Plasma sell

Yolanda Zappaterra visits this year’s New Blood show, as four designers/design educators pick their favourites

Anna Leaver's Multiple Sclerosis
Anna Leaver’s Multiple Sclerosis

It’s degree shows season and despite colleges bending over backwards to help you see them you’re still likely to miss some key shows and, more importantly, some great new talent.

Drawing together work by some 1200 design and advertising students from 60 college and university courses, D&AD’s New Blood, held last week at the Commonwealth Galleries, is a great opportunity to contrast and identify trends, styles and talent from the next generation of designers – and to cherry pick the best. We asked four designers and design educators to review their ‘best’. The Design Week panel – Vince Frost and his studio, Jonathan Ellery of Browns, Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates, and illustrator and Royal College of Art tutor Marion Deuchars – made their selections on their own. Yet more than once they chose the same pieces, suggesting that ‘best’, while difficult to quantify, is undoubtedly identifiable.

Also, the value and influence of a good course combined with good tutors still wields massive power. As Deuchars explains, ‘I felt a bit guilty choosing two students from the same college, but I made my selections on the work rather than where they came from. The work from Kingston was of a particularly high standard, and Buckinghamshire too. I can only come to the conclusion that there is a good combination of tutor/course there.

‘This was also reflected in the selection process and presentation of the work, which was markedly higher in standard. Sometimes too from my experience in teaching, a good group of students inspire the whole group and bring the standard up a few notches, like in a race when you have a few fast runners, the ones at the back of the pack end up running faster too.’

Adam Hayes' The Linnet
Adam Hayes’ The Linnet

What they were all looking for, as Frost and Deuchars respectively put it, was ‘primarily exciting, new and challenging ideas, but also beautiful execution,’ combined with ‘innovation, energy, images and ideas that grasped one fairly quickly and communicated well.’

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Frost Design

‘Kingston University stood out as having strong ideas that were well crafted. We were especially impressed by the graphic design and the illustration work at Kingston, particularly Anna Leaver’s piece, Multiple Sclerosis. It’s just a fantastic idea, a really simple way of explaining something that to many may be thought of as a very complicated subject,’ says Vince Frost. Leaver’s response to the Young Creatives Network brief she found on the Web developed from her extensive research into MS, which she discovered was about networks, communications and signal failure: ‘The nature of the illness, combined with diagrams of the nervous system, made me realise there were obvious parallels with the Tube and the Tube map,’ she explains.

Marion Deuchars also liked her piece. ‘It combined high technical skill, a great idea and concept into very arresting imagery concerning the awareness of MS in young people. Her underground body map is quite stunning and I found myself studying it in detail, following the lines and map coding. You can’t ask for anything more than that in a poster; strong visual impact followed by informative, inspiring design,’ she says.

Lee Belcher
Lee Belcher

Marion Deuchars

‘I chose Adam Hayes from Buckinghamshire for his strong visual illustration. I like the folded paper and the mix of text and image. They work in the way that a strong picture should in that they attract you first and foremost. I wondered how he had produced them, it had a deliberate “low tech” and crafted feel using what looked like silk-screen. It is refreshing, simple and charming,’ says Deuchars.

Hayes’ series of five posters on the theme of things in the shadows are all hand-drawn and letterpressed on newsprint to create that low-tech feel identified by Deuchars. ‘They developed from a theme of surveillance in the sense of observing rather than watching,’ explains Hayes, ‘and because of their subject, the idea of someone or something being hidden, or forgotten (in the case of the third astronaut on the moon, for example, we all remember Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but who remembers Michael Collins?) the materials and techniques seemed right,’ he adds.

Andy Altmann

Why Not Associates

‘Alexis Mardapittas of Middlesex’s work made me smile. It’s a great idea, nicely shot and well executed. It’s great to see something so immediate and organic, without being forced. That’s quite an achievement at any level of design, but particularly at student level. And I love the way it moves design ideas away from the computer, it’s a very hands-on project,’ says Altman.

Alexix Mardapittas' Screwed Font
Alexix Mardapittas’ Screwed Font

Mardapittas’ “screwed font” was his response to a D&AD Student Awards brief for expressive typography, and developed from the idea of finding a type that describes the annoyance or anger you feel when something’s not going right: ‘It started with the idea of problems at the printing stage and the frustration that anyone feels at that, and the logical extension was exploring the idea of screwed up bits of paper and associated language, which is where the swearwords came in. I wasn’t originally looking to use them, but then as the idea and direction developed I knew that they were right,’ says Mardapittas. Altmann agrees; ‘I saw one of the words before seeing the whole font and couldn’t make it out, but once I did it was obviously right.’

jonathan Ellery

Browns

‘My choice is Lee Belcher from Middlesex. I liked the pace between the series of images and the dysfunctionalism of his imagery and type. A lot of work at Browns involves the skill of art direction, the ability to see an image before it exists, and I thought Belcher’s work as a series showed good art directional promise ahead of schedule, which is quite rare in a student,’ says Ellery.

Andy Altmann also liked Belcher’s work, a series of poems about water. ‘For someone at student level it’s outstanding, particularly on the grid and the urinal images.’

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