The RCA graduate show

The Royal College of Art’s graduate show is split across the RCA’s Kensington and Battersea sites, with much of the design work on show in Kensington.

The Show RCA identity, by Studio Oswald
The Show RCA identity, by Studio Oswald

I visited the Design Products, Design Interactions and Visual Communications shows and of these Design Products was my pick of the bunch.

This show featured some intriguing and worthwhile investigations into materials, manufacturing processes and functions as well as some impressive demonstrations of craft skill.

This is also the last show RCA head of design products Tord Boontje will be involved in, with the Dutch designer stepping down in September to focus on his practice.

Tom Gottelier’s work, while not necessarily easy on the eye, was a worthy investigation into the redundant capacity of UK manufacturing, with Gottelier looking to make marketable products using factory off-cuts.

Bench, by Tom Gottelier
Bench, by Tom Gottelier

David Steiner took a similar approach with his Pro Ducts furniture range, produced by ventilation and ductwork manufacturer S.Ward and Co.

Pro Ducts stools, by David Steiner
Pro Ducts stools, by David Steiner

Meanwhile Zhenhan Hao’s intriguing Imitations project saw Hao flip existing stereotypes of international manufacturing. He worked with Chinese ‘copyers’ who usually churn out replicas of existing designs, to encourage them to develop their own creative concepts. And looking at the other side of the process, Hao held a workshop with creatives in London to try to teach them how to mimic-draw a perfect circle.

This rather natty suit was made for Zhenhan Hao by Chinese 'copyer' manufacturers
This rather natty suit was made for Zhenhan Hao by Chinese ‘copyer’ manufacturers

But probably my favourite exhibit was this rolled metal bench by Nicholas Gardner and David Horan, part of a series in which the pair examine ways of producing furniture from single sheets of material.

Nicholas Gardner and David Horan's rolled-steel bench
Nicholas Gardner and David Horan’s rolled-steel bench

Over at Design Interactions there was a range of forward-thinking and occasionally perplexing projects. Some themes seem to recur in the RCA’s Design Interactions courses (future geography and explorations of human biology are common tropes) while occasionally the students’ imaginations take them off on such wild courses the projects can be hard to get a handle on.

For me it’s often the simpler ideas that work best, such as Minsu Kim’s Tactile Food project which  takes a rather extreme approach to gastronomy, imagining ‘moving food’ as part of the sensory experience of eating.

Tactile Food, by Minsu Kim (you can't tell from this photo, but the morsels are moving…)
Tactile Food, by Minsu Kim (you can’t tell from this photo, but the morsels are moving…)

And Philip Ronnenberg’s Post Cyberwar project imagines a world in which an ‘internet kill switch’ has killed off all web communcation and other networks arise, such as a ‘hacked’ citizens Teletext, using an analogue network.

Philip Ronneberg's citizens' Teletext network
Philip Ronneberg’s citizens’ Teletext network

And so to Visual Communications. I had gripes last year with the layout of this show and I’m pleased to say that this year’s is a vast improvement, with Visual Communications and Animation split out (but still alongside each other) and an exhibition design that’s much more sympathetic to the work on show, with site-specific corridor installations and more illustration-heavy work shown in the lighter, airier rooms.

The shadow of Dean of Visual Communications Neville Brody is often present, with a strong theme of social and political engagement visible in much of the work.

Rosy Penston’s newsprint posters, which open the show, tackle the issue of rising student fees and the changing landscape of higher education – a subject close to Brody’s heart (as it should be to all of ours).

Posters featuring quotes from past and present RCA students, by Rosy Penston
Posters featuring quotes from past and present RCA students, by Rosy Penston

Penston interviewed previous RCA students (including Margaret Calvert) and the current intake and presents their thoughts in these propaganda-style printouts.

And Chris Nott’s project is a linguistic exploration of ‘Multi-Cultural London English’- the ‘Peng’ and ‘Piff’-heavy youthspeak that baffles those of us over the age of 25.

'Multi-Cultural London English', by Chris Nott
‘Multi-Cultural London English’, by Chris Nott

Jack Llewellyn presented some nice editorial and typeface designs in his materials for ‘the Eady Forum’ a two-year discussion group looking at design issues.

Type design by Jack Llewellyn for the Eady Forum
Type design by Jack Llewellyn for the Eady Forum

And one of the most well-rounded exhibits was from Yeni Kim, who presented some interesting illustrations and book designs – and even some large-scale patchwork quilts…

Patchwork Quilt, by Yeni Kim
Patchwork Quilt, by Yeni Kim

Show RCA runs until 30 June at the RCA’s Kensington and Battersea sites. For More information visit www.rca.ac.uk.

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