The design courses blog for BA (Hons)
and HND Vis Comm at Edinburgh College

We Love Collaboration

29 August 2014

It was a busy induction week for all three of our Graphic Design groups. The HND and HNC classes (totalling 40 students) collaborated on a project which included a day-long workshop in screen-printing, led by one of our final-year students, Sarah Diver-Lang, who teaches printmaking and booking binding at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts.

Sarah Diver-Lang demonstrates screen printing in R310.

With some screen-printing skills under their belts, in teams of four, the students explored a word or phrase and then produced a set of scamps and a bunch of A3 posters showing off their concepts. For many it was their first introduction to a more traditional approach to design execution - and certainly a messier one than we normally see in the studio. We'll put some of the work up from the project on Pinterest later this week.

Studio pics by Tanis Grandison

Our new NC class also got in on the activities by exhibiting a series of 16 A2 moodboards which they'd worked on during the week as part of their 'Colour Me Impressed' project. These samples give a pretty good indication of some great exploration of colour, mood and tone :

Red by Adam Rauch

Spectrum by Lindsay Walker 

Orange by Hannah Lark
There are more moodboard samples on our Pinterest Boards.

Colour Me Impressed

24 August 2014

Today we welcomed our new NC Graphics students to the course, and after a short presentation and some course-related housekeeping, we got down to business of getting them started by issuing a 3-day project 'Colour Me Impressed'.  The idea of this project is to get our fledgling designers thinking about visual signals and emotional responses, and to look at one of the basic building blocks of visual communication, colour. They'll put together a sketchbook and an A2 mood board exploring their favourite colour.

To get everyone talking about colour, we'll be taking the class to the Fruitmarket Gallery on Tuesday morning to catch the Jim Lambie exhibition (running from 27 June – 19 October).

Zobop at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Pic by Alasdair Muir.

Lambie is one of Scotland's most important and original contemporary artists. Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2005, he uses bright colours, lines, shapes and everyday objects to create dazzling pattern-based artworks, including his most famous work 'ZOBOP', a floor-based psychedelic sculpture of continuous coloured lines of vinyl tape that can be exhibited on any floorspace with mesmerising results.

Let's hope this provides useful inspiration for the project. The class will mount their work on Thursday at 2pm in the studio corridor, then join the HN classes in the studio to celebrate the end of induction week and the start of their design education.

Start Me Up

21 August 2014

We're just about there with the induction planning for the start of the 2014-2015 session. Our induction programme picked up an award last year at the College Development Network (for Innovation in Learning and Teaching), so we hopefully know a thing or two about putting together a memorable first week for our design students.

This year the HNC and HND groups will have a week-long collaborative project involving some hand-on screen-printing, whilst the NC group will visit a major art exhibition in Edinburgh and then use that as inspiration to explore the basics of visual communication, and produce a presentation. The NC group will also be issued with this extensive bursary pack, which includes A3 sketchbooks, a bunch of essential pieces of stationary, a cutting board, notebooks, and a couple of excellent large format design books, including Steven Heller's '100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design'.

The starting dates for induction week are:
NC - Monday 25th, 9.30am in Studio R310
HNC - Monday 25th, 1pm in Studio R310
HND - Tuesday 26th, 9am in Studio R310

Summer Placement : Q&A

12 August 2014

During the summer break,  HND Graphic Design student Stephanie Dalzell was lucky enough to secure a 2-week work placement with one of Scotland's top creative agencies, the Union.  Steph formed a creative pairing with one of our 2014 graduates, Ross Turnbull, and talks here about her experience at the agency under the watchful eye of Union Direct's Creative Director, Dawn Kermani.

Was this your first student placement?
I had worked with two other agencies, RAPP and Whitespace, as part of the 'One Week' projects at College. So this was my first independent placement, but having some prior experience gave me a bit more confidence and meant I had a vague idea of what to expect.

What did you know about the agency beforehand?
I knew a few people from the course who had completed placements there. My first impression was that they were primarily focused on digital design, but after some research I learned that their work was much more varied. While I was in the office I became aware of some of their successful campaigns for clients ranging from Vladivar Vodka to VisitScotland.

Your thoughts on the first day?
The building was very impressive and the whole office had a friendly and welcoming attitude. The departments were quite spread out and it seemed like there was a lot going on, which meant plenty to get involved with. I was keen to learn abut the various facets of the company, and particularly where design could take me. Dawn gave us a tour and there were plenty of introductions which made it much easier to settle in and get started. There were a few students from other Colleges and Universities and it was obvious that the agency was very involved with placements. The rest of the staff seemed quite comfortable having us there which put me at ease.

Who gave you the brief and what was that like?
We were invited to a meeting where the creative team were discussing their plans for the brief. We were given a copy and listened to their initial thoughts and ideas. This was a great way of easing us into it, and gave us an impression of how they had approached the task in the past. The brief involved refreshing a recruitment brand for a large public sector client, and was particularly focused on bringing young professionals to the area. We felt we could contribute some fresh ideas for the target market and were eager to get started. We researched the work that Union had previously produced for the client in order to understand what they were looking for. Our deadline was the end of the following week, when the placement was due to finish.

You were one half of a placement pairing, how did that work out?
I enjoyed being one half of a creative duo and I felt that Ross and I worked well together. We had a lot of interesting conversations which turned into great ideas, and were supportive of each other’s suggestions. It was occasionally a struggle to organise the work as we were both somewhat reluctant to take charge for fear of stepping on the other’s toes. We would usually make a list of tasks and then divide them up, checking in with each other throughout the day to make sure we were on the same page. We also had a regular morning meeting which helped us to stay on track. Combining our two visual styles was sometimes difficult but the feedback from the creative team helped us to identify the best parts of our work. They were keen to emphasise the importance of defining the roles within a team, in our case the writer and the art director. This wasn’t easy but has encouraged me to consider my own strengths and how I can best put them to use.

How did the agency manage the project?
Dawn checked in with us regularly but generally we were given a lot of freedom. We were allowed to choose when our progress would be reviewed and so planned our own schedule. We gave an initial informal presentation during the first week and received some great feedback. It was really helpful to see the project from a more experienced point of view, since there were a few factors we hadn’t taken into consideration. Everyone was very encouraging and we felt our contributions were appreciated. Our final presentation took place within the creative team’s office and again went well. It wasn’t overwhelming, mainly due to our experience of presenting to large groups and real clients on course projects. We felt confident and were proud of our ideas, which were well received.

What skills did you draw upon during the placement? 
One of the main challenges of the placement was determining each other’s strengths and dividing the work accordingly. During my time I built upon my organisational skills, striving to make decisions and lay out a plan as quickly as possible. The step-by-step design process taught at College was invaluable, particularly because we were primarily working independently. Having a structure to stick to prevented us from getting lost in the brief. Brainstorming also played a key role. Taking plenty of time to explore our ideas meant that our final concept had a strong foundation and we could argue it convincingly. We had considered various options before we arrived at the final conclusion. The team at the agency encouraged this process and allowed us plenty of creative freedom.

What will you take into your final year of study from this experience?
This placement has definitely built up my confidence and made me aware of my ability to work well within this environment. Having some industry experience will hopefully help to focus my work, and the feedback I have received will stay with me as I develop new projects. The Union in particular highlighted the importance of honing your digital skills, and I’ll be dedicating a lot more time to this in the following year. The creative industries are highly competitive but I now feel I have a better idea of what will be expected from me.

Essential Reading

7 August 2014

It's been out-of-print for the best part of ten years, but at last, just in time for the new term, Paul Rand's 'Thoughts on Design' is available again. In this classic text of 164 pages (featuring 94 halftone illustrations and 8 colour plates), Rand describes and explains his ideas about the role of design in the world, showing how symbols and type, underpinned by strong conceptual thinking, can be combined to create the pure and clear kind of visual communication that we're all familiar with in modern branding and corporate identity.

Rand's philosophy is summed up in his most well-known quote - "Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations", and of course he has plenty of brilliant examples of his work to back this up - ABC, IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and Enron to name but a few.

Along with Reid Miles and Lester Beall, Rand (1914-1996) was a leading proponent of an Americanised commercial approach to the Swiss Style, and this little book is a must-read for all students of design. You can order it on Amazon for about £12 in paperback and £8 on Kindle. And as a taster, it's worth reading Michael Bierut's introduction to the new edition, 'Thoughts on Thoughts on Design'.

Paul Rand website