Today I had a group tutorial with Matt, and it was super helpful. I went in having done a lot of research, spoken to people, tutors, the target audience, other business owners, student services, sent emails, tweets, conducted a survey, analysed the results, refined the aim/message of the project and defined the values: Belonging, Connection, Mutual Support, Network, Mental Well-Being, Motivation. The last few weeks have been totally dedicated to this project and I think that has really paid off in terms of the extent of my research and motivation to get this done!
The problem I came into the tutorial with was that I didn’t know where to go from here. The initial visual of branding, a colour scheme and example of a proposed interior, seemed a little small. My portfolio already contains branding projects and this approach would not display my skill-set accurately, nor would it do justice to the background and research behind this project.
I had questions for the Job Centre, to ask why they thought they weren’t reaching young people effectively, and why people feel so negatively about the whole experience. I planned to ask Es George, the careers advisor here at the university, what services are available to people outside of university and why it was young people aren’t motivated to get involved and seek the career they would really want. Instead so many young people fall into the horribly negative cycle of the Job Centre and never get to where they want to be. My goal is to find out why and create a solution.
With all this research it seemed silly to just design a brand. So what do I do instead? Matt suggested presenting my research and found-knowledge visually via an infographic, but this alone still seems a little short-sighted. Maybe I’ll do an infographic but in a way that will keep the project moving forward to something bigger. Toby mentioned working on the non-visual brand (the tone of voice, the objective, target audience etc.) and the visuals will fall into place. I’m hoping he’s right, I’ll definitely need something visual to exhibit in the degree show!
Matt said to focus next on the finances involved in starting up a business like this, the cost and accounting side of things. Originally I had decided to do the branding for the project and develop a business plan in the background as a sort of ‘back-up’ in case I wanted to actually create it after graduation. Now it’s looking like the opposite would be better and I should present the business plan as the main design piece.
So I have left the tutorial feeling much more secure in moving forward. I am still waiting on an email from Es George, but I have emailed Steve in the Entrepreneurship sector of the Students Union about organising a meeting about financing a business, I’ll do some research into the importance of location (giving Kin+Ilk as an example) and think more about the non-visual aspects of the business such as tone of voice and how to appeal to an introverted target audience. There is also a documentary I intend to watch: Abstract.
I’m still feeling really good about this project, about my place in the “industry” and the future. Watch this space.
Today I have been thinking about my target audience and the kind of visual and haptic environment they would be interested in using. To visualise my ideas and the concepts of the project I have put together a mood board:
After a really useful tutorial with Matt, I have decided on the next stage of the project. This will include:
- Speaking to Es George, the head careers adviser in uni
- Go to the job centre. Find out what is going wrong at the moment, and work out how to improve it
- Send out the survey and collect/analyse the results
After two and a half years of jarring interest in university work and lulls of skimming through projects (maybe I’m a bit hard on myself) and well intended but mediocre attempts at design solutions, I finally feel like I can settle into the work and get everything in order and to a standard I can be proud of, and which will hopefully land me a job doing design and/or photography work… With only 4 months to go. The last six months have been punctuated with mini-meltdowns, adopted anxiety and missed deadlines and trips and presentations, but I have spent the whole week waking up early, getting into the studio for as close to 8:30am as I can and refusing to let myself leave until at least mid-afternoon after I have done a sufficient amount of work and it feels good. It turns out just being in the university building puts you right in the centre of everything: all the people, conversations and opportunities you could want. Today has not been an exception.
It is time to focus on the final major project, which will hopefully be presented in the degree show (either this or my Big Idea piece). But first I have a few loose ends to tie up; mainly commission work, social obligations and competition submissions; something that after the pricing lecture on Wednesday and some light intervention from well meaning friends I feel I am entirely capable of finishing. I still have to rework my outcome for the D&AD competition for the 22nd March and I have to do the photo-shoot for the Big Idea brief from last term before I can fully throw myself into this brief. Yesterday I entered my book cover design to the Penguin Random House Competition, which I will post as soon as the deadline rolls past and there is no chance of my amazing ideas being stolen *cough*. I still need to do a final design for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, which I’m aiming to submit that too before next week.
Earlier today, I went to Creative Mornings talk by Suzanne Carpenter, an illustrator and pattern maker from Paternistas, who also worked for Stills, and had a lot of inspirational things to say and stories to tell. It surprised me how few people even know about these events never mind have the motivation to turn up. I would strongly recommend that all creative people in Cardiff go at least once to see what it’s like. Meeting people is so important in this industry and the talks provide a welcome nudge in the right direction every month when the momentum might have slowed down for a project or even just to get you out of the house, to have a refreshing couple of hours to reset before getting back to work.
While I was there I also spoke to Olwen, the Dean of the school and the one member of university staff who never fails to motivate me to move forward and stay positive. She gave me some direction in terms of who to contact and where to research for my project idea. This was then followed by a tutorial with Ian, which was really helpful in following Olwen’s advice and giving an alternative, objective approach to my initial idea. During this tutorial I also got to hear other people’s ideas and plans and share my ideas and advice with them. I think it’s really important to give and receive feedback as often as possible, especially when working on student-led projects and so this morning, for me at least, was really useful.
After the tutorial I headed down to one of the lecture rooms for a talk from Neil Hubbard from Heatherwick Studio. He started with “I specialise in vagueness” which had me hooked from the beginning. One thing that was said was “Design for the moment rather than something that lasts forever” This particular quote resonated with me mainly because of my interest in temporary things having as much worth as permanence, and design for a small amount of time can be just as astonishing and grand as those made to last, possibly more so.
Another thing that was said is that designers should take their inspiration straight from the brief before heading off in different directions to find the solution. Sometimes the answer is in the question or the problem. Neil also said that it is important to think about the pace of a project, to create a focus point to work on, not all of the outcome has to be grand.
He spoke about the moon bridges of China and described some of his work in on re-designing a modern functioning version of these in response to a request for Heatherwick’s famous rolling bridge (seriously, check out their projects, they’re incredible), among other design projects in China; a couple of projects in Shanghai and then how he worked in Hong Kong for six months on the Pacific Place. Neil spoke about working on the smallest of details on such a large scale piece of architecture, and was so passionate about what work they do, he’s given me a new wave of energy and motivation to be this successful.
Firstly, the scale of work that is available to designers is much bigger than I have been imagining; poster campaigns and A5 publications seem so small compared to English Heritage building complexes and Indian architecture designs built into massive steel structures. I could, one day, be working on projects like these and that blows my mind a bit. Secondly, each of his comments on Shanghai and moon bridges, alongside photos and animations, poked at how increasingly determined I am to go back to China. I know I probably talk about it too much and my current plans are very uncertain and reliant on outside forces, but hear me out.
Before this year I had absolutely no interest in Asia, no inclination of the opportunities I could be a part of or motivation to look for myself, but after visiting and hearing about just a fraction of the things that are happening there, after every talk, every article and offhand comment on social media, every friend or friend of a friend who makes their way over to the East, every step closer I get to the internship in Chengdu, the more I feel I just have to be there. If I don’t get this internship (I have to prepare for that outcome) I will put all other trips abroad on hold and enrol myself onto a Mandarin course and one day soon, find myself back somewhere in China. I am too invested now to let this idea go.
Today I filled out most of my application for an internship in China (Qingdao, Chengdu or Zhuhai to be precise). Just a couple of scanned documents and a reference from the Dean and I am set.
In order to get my written reference, Olwen asked why I wanted to go, and so I wrote out an email giving all the generic reasons why anyone would want to go to China to work for a couple of months: the language, learning new skills, gaining experience. Then I thought about it more and while what I wrote was all true, there is also a lot more China has to offer me, what I can give back and what it is exactly that I want from this. So here’s a more accurate, less formal response…
I want my life to open up before my eyes. I want to escape the South Wales community, if only temporarily, and come back with a bigger understanding, a wider reach. I want to roam around streets and fields and be completely overwhelmed, I want to not understand the language at all and have to learn for my dinner, I want to try new food and meet new people. I want to find happiness and strength in supporting myself, in knowing I have only my own judgement to keep me alive and safe. That kind of trust is exhilarating. I want the adrenaline rush of getting off a plane and the air feeling different, to be surrounded with unfamiliar smells, sights, people, animals, customs that I can only hope to learn about. I want to have conversations with people with completely different opinions to me and a completely different upbringing. I want to be swept up in the fast pace of China, to see the system with my own eyes, the quirks and subtle differences to the UK as well as the extremes, to be more aware of what the world has to offer. I want to find out what I can give back to the design industry, in China as well as the UK, to find where my skills are valuable and in which ways, and to come back hopefully alive, and proud and with stories to tell.
The more I think about this opportunity the more I want to grab hold of it with both hands and get on a plane and go. But I have to wait to fill out the rest of my application and there is probably so much competition the chances of me actually getting to go is probably rather slim. But this feels like something I really just have to do. Consider all of my fingers and toes crossed.
Friday’s tutorial was hands down the most productive thing I’ve done this academic year so far. Admittedly it was just recapping all things that we’d learned before and other than the use of Em dashes and En dashes, I didn’t learn anything new, but it was a very welcome refresher. A chance to sit down and work on my layout skills, practise working to a tight deadline and getting useful feedback was greatly appreciated. I think feedback is one of the few reasons I haven’t dropped out (we were told to be honest and I intend to be just that).
I’m not saying it was the best day, in fact I was in a foul mood for most of it, everyone was irritated me at one point or another, and a lot of the work my group did was, I think, inaccurate in representing where I think my design skills are at, but it was a productive session nonetheless.
First of all we were asked to set a block of type in a decent layout, restricted to the same size type, leading, colour etc. The point was to focus on margins and grid structure and how well and quickly we can use Adobe InDesign. After arguing on how to use the software and one of us just working on his own thing and ignoring the rest of us even after attempting to get his insight, we got on with the task and created this:
Next we were given the opportunity to add a colour and include one extra font size to the document. During this stage I figured out the last section of text would be much more legible in the form of another table.
As I mentioned above, I don’t feel like I achieved my full potential during this class, partly because of differences of opinion between the group and partly because I was just having a bad day, so I went home and spent a short amount of time just recapping on concepts learnt during the lecture and trying out an alternative design including coloured shapes appropriate to the source and sorting out the tables, as I couldn’t work out how to edit them properly on Friday in the lecture.
After this exercise we had lunch, and the Dean came in for a chat, so the small amount of creative flow was interrupted and interest in this specific task was as good as lost. So to get back into the swing of the day, we were given the new task of designing a page of the book Great Expectations. I think we did fairly well, and created two designs; one realistic, more traditional version: with one single column and an elegant title and call-out, and one more contemporary, with two columns and a more modern typeface.
[Images coming soon!]
I really enjoyed this session, David is young and enthusiastic and seems to know what he’s talking about, and I really look forward to many more of these workshops. It’s one of the main things I signed up to uni looking for, and I, as well as others in the class, wish they were a much more regular occurrence. I should probably get on with my dissertation in the meantime, starting now.