Another school year is over. End-of-term shows are being toured dutifully by proud parents and combed keenly by the talent scouts. This is the moment when students with ideas, originality and some sparkle have the chance to really shine.
After more than a decade of visiting end-of-year shows, I must confess to suffering from the occasional wave of feeling hopelessly jaded. This washes over me in all disciplines, and is probably at its most all-engulfing in ceramics and photography where student work rarely seems to have moved on from 20 years ago. Every intake seems to have its Lucie Rie and Man Ray. However, although the situation is less severe in graphic design, the past few years have produced a flood of Carson copies. If I see another project with tipsy type… And there is the ubiquitous use of recycled paper…
Of course, students have always learned by imitation, but I have a suspicion that the encouragement to move on from that is sometimes absent. Many colleges have learned that a broader outlook is one very positive step towards the creation of a broader range of work. Here, paper companies and merchants including Robert Horne, MoDo, Classic Papers and Arjo Wiggins have helped – students take part in competitions, they establish relationships with companies working in the real world and take on live briefs. They get to grips with thinking before doing.
How amazingly refreshing, then, to happen upon graphic students’ work that can stop you dead in your tracks. Here is just a sample of some of the most dazzling stuff on show this summer.
Royal College of Art, Graphic Design
The complete antithesis of the greeting card was the goal set by Daniel Eatock in his anarchic stationery designs. The cards are not glossy, they’re not highly illustrated, nor are they colourfully printed. ‘I was much more interested in making use of the cheapest possible material like pulp board and incorporating systems, for example, by making the cards interactive. Some have multiple choice boxes so they can even be reused,’ says Eatock.
Each card bears the line ‘Say YES to fun and function and NO to seductive imagery and colour!’
London College of Printing, School of Retail Studies
Earlier this year, paper company Arjo Wiggins invited students from the School of Retail Studies to experiment with its latest range of papers in the Conqueror New Palette series. The brief was simple; the paper was to be made into ‘whatever you want it to be’. Many of the students chose to complete work involving complex cut-outs. However, the most startling results were achieved by competition runner-up Fumiko Uno, who created panels of colour and folded papers which would make the most elegant hangings in a retail interior.
Falmouth College of Art, Graphic Design
The idea of communication was central to the huge experimental project undertaken by Caroline Adams. ‘I worked on this first digitally, but eventually found my way to paper because it remains our major method of communication. Also, because my previous work was very tight, I wanted to work with a material that was tactile and allowed me to experiment with textures,’ says Adams. The project began with a collection of poems written by Adams.
‘I wanted to transmit the poems as images. I made a lot of the papers myself using all sorts of materials, many of which were embedded with things such as string, sawdust, flowers, glitter and eggshells. The image was then built by mixing the papers with photography and drawing,’ she adds.
Paul Buck, David Spears, Anne Stagg
Croydon College, Graphic Design
Having established a long-running relationship with the paper merchant Classic Papers, Croydon College is involved in a year-round series of projects with the company. ‘This collaboration, with its practical projects suggested by Classic Papers throughout the year, provides invaluable experience for students,’ explains practice studio manager at Croydon College Sallyanne Theodosiou. ‘The practical aspects of paper specification and print production which they learn within the context of these real work situations would be difficult to achieve through projects.’ The latest project by Paul Buck, David Spears and Anne Stagg is a complex, small, paper concertina which acts as a showcase of students work – inside are cards featuring students’ projects along with contact details. Called Spectrum, the neat pack divides into seven sections to show the rainbow diversity of student work.
Camberwell College of Arts, Books Arts
Wittily described as being available in an unlimited edition, Karen Bleitz’s book called Dolly is a clever encapsulation of the cloning debate. It has pages and text and a cover, but it’s far from conventional. Text is restricted to appearing on the covers with the ‘pages’ virginal white. More than that, they are sheep-shaped, hand cut with a fret saw, and they pop out of the middle of the publication. This book does not spell out the arguments, instead, it confronts us with notions of reproduction, editioning, technologies, rules and structure. ‘By opening the book and removing the sheep-shaped book within, the reader has become an agent of its creation,’ explains Bleitz. ‘Although the issue can be closed or put aside, we realise that we cannot unlearn discovery.’