Meet the graduates: University of Leeds’ Olivia Hughes

As part of our 2023 graduate season coverage, we’re speaking with a selection of graduates from around the UK about their final projects and future plans.

Olivia Hughes is a 22-year-old BA Graphic and Communication Design graduate from University of Leeds. Her final project is called Ted and Olive’s Great Adventures.

Design Week: Can you explain your project and motivation for doing it?

Olivia Hughes: My idea for Ted and Olive’s Great Adventures began during my foundation year, where I started to explore the concept of a children’s book based on myself and my brother Edward. Fast forward to my final year at the University of Leeds, I decided to take on the challenge of developing this concept and formed the following brief for myself: design a project that celebrates disability visibility for early years readers.

My response is a 30-page children’s book created digitally using a tablet. The book seeks to positively represent physical disabilities for all early years readers and aims to encourage positive conversation surrounding disability. Of course, the book is also designed to allow young children with physical disabilities to feel represented in storytelling.

My motivation for creating this book comes from my relationship with my brother. My brother has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is a wheelchair user. Growing up I have been exposed to the exclusion of people with disabilities throughout many aspects of life. Lack of accessibility in public spaces and the lack of representation of disabilities on television and in storytelling are just a few examples. This really drove me to create a children’s book which does not directly address disability through words or the story line; the book simply includes a character with a disability who, along with his sister, ventures on a series of outdoor pursuits.

DW: What was most challenging about the design process?

OH: Since joining the University of Leeds my work has mostly focused on branding and advertising. Setting myself an illustration brief for my final year project felt like a new and exciting challenge.

The most challenging part of this process was the beginning, where I explored multiple illustration styles looking to generate a unique style that felt suitable for the concept and was appealing to children. I started this process by developing a range of potential character assets and further explored these styles through background assets and scenery such as trees and animals. This development process was essential to forming a cohesive style and set of illustrations.

Selecting appropriate colours and tones was also important. I wanted the book to be super cheery, appealing and fun for the young readers. Creating this tone meant having to test multiple colour variations for backgrounds in order to figure out which colours best suited certain assets, all to really allow children to immerse themselves in the story and engage with the characters.

DW: Where do you see your design career in the future?

OH: My work over the past three years at university forms a wide-ranging design portfolio which includes branding, user interface design, advertising and illustration work. These experiences have driven my desire to explore different avenues of design over the coming years, as I develop as a designer and hone my craft, while navigating the vast, multifarious world of design.

Branding has always been something which intrigues me as it gives you the opportunity to give a company a voice and personality, ultimately to aid its success and recognisability in the world. I also wish to develop Ted and Olive into a series of books, whether as a private project or alongside a publishing company.

Check out other graduate projects from this year’s cohorts here.

You can find our guide to 2023 graduate design shows here.

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