouldn’t work for a design agency who’s work we dislike, or doesn’t fit with our values and design habits – because it won’t work.

He then went on to talk a bit about Music, the Manchester-based agency he works at. He believes them to be a more emotional agency (so, camp B then!), which comes across in their work. Recently they have completed work for Chester Zoo and the BRIT Awards, both of which have seen fairly high-profile rebrands in the last two years or so. Music still work with both clients on these projects. Whilst we were on the topic of the Zoo, Craig digressed slightly onto the topic of dating and zoos, claiming that there has recently been a craze where people go to Chester Zoo on a date. He was clearly taken aback at this fact, but I personally know people who would happily admit to doing this! Our lecturer Alan Summers then surprised everyone by saying he’d been to the zoo as part of someone’s wedding! Fantastic. We were then treated to something a bit Christmassy, and were shown Music’s very own Christmas film, a cheeky parody of Feed the World – you can watch it here.

Music’s take on ‘Feed the World’ by Band Aid.

He then moved onto the important topic of portfolios. I think this was something I voted for myself, as it is essential that you get your portfolio right – a point Craig reiterated. It is such a key piece of work in its own right, which is bound to chop and change over time as you grow as a designer. Whilst he was on this topic, he pointed out some things to avoid, largely revolving around passing fashions that have recently been doing the rounds on Pinterest and people’s portfolio sites. One of these is the ‘Let’s hold the poster up to the camera to show everyone how big it is‘ trend. Craig noted that the same could be done simply by stating the poster’s size in the description. The addition of the person (including their hands, legs and often oversized t-shirt) and a background can distract from the work – something which should ideally be avoided. Luckily I haven’t been guilty of copying this particular trend, and I’ll make a point of avoiding it in the future. Let the work speak for itself.

The importance of placement was something that Craig felt passionately about. He asked us all whether we’d done placements – most of us said that we had, much to his relief. I was reminded of my time at AKQA in the Summer of this year, and the valuable skills and knowledge I gained from that experience. The shocking statistics that there are 15,500 design graduates each year really made me realise how competitive this sector is, and the importance of securing a job after graduation. He noted that having a placement (or a few) on your CV puts you a few steps ahead of the crowd, but also reminded us not to be taken advantage of, which was useful to hear. Making tea is a valuable skill, he said – I was instantly reminded of the cups of tea I went through on placement. And the subsequent trips to the bathroom, of course. Anyway. The importance of enthusiasm, punctuality and personality were all highlighted and it really encouraged me to get out and get something else sorted for this year – which I am intending to do very soon.

Craig talking about Music’s Christmas video.

Finally, Craig finished with the statement, ‘Graphic Design is dead’. In many ways, the term is. Graphic Design is no longer just about coming up with attractive, pretty visuals to communicate something, but it is also the ideas – events, a play, a song, an initiative to do the same thing. In this constantly changing world where people become immune/oblivious to certain things, it is important to innovate.

Overall it was a very useful and helpful lecture. Craig’s enthusiasm and humour never gets boring, and I’ve taken a lot away that I will look to apply to my design practice in the coming weeks and months.


Designival 2012

On Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd November, I paid a visit to Liverpool’s Designival, formerly known as Liverpool Design Symposium. Thursday saw plentiful opportunities to check out local design studios, whilst Friday featured some fairly big-name speakers at the thoroughly cool Camp & Furnace creative hub.

I really enjoyed meeting some of the designers behind the studios on the Thursday. I visited Uniform, situated on Fleet Street in the city centre, Mercy, who are up on Hope Street, SB Studio in their new office at Cleveland Square, and digital design studio Apposing who are right in the creative Baltic Triangle, on Jamaica Street. These are four design studios whose work I really admire, and it was particularly exciting (without sounding weird!) to meet the designers and developers behind them. Having recently become more engaged with designing for digital platforms, I found it particularly helpful to talk to the guys at Apposing, as well as having a fairly in-depth chat on a similar topic up at Mercy. I also got drenched in the process of walking around Liverpool, whilst the heavy rain and wind also caused the death of a second umbrella this week. But it was all worth it!

On the Friday, I ventured back over to Liverpool for a stint at Camp & Furnace. It was particularly interesting to hear Belgian graphic designer Sara De Bondt talk about her project The Form of the Book Book, which we looked at as part of one of our university modules last year. For this talk, I was sat right at the back, meaning I was also able to take in the full impact of this quirky, off the wall setting.

Camp & Furnace

A break for lunch followed, giving me time to explore the venue and the pop-up shops that Designival had organised. These included original screen prints, a local bookseller specialising in quirky design books, and Cow&Co, which runs alongside local studio SB Studio. I also had a pretty decent lunch – Chicken Sage & Onion casserole, to be precise! This was the first time I’ve eaten casserole out of a cardboard box. I sat and ate whilst other creatives enjoyed their lunches and drew on the table with felt-tip pens. 

Lunch at Camp & Furnace

I love how the building has kept its industrial, utilitarian roots intact, yet everything that is ‘new’ has been done very thoughtfully and in a way that is inkeeping with the building’s character. There are even caravans like the one below dotted around the place, which can be rented out as boutique hotel rooms!

After the lunch break, it was time for another talk – this time from illustrator and toy designer James Jarvis. He spoke of his love for toys such as lego, and ran us through the thinking behind Amos, a venture he set up in 2002. We were treated to numerous slides showing the Amos character in different situations, many relating to popular culture at any given time. He then did some drawing live on stage which was particularly interesting to watch.

James Jarvis drawing some of his favourite things – spherical characters and skateboards!

Later, we heard from Simon Manchipp, creative director and co-founder of London-based design studio SomeOne. He spoke at some length on the topic of branding, which was really helpful and interesting to hear, considering I’ve been working on a few branding and identity projects recently. It was great to see all of the work that SomeOne has been involved in, including the Compare the Meerkat/Compare the Market campaign; those who follow me on twitter will know that I am quite a fan of this particular phenomenon! Manchipp explained how weirdness can often give the best results – Compare the Market are now the leaders in the field of insurance comparison sites, having previously been at the bottom of the pile.

Compare the Meerkat! Weird = success!

He also spoke about the future of the logo, and displayed how the branding for the London 2012 Olympics, part of which was created by Manchipp and his studio, revolved around shapes and a design language, rather than a simple logo (even though the logo itself has become something of a talking point in recent years). Manchipp argued that the traditional logo, and creating consistency within a brand, is no longer effective enough. Instead, a coherent strategy should be created to work across various different channels, stating that stamping the same brand on everything is no longer the way forward. He also made the very valid point that nobody seems to like new logos – they always get stick from the press, the public, the staff and of course, the internet. I can’t say I agreed with him on everything, but it was really interesting and challenging to hear a different perspective, especially from someone with such experience!

Manchipp on the London 2012 branding and icons.

Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the final keynote of the day, which was highly disappointing! But I am so glad I made the journey over to Liverpool for what was an interesting day of talks, in a really quirky, inviting venue. Here are a few pictures of Camp & Furnace, and the goodies I received from Designival.

Designival wristband! Nearly cut off the blood circulation to my hand when I put this on!

We were all given a copy of ‘The Designist’, a neat little book detailing the must-see things in Liverpool for designers!

This opened up into a neat little map of creative Liverpool, which then reveals the book. A bit like Pass the Parcel!

There it is!

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was awesome to talk to some of the people from Liverpool’s top studios, and to hear from some of design’s biggest names on the Friday was especially helpful and interesting. If you couldn’t go this year, then I highly recommend you give it a go next year! It’s great to have such an event in Liverpool, rather than having to make the journey to London or even Manchester, cities that are normally seen as the creative centres of the country.

The Degree Shows

Over the past month or so, I have visited three university design degree shows in the North West, both out of curiosity and as part of my first project for my third year of study.

The first one I attended was Liverpool John Moores University’s Edition Degree Show. This ran towards the end of May, and we went on a Saturday, which, surprisingly, was very quiet. I headed for the Graphic Arts section of the show. I particularly liked how the students had set out their portfolios, all of which were positioned on shelves facing into the room, meaning we could simply pick up a portfolio to browse through. Each portfolio was also very different, and a welcome change from the many black portfolios we see on a daily basis.

A few standout pieces for me were Rosie Collins‘ ‘Peaks with Friends’ publication, featuring information on hill climbs and mountain climbing gathered from her twitter followers, and some clever barber shop branding for ‘The Cutting Point’ from Richard Cunningham. The show publication was simply a white perfect bound catalogue, limited to 1500 pieces. The sticker on the front of mine told me I had no. 267 of 1500. A nice touch.

Some of the work from the LJMU show.

A few weeks later, I paid a visit to Manchester School of Art’s Ask Why Degree Show, taking place at Quay House in trendy Spinningfields. We were really impressed by the quality and quantity of work on show, again focusing on the Graphic Design section.

I was taken by Laura Stanworth’s Graphic Design Olympics, an innovative board game which combines traditional olympic events with design terminology. We all agreed that if Laura’s game was available to buy today, we’d get it in a flash! Nick Yates‘ Celebrity Matches idea was inspired by a conversation he had with his lecturers, where people take it in turns to draw celebrities with match sticks, using as few as possible. Jan Agulto‘s alternative design for the freebie Metro Newspaper was also refreshingly different.

Just a taste of what I saw at MMU’s show.

And finally, I paid a visit to the University of Chester’s Untitled Degree Show. I had to get my Creative Review head on for this, as I had been asked to report as a Talent Spotter for their blog too. So the pressure was on to really take in everybody’s work.

Some of my favourites ended up on CR’s blog, but I’ll have to be a bit more concise on here. James Matthews‘ ‘Hype for Type’ was created for first year design students who were previously failing to become engaged with typography – a key part of the Graphic Design course. Simon Farmercame up with some typographic prints for the Three Sides of the Mersey football exhibition, detailing Liverpool, Everton and the often forgotten about Tranmere Rovers on the Wirral. Nichola Watkiss had some interesting home-grown typography on show as part of her ‘Grow Your Own’ project, dissuading people from buying and buying at the supermarket. Lorna Evans had created some typographic prints to show the British public how driving-related stereotypes actually sound, whilst Tom Morris‘ clever, infographic-inspired CV was hiding on the back of his portfolio. Some of the perhaps more intriguing work came from David Yates, with his mens range for Interflora, and some self-promotion from Alex Franklin in the form of water bottles to be handed out at the show.

Some of the work from Chester’s Degree Show

It was really helpful and inspiring to see so much work from different areas of the North West – each institution offered a very different range. Visiting the shows has inspired me to get thinking about my degree show, which will take place around this time next year. Important things such as show catalogues, layout, information boards and, of course, the work, all need to be thought about well in advance. I’m really keen to get going.