Meet the graduates: Manchester School of Art’s Kulsum Karolia

As part of our coverage of 2021’s graduate season, we’re spending five minutes with a selection of graduates from around the UK to talk about their work, practice and future plans.

Kulsum Karolia is a 22-year-old graphic design graduate from Manchester School of Art. These end of year projects are called Lemon Tree Trust and Makeshift. 

Lemon Tree Trust stop motion video

Design Week: Can you explain what these two final projects are about?

Kulsum Karolia: The Lemon Tree Trust is a non-profit organisation transforming refugee camps through the power of gardening. The simple act of gardening has had a profound impact on mental health, giving people hope, restoring dignity and surrounding them with beauty.

I was truly touched by the work the organisation was carrying out so after getting in contact with them, I spoke to their Operations and Comms Director, Jennie Spears and she was able to tell me about the incredible work happening across the different camps and how I could help. I decided to create a video for them which would sit alongside their existing online presence, helping them to raise more awareness.

Meanwhile Makeshift is a collection of stories by creative individuals responding to how they have adapted to the restrictions around them while working from home during the pandemic. The publication has been influenced by the innovative thinking behind small space builds. With space and multifunction in mind, the reader is invited to interact with the pages throughout the publication.

The size of the book was influenced by the measurements of the room I have been working in over the past year and each page has been printed on different textured GF Smith Paper. Everything that has been cut out during the process of making this book has been reused in various ways throughout the pages and the entire publication has been created at home.

A page from Makeshift

DW: What would you say your biggest inspirations are?

KK: I love to read indie magazines and books. Rucksack Magazine, Natura Journal and Drift Magazine are three of my favourites. Talking to people, hearing stories: there’s something really special in storytelling which I find very inspiring. I think nature and sport also play an important role in keeping me inspired, but I think inspiration can be found everywhere even in the places we’d least expect – which is the beauty of this profession.

Lemon Tree Trust stop motion video close up

DW: What is your ideal job and why?

KK: Ideally I’d love to work in a multidisciplinary studio. I have quite varied styles and I enjoy being able to work on a range of diverse projects rather than focusing on just one aspect of design.

Another page from Makeshift

You can view Kulsum’s other work, alongside her peers’, as part of the Manchester School of Art graphic design students’ own showcase, Brave New Normal, or through her website,

Read our full 2021 graduate show guide here. 

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