Meet the graduates: Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Michelle Voortman

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.

Michelle Voortman is a 21-year-old BA Graphic Communication Design graduate from Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her final project is called Reflect the Times.

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

Michelle Voortman: Reflect the Times is an experimental, process-led design project surrounding a genre of music I have always been fascinated by: jazz. Today’s perspectives on jazz heavily stereotype the genre as merely being “mood music”, associating it with luxury, class, and ambience. Through the complex evolution of jazz, we have forgotten the core of the genre: to express, protest and reflect the times.

Reviving and understanding the power of jazz as a means of protest will allow for a more meaningful, impactful, and sustainable evolution of this music. This first issue of a quarterly magazine, Reflect the Times, visualises jazz protest songs and expressively narrates the issues being raised. In light of the digital-physical fluidity of the music industry, an archival website adds an audio element to the experience of the visual publication. It also offers a deeper contextual understanding of the featured music and its artists.

DW: What was most challenging about the design process?

Being confident and comfortable with breaking rules! I tend to be more of a perfectionist with everything in life, so using typography, grid systems, colours, and textures in ways that aren’t traditional to editorial design was a positive challenge. I was also faced with challenges in terms of the cultural context to each song and the protest story told. I had to consider how my own cultural background influences the audience’s perception when communicating such culturally specific stories, and to what extent it would be considered acceptable.

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

MV: After graduation, hopefully I’ll be working in a design studio alongside some talented, creative, like-minded people, where we all have one thing in common – using design for genuine positive change in the world!

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