5 important things that happened in design this week

A revamped Natural History Museum was unveiled, art and design university applications fell dramatically and Sky Sports got a new look – the design news from the last seven days.

New figures showed that fewer people are opting to study design

This year’s university application figures were announced by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) this week, revealing a 5% drop in students applying for art and design courses.

Applications for Creative Arts and Design subjects have fallen by 14,000 since 2016, coinciding with a 4% overall decline in university applications this year.

While art and design courses have seen a drop in the number of both UK and EU students applying to them, interestingly 2,000 additional non-EU international students submitted applications this year.

UCAS’ announcement follows the declining numbers of UK school students opting to take arts subjects at GCSE level – 46,000 fewer last year than in 2015.

The Government’s focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects has been touted as one of the possible causes for the decline. The English Baccalaureate qualification it has spearheaded makes it compulsory for GCSE students to take english, maths, science, a language and a humanity, while prime minister Theresa May’s recent industrial strategy largely focuses on STEM, digital and numeracy skills.

Commenting on the latest revelation about university applications, Plymouth College of Art (PCA) principal Tim Bolton, said: “The Government’s fixation on targets and accountability around EBacc subjects such as english and maths are resulting in art, design, media, music and performance programmes being relegated in our national curriculum.

“I’d expect the number of students applying for art and design subjects at university to continue to drop for as long as the Government continues to devalue creative education.”


The Government announced design tenders for HS2

Proposal for HS2 overhead line structures, by Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald

£6.6bn worth of design, master-planning and engineering contracts for the UK Government’s divisive High Speed Two (HS2) rail network were revealed this week.

These include a tender for the master-planning and design of new stations for Birmingham Curzon Street, Birmingham Interchange and London’s Old Oak Common, and an expansion of London Euston.

Shortlisted parties for the contract include Arup, Mott MacDonald, WSP, Arcadis and a consortium comprising Jacobs, BuroHappold and Idom.

The shortlist for the separate Euston Master Development Partner contract – which will see mix-used development opportunities such as new homes, offices and retail space – includes Westfield Europe, Euston Regeneration Partnership, Canary Wharf Group, Land Securities Property Holding and Lendlease Europe Holdings.

The £56bn rail network – which will establish new, high-speed routes between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and is due to be completed by 2033 – has faced criticism from both environmentalists and libertarian groups such as the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

However, supporters have suggested that HS2 will help bring investment to traditionally neglected areas in the North of England. Brand consultancy Edit_ recently designed the place branding for a local enterprise collaboration between Staffordshire and Cheshire, which is aiming to deliver 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs to the area by 2040.


The Natural History Museum unveiled its first major redesign since the 1970s

The fruits of a five-year redevelopment programme at the Natural History Museum in London were revealed this week, with a 25-metre blue whale skeleton called Hope becoming the focal point of its revamped entrance hall.

Exhibition design consultancy Casson Mann led the redesign of the hall and its display areas, with a brief to reposition the institution as a “natural history museum for the future”.

The replacement of Dippy the Diplodocus skeleton cast with Hope ties in with this thinking, according to the Natural History Museum director Sir Michael Dixon.

While blue whales were hunted to the brink of extinction by humans in the 1960s, they are also one of the first species that the human population has made an effort to save on a global scale, Dixon explained.

“Putting our blue whale at the centre of the Museum, between living species on the West and extinct species on the East, is a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the responsibility we have towards our planet,” he added.


Sky Sports was rebranded

Sky Sports underwent the most significant brand overhaul in its 26-year history, with a revamped channel offering and new visual identity being revealed this week.

The sports broadcaster has introduced a number of new channels dedicated to the Premier League, football, cricket, golf and Formula One – bringing its total number of channels to 10 – and updated how customers can choose different viewing packages.

Created by Sky’s in-house design team Sky Creative and London-based studio Nomad, the identity looks to reflect these changes.

While each channel’s look is based on overall brand guidelines encompassing typography, tone-of-voice and set design, they have also been given their own unique personalities, such as “focus and precision” for golf and “atmospheric and iconic” for Premier League.

Sky Creative and Nomad have also designed a more refined, lowercase logo for Sky Sports, which has been developed in collaboration with typographer Miles Newlyn.

The new identity has now rolled out across all touchpoints.


Subway’s stores got a fresh new look

Fast-food restaurant chain Subway announced a global store redesign this week, which has been developed by US-based retail design consultancy FRCH Design Worldwide.

The Fresh Forward concept focuses on developing Subway’s use of in-store technology, such as self-order kiosks, digital menu boards and USB charging points.

As the name suggests, the concept also looks to highlight the brand’s use of “fresh ingredients”, with more visible display areas for ingredients such as tomatoes, green peppers and onions, which are prepared daily in its restaurants.

The store redesign comes after Subway’s 2016 rebrand, which was carried out by consultancy Turner Duckworth’s New York office.

The new store design is currently being piloted in 12 locations across the US, Canada and the UK, including in Manchester. Subway has not confirmed when a wider roll out of the concept will take place.

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