In attending the graduate exhibition after I had received my end of first year results, I gained a huge insight in to the work that the graduates were producing. A lot of the work I saw was brilliant; I was thoroughly enjoying looking through the many different pathways the final year students had chosen to investigate and study. One of our summer projects is to choose three graduate students whose work we liked and write a blog post explaining why, and also make contact with the students directly and ask them a few questions

After looking at many students work (from Graphic Design, Illustration, Architecture etc), there were three (Graphic Design) students that stood out to me; the first was Mack Stevens. As well as looking at each students work, I picked up each student’s business card I could – to look at their work in detail later on. Mack’s business card is one that immediately stood out to me. The card is printed on a very high quality silkcard, which gives the card a really nice smooth texture whilst keeping the thickness and quality. The card features Mack’s personal logo in a white fill on a green background. The rear is information-based and includes four ways to contact Mack; through his website, his email, his telephone number and his twitter. Mack uses a green accent throughout the type to show categories and headings, which I really like.

After looking at Mack’s site, the first thing I notice is how well designed it is. After now studying his web design work, I would say that he has designed/manipulated it himself, and got it looking exactly how he wanted. The first project which gained my attention heavily was the branding project for Back Yard Bike Repair. The logo Mack created is made up of the letters B, Y, B, R (the initials of the brand) and manipulated them into the shape of a bike. This looks visually stunning, and the way he has arranged and designed the letters makes you really question and investigate the hidden message. The business cards, clothing and social media skins that were created for BYBR all look fantastic; they are all clearly designed uniformly – unlike some branding projects which I have seen that jump styles from a poster to business card.

Another piece of work by Mack that I love is his work titled ‘The Crux’. A quote from Mack reads: “This brief challenged the creative to produce an identity for a gallery in the new Birmingham Institute of Art & Design building. I believe that the work being displayed in the gallery is the outcome of the students work and the most significant aspect. Therefore, it is ‘The Crux’. After I decided on the name of The Crux, I went on to develop a number of accompanying visuals.” The logo for this brief is outstanding once again; the phrase ‘The Crux’ is in perspective like a building; which works well with it being for an exhibition space. The logo looks very architectural – as if it was a building drawn by an architect, like a building plan. Mack also created a series of different colour schemes and phrases for this logotype, and he then implemented these into lifestyle situations such as billboard designs. The final piece I love from The Crux project is a magazine (cover). The imagery/photography used is stunning; a great way to engage the viewer, and he has the hierarchy spot on; the text is placed brilliantly to eliminate the blank space without drawing attention from the image.

The final thing I loved from Mack was the web design that was featured in his portfolio. After being at a placement all summer with Connect Advertising in Wolverhampton, I witnessed both creative and digital design and my interest in web design has grown. Mack took the time to design screens responsively for desktop and mobile (and I presume tablet, even though it was not included on his site). The design uses a wide Carousel that rotates with images from the exhibition, along with a grid below. I would love to see the site live (or more pages) to investigate it further, but at a first glance, I am really impressed with the work Mack Stevens has produced.

“I’ve been trying to think about a piece of advice I could give you as a student about to enter their second year. When I was going into my second year, I was still very unsure about what I wanted to specialise in and I had no real style. From looking at your site (Some great work by the way) it seems to me that you have adapted a distinctive style with a good use of typography and imagery to convey your ideas which is great to see. If I were you, I’d start to read books on the areas of design you are most interested in. I didn’t do this until I had to start researching for my dissertation this time last year. From improving my knowledge in Branding and Brand Design, I began to understand what a brand was and how it related to an audience. This then informed my ideas and concluded in an overall stronger outcome. Basically be as knowledgeable as possible about your area of design and it will only enhance your creative ideas.”

The second student I chose was Daniel Cooper. Daniel’s business card also featured his logo; a D and a C in a serif typeface, which crossed like earring in an earlobe. The simplicity and elegance of the logo stood out to me immediately, as the intersections of the letters are at the thickest and thinnest points of the letters – so when the D is thick at the top of the curve, the c is thin at the height of the letterform. Unusually, Daniel’s business card is portrait rather than landscape – which Daniel has designed well, but I think when I design my own personal branding, I will design for a landscape canvas to start, as I prefer the more traditional landscape feel.

Moving on to Daniel’s portfolio, again I was really interested by the first piece of work I saw – a project titled ‘Uni Portfolio’. At first I was a bit confused to what it actually was, but after studying it, I found out it was less of a ‘project’ (creating new work) and more of an outcome ‘branding’ (taking old work, collating it, and making it all better). Daniel created hand screen printed boxes for his work to go in, his final outcomes were professionally printed onto 150gsm flecked/recycled paper and collated everything together to look like a series and not individual pieces over his course. I think this is a great idea – it really shows how he has consistently designed to a high standard in all of his projects.

My second favourite project of Daniel’s was his B-hive digital design entry. The final outcomes looked stunning, but I particularly like how he has included the scamps and grid sketches of the web pages that he created prior to moving on to the digital side. The final webpages look fantastic; an elegant, simple user interface – which looks easy to navigate around and suits the contemporary feel students will be after when surfing this web page. Finding live projects like this inspired me to look for the same when I start my second year; and even look earlier over the summer for things to do when I am not ‘busy’ with Uni work or placements.

The third and final designed by Daniel that I will mention is a little project he did with his work books. After earlier mentioning I really liked the ‘DC’ logo (as featured on the business cards), this is only re-enforced by this self-branding project. Daniel had screen printed his logo on to a series of sketchbooks, which I presume he used for his Uni projects. I think that doing this is such a nice little touch to your make your work book(s) (RVJs) more personal and more professional. I think when I solidify my own personal logo and branding project, I may investigate in to getting my own stationery printed/made.

“The best advice I could give is grab as many opportunities through uni and off your own back as you can. Don’t just rely on uni projects to get you through the course, do self-initiated projects and try and get some freelance work that you can use in your portfolio, this will stand you out from the others.”

The final student I chose to feature is Olly Sorsby. Like the previous two, I really like Olly’s business card. Printed on a recycled card, Olly combines textures and vector sharp lines and shapes which create a lovely clash of the old and the new – the retro and the vintage, and the phrase ‘digital craftsmanship’ which I think sums this up perfectly.

Moving on to his portfolio, and again the first thing I notice is the general design. Olly’s website features a header image of Olly in his own workspace (on his mac), which as you scroll up and down, the visible area moves like a clipping mask, so we see more of the image the more we investigate his site. The layout of the site is also very clean and simple – a perfect example of how I think a portfolio should be.

Having looked at Daniel Cooper’s project on B-Hive project, the first project I was drawn to of Olly’s was the same brief. Just like Daniel, Olly had included high quality photos of the scamps and ideas of the logo; which I really like as you can see the full thought process rather than just the final outcomes. Olly then created two varied colour schemes using cream and brown and a constant honey like colour, which is a nice link back to the ‘Beehive’. He then went on to included branding, such as designed letter heads, pencils, badges etc, which all looked fantastic. The next image looked to be a brand guideline brochure, that after inspecting closely, it was a joint project by Olly and Dan (the previous featured student); which explains similarities in the general design. I think in my second year at uni after the summer, I will investigate into what B-Hive 2014 ‘is’.

Another project by Olly that interested me greatly was Olly’s personal branding. This is something which I keep on mentioning that I want to create for myself (but never have time with Uni and a long summer placement, along with finding it hard to design for myself). Olly started with showing us his original sketches – which you can see the start of the final logo very easily. We then see a variety of different colour schemes and variations using type and his logo. More items were featured, such as wood block stamps, branded work books and mini disks. This logo/design was then used on a final workbook showing ‘pretty much everything’ that Olly had designed in his Uni course.

The final project of Olly’s I am going to feature is a ‘Friends of Vis Com’ project. As a Vis Com student myself, the title would obviously attract me. Created was a type-based logo where the c and the o are connected in a shape similar to the infinity logo. This logo was then applied to a variety of subtle, textured photographic backgrounds relating to Vis Com. Again, photographs of Olly’s notebook were included. These are again stunning to look at, as you can see many many ideas that were not used, but all influenced the final outcome. Olly then applied this logo as branding on letter heads and business cards.

Unfortunately, after emailing Olly, I never received a reply. I will try again, and see if I can find him on any social media sites and update this post accordingly.

In conclusion, I was really impressed by the work I saw at the graduate exhibitions and I’m sure I will visit again next year, and maybe some of the other local Uni’s, as I have found I gained a much greater insight into what other students are doing, how they think and how they are getting on in this industry.

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