Tom Morgan is a 21-year-old BA Product Design Engineering graduate from Cardiff University. His final project is 1520.
Design Week: Can you briefly explain what your final project was about?
Tom Morgan: This project is based upon research and findings from my dissertation thesis, which delves into hip-hop’s past and present. Being a fan of rap and hip-hop provided me with different insights, including cultural and social issues like the containment that Black communities suffered within the South Bronx. Hip-hop and rap gave those communities a voice.
1520 is named after the birthplace of hip-hop. Hip-hop was created by DJ Kool Herc, who created the first ever block party where all of the South Bronx first heard the genre. The street was called 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, South Bronx, New York.
The ethos and purpose of the 1520 installation is to communicate the changes that have happened between the 1970s-80s golden age of hip-hop and the 21st century interpretation of the genre. The message behind the installation is that hip could be losing its hop. 1520 is meant to educate people and help them reflect on where hip hop is today.
My installation is an exploration of change and identity. It aims to explain why it’s important to understand and appreciate one of the biggest music genres of modern times and highlight that when something grows it changes, but not always for the better.
I developed the installation as a communication tool in an attempt to explore the different avenues hip-hop is taking and visualising this through graphic expressions of rappers lyrics. In this way I avoid making any assumptions, which allows existing and new fans of rap to participate in the conversation. The result is a part visual and part audio-visual dialogue to support my ambition of challenging rap.
DW: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
TM: When thinking back to the start of my final major project, brain storming, mind mapping and ideation were the most difficult aspects. We had lots of creative freedom but the only thing that fascinated me was my biggest hobby – music and the genre of hip-hop/rap. I researched the topic for a whole year, even before starting my FMP, for my academic dissertation.
I was inspired to turn this research a powerful installation. However, my passion, love and opinion for the industry started to slightly take over from the facts. This was difficult to overturn and became a massive hurdle to jump in terms of the direction of the project. Through watching documentaries, listening to music (old and new), reading journals, I gained the understanding of the genre that I needed to create 1520.
DW: Where do you see your design career in five years?
TM: Throughout university I have been challenged and feel I have grown more and more into a designer. Winning a D&AD New Blood 2022 pencil award gave me more confidence, driving me to become a graphic designer. My dream career is to be a creative senior or director within the music industry, travelling across the world listening to all types of music, and creating and visualising stories.
In five years, I would like to have experienced different cultures, work within a studio space collaborating with other creatives, and have a job which involves creating brands with purpose, meaning and message.
More of this year’s graduate projects can be found here.