NTU Degree Show 2019

I first explored the Graphic Design, Architecture and Fine Art show displays to get inspiration outside my particular subject area. Some of their techniques I feel I could apply to my own future work: architecture’s attention to detail, graphic design’s storytelling and children’s books and fine art’s experimentation and self-expression.

However, I spent the most time exploring the FCP work, especially the self-devised projects. The exhibition of creativity provided me an invaluable insight into the standard of work I will be aiming for next year. Each visual final report had a differing style but the ones that stood out to me were the ones where the passion for their subject matter was extremely evident, using the printed page to show self-expression through visual and written media.

I spent time flicking through the pages of their dissertations, amazed at the amount of detail and research that had gone into some of those works, as well as the presentation and layout – they looked professional. Although I am excited about producing my own in less than a year’s time, it also made me apprehensive now I have seen the expected outcomes.

I photographed layouts that I believed were successful and matched my preferred style; I aim to reference these images when I start to put my own together. I also noted how the projects were bound. I have only ever bound my work in one way, perfect bound, with the same paper quality, and therefore it would be good to speak to the printer I use in person to discuss alternative options that could make the print look even more polished. I loved the hard-back covers and similarly the embossed, cut-out sections and foiling details on some of the reports which is something I may explore next year if it fits the aesthetic I have running throughout the document.

I was also able to clearly see that the written content is equally as important as the visuals; backing up the copy visually to convey each project’s idea and message. They were all telling innovative stories and narratives through their choice of media. The ones that I thought were the most successful were the ones where every page flowed on from the next and where it was evident which insights sparked the progression to the next stages.

Now that I have seen what the course committee achieved in terms of putting the whole show together, I would enjoy being a part of this process next year if the opportunity is available. They appeared to have complete creative freedom, presenting each individual’s work to the fullest potential and delivering an engaging outcome. So much effort and time had clearly gone in to making the display happen.

Rachel

Zine Making Workshop at Dizzy Ink

To conclude the research I have been conducting into belonging at NTU with a small group of students, we have been asked to develop an artefact to display our findings. Rather than making a typically written report or poster, a zine will be made to create a more visual, accessible piece.

To learn the zine making process, I attended a couple of sessions, with the first held at Brackenhurst and the second at Dizzy Ink.

The aim: To develop a collaborative zine to demonstrate the diversity and experience at the university Brackenhurst campus.

The first session was certainly out of my comfort zone; however I actually enjoyed the process when I got into it. I had three hours to explore Brackenhurst, sketching, writing and photographing anything I thought was interesting. I focused my attention on the outlines of buildings, and different angles that I could capture through my phone lens. The combination of sharp edges of the architecture and the natural curves from the nature caught my attention.

This session was great for me as I had to slightly let go and not worry about what the outcomes looked like, but rather focus on putting my interpretation down on paper. Although I wasn’t happy with how each one turned out, it was a mindful activity where I was observing my surroundings that I would usually be oblivious to.

In the second session at Dizzy Ink, we combined all of our experiments together; we laid everything we had on the table and started to see which slotted together and would form part of the zine narrative. At the beginning I was hesitant about cutting up other people’s work to create overlapping collages with them. However once we all started cutting words out of free-writes, elements out of photographs and sketches, we started to quickly form the pages.

As part of this session, I learnt how Dizzy Ink create zines which is very different to how I have previously developed my own. They use Risograph printing where two colours are combined on top of each other, meaning we had to create two compositions for each page. I found it difficult to visualise what the pages would look like combined as we had the lighter layer on one row and the darker on another. As a result of the A6 size, I was concerned with overcrowding on some of the pages.

Once we were happy with the narrative and composition, we stuck the individual pages onto A3 sheets ready to be printed. We selected a dark burgundy as the darker layer and a green as the lighter as a result of these being the dominant colours in the photographs. I was surprised that Ben at Dizzy Ink essentially photocopied the pages in one colour and then repeated the process layering the other colour and composition on-top. The uncoated paper made the zine feel more hand-made and experimental and also mirrored the country-side environment at the campus.

Once the zines were cut, folded and stapled, it was evident that the naïve colourfulness and unpredictable nature of the Risograph print combined the free-writes and sketches really well to create a tactile artefact in response to the visual stimuli around the campus. Although the print isn’t in my usual clean and structured style and some of the pages wouldn’t be how I would have composed them, I was happy with the end result, bringing all of our interpretations together. I learnt a new way of printing and now have a couple more contacts that will be valuable in the future.

Rachel

DiG Zine Launch

As one of last week’s Five Things, DiG Zine was mentioned; I messaged the girls on Instagram and received an invite to their launch at Oscar and Rosie’s. I wanted to attend to not only celebrate the work of the third year students, but also see what is possible as part of a live project next year.

DiG is everything but the kitchen sink.

Their concept, creating a magazine for young creatives by young creatives, was a unique idea and one that I could relate my own experiences to. The majority of creative magazines are focused on established individuals who have already found their place in the creative space. Therefore a young creative magazine is more accessible to up-and-coming people looking to find their interest area and how their expertise could fit in the industry. The final result looks so professional and the quality was amazing.

The event space was relaxed giving everyone the chance to appreciate the magazine. It was great to chat to the girls about their work and their experiences in third year, in particular how they chose their live project.

Their magazine stemmed from their frequent dinner parties at one of their houses which led to their concept. This showed me that inspiration can come from the most random of places but also ones that are ordinary. They had decorated the space amazingly, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of time and planning that had obviously gone into the running of this event; they certainly achieved their banquet, last supper theme; their attention to detail was phenomenal. This demonstrated their commitment, passion and dedication to the course and their new magazine.

The launch showed me the importance of great team-work in third year, and therefore what can be achieved in a supportive group. It was evident that the girls worked hard, but also had fun while doing it. This is something I would love to achieve in third year – it is this balance that will keep the project exciting. An event to launch our work is something I will keep in my mind for next year.

Rachel

Blank Canvas Fashion Show

Second year NTU Fashion Design x FMB

The collaboration between the two courses was effortless, so much so that I did not realise that the exhibition was not completed by the fashion students themselves. FMB did an amazing job of marketing the brands with their boards mirroring the style of the garments and inspiration behind them. I thought the illustrations on the boards to display the garments worked well; I feel that this gave a more personal approach, rather than just photographing the pieces. The illustrations emphasised the textures which I don’t think would have been fully showcased in a static photograph.

Watching the fashion show, we obviously only got to see the finished products which were stunning and so well executed. It was clear how much time had gone into the creation of the garments. I would not even know where to start if I was asked to make an item of clothing! The aim was to shed light on societal issues and therefore a recurring theme was around sustainability. A checked trouser suit and oversized puffer jacket stood out to me – I saw them as acting as reassurance, structure and protection from the uncertainty we are currently facing.

The garments displayed their designer’s creativity and self-expression as well as their talent at pattern cutting. However, in my opinion, the only downside to the entire thing was the lack of diversity in terms of model sizing. It was great to see inclusivity in terms of race and ethnicity; however this didn’t extend to body shape. Seeing that this year’s Mental Health Awareness month theme is body image, I hoped that a proportion of the garments would be designed for someone greater than a size 8 body or under the height of 5 foot 7. This just shows that there is still an expectation in the fashion design world to create prototypes to suit the typical model aesthetic – tall and thin.

There was such a great turnout to watch the show and I was pleased to attend, not only to appreciate the talent within the school and gain inspiration, but to support a valuable cause – Supporting Opportunity in memory of Becky and Philippa.

Rachel

Get Creative Festival 2019

I often find that I am most creative when I am not sitting forcing myself to come up with ideas. Going for a walk or another form of exercise, talking to my mum or even when lying in bed at night are when ideas start to unconsciously enter my mind. I was not aware of this festival before, however I now understand that its aim is to shine a light on innovative and inspiring creative activity. I love how interactive each event is and the range of creative outlooks on offer. I also believe that the encouragement for whole families to get involved allows young people to explore and have fun, which is rarely present in schools due to data driven goals.

Starting from when I did art at A-Level and continuing into FCP, I have developed a few ways to optimise creativity.

1. Have a pen and paper to hand

Keeping a notebook to record observations and ideas that unexpectedly occur.

2. Utilising the phone camera

I always used to think that to get great photos, a SLR is needed. However the camera is instant and allows me to showcase work through online photos.

3. Embrace silence

Many of the people I surround myself with believe that music is key to sparking creativity, not being able to do anything without this in the background. I am however, the opposite, I need it to be quiet to get creative ideas flowing.

4. Collaboration

I now stimulate creativity by being around other people and talking ideas aloud. Sharing ideas and receiving and offering constructive feedback has allowed me to learn from people who may have more experience.

5. Yoga and exercise

Exercising helps clear my mind from unhelpful thoughts and allows me to return with a greater sense of optimism.

6. Be kind to myself

This is the one that I am still working on. I understand that increasing chances of being creative come with not stressing about the process. Daring to learn from my mistakes is difficult for my perfectionistic self, however this is the only way we develop.

I really feel that finding a field / outlook of creativity that is enjoyed, rather than something you feel you ought to do, is the overriding factor of creative success and motivation.

Rachel

Elementum Magazine

This month’s Stack magazine is a complete juxtaposition to the previous loud and often chaotic prints from previous months. This one is a publication that I probably would have picked off a shelf myself – it has a slower pace to it and a clean composition with nothing to distract from the copy or imagery.

Although this magazine doesn’t have the same playful aesthetic as others or occupy a similar cultural space, this one is more idiosyncratic. It fills its pages with stories about nature and the environment. I think the fact that it is isn’t particularly political or spiritual works well as it provides the audience with a sense of escapism to the stark headlines surrounding this issue/topic.

I enjoyed reading some of the longer articles as they were often poetic and had a quiet and soft tone of voice, revealing what it means to love in a particular time and place.

The overall publication reminds me of an English countryside, embracing the timeless nature and British identity. The negative space around the page elements infers the open land that surrounds us and the idealistic view of the outdoors which has a calming effect.

Some of the pages have no imagery to support them; however the spreads are balanced by subtle illustration which is something that I hope to take forward into third year. The drawings, although simple, really help to visualise the text and summarise the key discussion points. They are beautifully embedded which also adds to the flow of the publication. I intend to use this magazine, alongside a couple of others that I purchased recently to use as templates for layout in my final visual report.

Each chapter heading has a dedicated block-colour page. This colour palette is continued throughout the section and reflected in the illustrations / photographs that, within a particular chapter, all have the same artistic style. The different styles of art create a subtle divide between the chapters.

Rachel

Aftermath: Nottingham Contemporary

MA Photography, Graphic Design and Illustration students responded to issues and concerns raised by the exhibition Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance to create new work that connected to them.

I always find it fascinating to witness all of the opposing interpretations to the same brief – it was evident that each individual had responded to a different aspect of the exhibition. This infers that certain sections of the original display had had the most impact on them. What I love about art is the idea that there is no right or wrong, with each individual simply expressing their personal emotions and understanding about a particular subject matter.

The responses all involved diverse practices, including 3D, illustration, animation, graphic design, textiles, etc. One piece that stood out to me was, ‘Somewhere in between,’ a mixed media installation which looked almost like a space-age suspended meteor rock with different surface temperatures – warm and cool tones occupied different sections. I am still unsure how this was crafted; however the projected light against the dark background highlighted the delicate creases and folds. It gave off mixed messages and unknowns, which I interpreted as a symbol of how we defend ourselves, alongside dreaming of stranger worlds.

‘In Knots’ and ‘Biomimicry’ I also thought were very successful, although one was a tulipwood installation and the other ink on paper, they both obtained a striking balance and poetic nature between full and empty; I am always drawn to the more minimal outcomes. They also reminded me of the connection to mother-nature and motherhood as an overriding theme.

I thought the repetition of imagery was powerful and really emphasised the message. These created patterns which are what drew the narrative inside of my head. How I perceived these, will more likely than not be different to anyone else who looks at the same piece – I believe it is all determined by the stories we want to believe, largely based on our own experiences.

Rachel

Extinction Rebellion and Activism

As suggested in this week’s Five Things, I listened to the Stylus Future Thinking podcast focused on Extinction Rebellion. The protests across the country over the last year have highlighted the importance of taking action to tackle climate change and the urgency of halting further environmental destruction.

Although I believe that activism can bring about meaningful change, I feel that there are ways to go about it, rather than making a statement by tying oneself to railings for example. I also feel that large planned marches are made even bigger by those who attend only to get an Instagram photo seeming to be a part of the community. The buzz and energy surrounding such an event drive people to the streets when they would not normally give the cause a second glance. However, when they have their desired photo, they do not stick around to support the actual cause. This demonstrates a lack of awareness about the true meaning behind the protests and little desire to be part of the solution. A large proportion of the protestors at the march appeared to be on their phone which to me infers they are beautifying the idea that ‘time is running out’.

If passive ‘clicktivism’ could be overruled by the number of peaceful and motivated active members of society, I feel we would be more likely to see a change and get the message listened to by the individuals with power that need to wake up to the impacts.

On the other hand, 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg has had an instrumental role in initiating the recent school protests and spoke eloquently discussing the possible ways forward. This would have inspired the younger generations to learn more about what small changes they can make.

With regard to the fashion industry, I feel that fast fashion could be slowed by the rise of a rental culture. Cars and properties are rented with no second thought, so why can’t this be applied to clothes. I still think there is a stigma around second-hand clothes or garments that have been worn by someone else, however circulating the resources that we already have could drastically reduce the fabric waste, energy and water used to produce them, not to mention the impact on the environment.

Rachel

Eye on Design Magazine

I first came across Eye of Design on ISSUU so I was pleased when this month’s Stack subscription was a physical publication of their most recent edition.

The front cover is a very successful way of drawing the viewer in. The layered cut-out eye, building the overall image over three separate pages is a playful touch that has immediate impact. This showed me that front covers do not have to explicitly state the title or have any text on at all. The bold imagery and page design is a lot more striking than any copy would in my opinion have been. Moving in to third year, playing with cut-out details from key pages could be very successful, adding another dimension to otherwise potentially flat pages.

The issue I received was based around the concept of ‘worth’. Although the design inside comes from a multitude of perspectives and therefore interpretations, they all have a unifying focus. I am thinking about a zine print outcome for level three and so this method of linking multiple contributions from different people could ensure that I do not provide just a narrow minded personal view of the topic. Having said this, with this method I would need make sure that everything flowed together so it didn’t appear disjointed; this is something that this magazine does really well.

Another element that I have taken away from the publication is the fact that they haven’t taken the topic literally. Yes they have explored worth in terms of the business of design, but they also dive into the human side of worth, for example what do we deem truly ‘good’ and worthy of our respect? How do we place value and worth on ourselves?

With regard to the latter, my personal view of my own self-worth ebbs and flows. I am currently trying hard to celebrate and share my smallest achievements – I usually focus on what I haven’t done, forgetting everything I have completed. I found myself just yesterday getting downhearted when I saw an Instagram story from someone on the course who had presented their self-promotion trials in a really interesting and tactile way. Valuing myself and appreciating that although my work is different, it does not mean it is any less successful is something I really need to get my head around before moving into third year.

Rachel

Independent Magazines

One of my feedback points from my Summative Christmas hand-in was to consider the finer details of a printed document to improve the standard of my work. I decided that the best way to do this was to explore a magazine store, looking for publications where the layout, composition and content appealed to my aesthetic preferences.

Exploring such a store, it was definitely easier to decide what did not work for me, compared to picking out ones that I was drawn to visually. I knew that I did not want a magazine that was crowded and bold and that had a heavy uneven composition. I enjoy prints that are simple and clean with a muted colour palette and uniform layout.

I came away with two publications: Design Anthology and Milk Decoration. Both magazines have a very different finish, the first having a book-like finish, printed on heavy matt paper and the latter having a glossy typical magazine cover with thinner matt paper pages. Unintentionally, the two prints have an interior, architectural, travel and art focus which certainly fits my interests.

Design Anthology, in my opinion, is a focused editorial with a more sophisticated tone of voice and cleaner-looking finish compared to other design magazines that I have seen, whereas, Milk Decoration aims to inspire contemporary, urban, individuals in matters of decor, design, travel and lifestyle. I enjoyed the displayed seasonal favourites, especially their latest discoveries that were found on during travels, or during a chance meeting. This reinforced the idea that inspiration and insights can be found anywhere.

What I think works well is that fact that both make the subject matter accessible to a wide audience, providing a reading experience that transports the reader to the desired location as well as providing endless inspiration that is unlike anything in the mainstream eye.

Buying these two magazines has allowed me to conclude the type of layout and finish that appeal to my style. I intend to continually refer to these two prints when constructing and printing my future visual reports. They have a good balance of text and imagery; although the imagery has a great hierarchical stance, the two elements complement each other effortlessly, continuing the subtle narrative throughout. I have since followed the two brands on Instagram so I can be continually inspired every time they post.

Rachel

LEAP Expo 2019

Having already secured two work experience placements for the summer, I didn’t go into the event with a specific intention, just wanting to be part of something creative. However, I came out with some projects that I would like to get involved with and further insight into companies, organisations and jobs that I may want to move my career towards.

Pentland Brands is one that I want to keep on my radar for next year. I am drawn to the idea of working within a family-run business and this brand brings some of the most loved active and footwear. I really got the impression from speaking to the designer for one of the brands that they believe in the power of the collective. This was extremely evident when she was explaining the graduate programme to me where they rotate around the business for two years to experience each part and get a sense of which area they are drawn to the most. An opportunity like this would be perfect for someone like me as I am currently unsure about the direction I want to initially take. The lady also suggested that the role of an art director would fit my interests, which at this stage I agree with and is something I hope to explore further in third year.

I am also going to look out for the next recruitment for the Nottingham Contemporary Response placement. I really enjoyed the zine project and therefore I believe that this editorial experience within a creative environment would be great opportunity for me to learn more about the production process, including expanding my writing and developing copywriting and formatting skills. It would also leave me with an artefact that I could show future employers to help with self-promotion. Not only this, but working with a wide range of students could build my communication skills further and allow me to network outside of my school/department. The next callout is in September so I will send in an application once I receive the email.

Since the Expo, I have applied for Grads4Nottm. This programme sounded like it would provide me with valuable firsthand experience of working in a positive local business environment and to have the chance to work with other students from different disciplines. I am constantly striving to push myself out of my comfort zone and this challenge would give me the chance to work collaboratively within a professional team putting the knowledge and skills that I have developed throughout my education and work in the community into a real life project. Furthermore, I believe that I would also learn new skills that would support any future career path. I specifically applied for a food packaging design, healthcare design and food social media challenge as these are currently my areas of interest.

Last year, I found the event very overwhelming and I didn’t spend very long at the Expo however, this year I felt more confident to go up and meet the companies to find out a bit about their roles and what the business currently offer. Many were only offering year placements or graduate programmes but it has given me something to aim towards for next year.

Rachel

Upstart!

I recently ordered this book and it is now one of my favourites. Visual identities for start-ups and new businesses has a heavy focus on the aesthetic, particularly that of graphic design. No matter the medium of the identity, the personality of the brand is showcased, particularly through the chosen colour palette and shape silhouettes selected. This is the first book that I’ve come across that presents fresh branding ideas; each has an element of playfulness combined with professionalism. I enjoyed looking at all of the authentic styles and stories, as well as seeing what is achievable for a young business.

Layout and graphics is an area that I’m currently interested in pursuing as a future career and therefore it is great to have a body of inspiration, especially now that there is such an emphasis on creativity in branding. Not only will this book be useful as I continue to develop my own visual identity and business card, it will also be something that I constantly reference in third year, whether it be front cover design, identity or even layout for my final visual report.

The layout on the page is based on the images that are very much the main focal point. There is a hierarchy of visuals; however each image makes a statement in itself. The designers have been very selective in their refinement which is something I am still trying to master – often than not less is more. I have also noticed that the background that the business cards, labels, packaging, etc are photographed against make the visual identities pop and add another layer of interest. They bring the colour palette to life and tie all of the elements together bringing cohesion. Although there is a synergy across all of the business’ branding material, the backgrounds reinforce this.

I am going to select five of my favourite visual identities and analyse them in my sketchbook, exploring what fits with my personality, approach and skills and what does not.

Rachel