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

Reinventing Matalan

26 February 2015

HNC Graphic Design recently presented their rebranding project - a brief to reinvent and reinvigorate the Matalan brand.  As well as creating a new mark and producing brand guidelines, the project called for visual concepts in print and digital to communicate the new direction the brand was being taken in. You can see a range of sample visuals on our pinterest board, and here are a few tasters that showcase the variety of ideas the project produced.

Olga Komineck combined clever copy with elegant typography and a hint of Americana to create a fresh change of direction for the brand -

Kiera Winfield looked to Google's Material Design guidelines to develop a vibrant colour palette for her intriguing and minimalist '*there is more to Matalan' concept -

Another direction came from Annabel Gibb, whose 'restyle yourself' concept combined a handwritten font with a bold circular red mark providing plenty of energy and a broad appeal.

Being a Design Buddy

23 February 2015

The 'Design Buddy' scheme adds an additional dimension to our award-winning Mentoring Programme by giving design students an early taster of working with employers before they move in to their final year of study.

The arrangement also gives the buddies a chance to give something back, and to have some input on how we develop our curriculum. Their knowledge of the course and their industry-related experiences can inform various aspects of the rollout and structure of our projects, course content, and scheduling.

As part of the programme we spoke to two of the buddies, Kay Cochrane and Emma Hart, to see what they made of the whole experience -

Kay Cochrane

Kay is a designer at the Lane Agency, and graduated in 2011.

When I was asked to be a buddy I felt I was possibly not up to the task. Would I have anything useful to say? Would I be witty, insightful and interesting? And could I take these budding talents under my wing? All worries dissolved as I realised the stuff I do everyday is the stuff the students need to know. Things like being able to help them focus - help them realise that worries, distractions and a lack of confidence hinder idea generation - allowing them to think bigger.  Working as a peer rather than a juror means they break this barrier faster and get to a clearer solution.

I've gained a lot from the experience -
Confidence in what I know (there are always folk that are better than you).
Pride in what I do (not everything gets in the folio).
Inspiration from these fresh brains (it might sound daft but...).

I also enjoy the fuzzy feeling from giving back. After all, we all wouldn't be where we are without someone taking a chance, risk or putting their neck on the line (even just for a couple of hours a week).

Kay Cochrane chats with HNC students Jen Vass and Jordyn Finn.

Emma Hart

Emma graduated in 2011 and joined Story as a Junior Art Director. She is a now a designer with Stuff Creative.

I felt honoured to be asked to be part of the Design Buddy programme, but I was also nervous. I questioned whether I could do it, did I have time, did I even know enough about anything to add value to the students' work? But I'm glad I went for it because it's these kind of challenges that keep us learning and developing.

The concept of the programme is great – all of the Buddies have done the course, we can completely relate to the structure of the HND and the various challenges presented along the way, with the added benefit of being able to share some real life experience from both the course and the working world.

It's really exciting to be able to give a bit back and to watch the students progress, not to mention an excuse for us to come back to college to see the family, like big brothers and sisters passing on first-hand experience and a few tips on how to handle the folks!

Emma talks to students Charlie Law, Rumana Sayed and Maria Del Mar Reche

Design Buddy Event

20 February 2015

Just before the half-term break, we held our first 'Design Buddy' event at the college.  This is a new employer-engagement initiative which started running during Semester One.  It involves teaming up recent graduates (with at least two years of industry experience) with our HNC Graphic Design students.

The 'Buddy' remit is to assist the students in a mentoring capacity on project work and to generally support them with help and advice as they make their way through the course, and the first part of the evening event was a chance for the students to discuss recent project work with the Buddies.

The teams were then briefed on 'Show 2015', the annual course project to design the promotional campaign for the end-of-year show.  The past couple of years have seen collaborations with industry mentors on this project, but this time around we felt that the Buddy programme would be the ideal vehicle to help create a great campaign.

The show will take place towards the end of May at the Fruitmarket Gallery, and the deadline for initial concepts (and a short pitch to the Final Year students) is March 11th.


11 February 2015

Midway through the placement month, Helena spent today out on agency visits, whilst the HNC group had a day of multi-tasking, working on their current project (a re-brand concept for Matalan), plus submitting work to the Roses Student Awards, which deadlines this Friday.  All the entrants' mounted artwork was all sent by courier this afternoon by our learning assistant, Tanis Grandison.

Earlier this week we also held our Design Buddy event last night, with lots of our former students, now working at many of Edinburgh's best agencies, coming into meet, mentor, and collaborate with our students (more on this event in a later post).

Studio work - packaging up for Roses (Alex De Sousa).

Lab work - a new typeface for Matalan (by Ignacy Nawrocki).

Sketchbook - the cover tells the story.

#berlin15 - Buchstaben

3 February 2015

Berlin is home to the Buchstaben Museum, which has an amazing collection of neon signs, letters and fonts from the former GDR.  Last year our visit to see this unique collection was a highlight of the trip, so this year we returned with an even bigger group of design students.

The collection is housed in an old supermarket on Holzmarktstraße, a few minutes south of Alexanderplatz, and features an array of signage salvaged and renovated from the shops, factories and public buildings of East Berlin after the fall of the Wall in 1989. The museum shop sells some of these original typographic artefacts, as well as stocking a bunch of awesome posters, pamphlets, accessories and type books. This year there was also a small exhibition focussing on a number of famous Berlin-based typographers and their working methods, including Erik Spiekermann.

#berlin15 - M&C Saatchi

2 February 2015

On our first full day in Berlin, Alex and I took a large group of design students to visit M&C Saatchi - with 22 offices worldwide, the biggest independent advertising agency in the world. The visit was very kindly arranged by Viktorija Kravkova, an Art Director at the agency and one of our former students who graduated from the HND course in 2012. Viktorija previously worked at Landor in Hamburg before joining M&C Saatchi Berlin in February 2014.

The visit kicked off with an hour-long talk in the meeting room by Björn Bremer, the Chief Creative Director (who also teaches advertising at the University of Berlin).  He talked a little bit about the history of the company, and gave the group an overview of the client roster, which includes massive brands like Coca Cola, BASF, Siemens and Bayer Leverkusen.

Sample goodies from Saatchi's recent work.

Just waiting for the Creative Director to arrive.

To introduce the sort of work M&C Saatchi produces, Björn played a showreel video of the agency's Euro Effie Gold award-winning 'Nothing Compares to Havana' campaign for another big brand, Havana Club. This campaign was rolled out globally across 35 markets and exemplifies the creative approach that the agency is famous for - brutal simplicity - and reflects their commercial ethos that "the work is nothing until it goes out the door".

Björn also discussed creativity, the realities of working with clients, and gave out five pieces of excellent advice -

1. Make Mistakes.
2. Have An Idol - seek inspiration from your heroes or idols.
3. Photoshop Sucks - the software is just a set of tools, start with the idea.
4. Don't Covet Your Ideas - share them, kill them, accept criticism.
5. Work Harder - you have to put in the hours to get good at what you do.

On the final point, Bjorn referred to Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers' which describes the '10,000 hours rule' for mastering any discipline.

A short Q&A followed which gave the group an insight into how to plan their careers, where to look for work, why presenting work is so important, the pitfalls of research (including the short story slide shown below), and how students should (and should not) present their portfolios and any speculative communication to an agency.

The limits of design research.

Finally, we got a short tour of the offices, which are located on Münzstrasse in the Mitte district, a mere 10 minute walk from our hotel and set across two floors, with the 40-strong creative team on the upper floor.  Huge thanks to Viktorija, Björn and all at M&C Saatchi for an immensely inspiring start to the study week.

#berlin15 - Transmediale

1 February 2015

As part of our annual study trip to Berlin, we attend Transmediale, Europe’s premiere festival of digital arts, culture and technology. Each year the programme features cutting-edge films, installations, performances, workshops, and other events at the impressive Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in central Berlin.

This year the theme at Transmediale was 'Capture All' - focussing on how we create, use, share and interpret digital media in all of its forms and how this is affecting our lives. The festival opened on Wednesday 28th with more than 1000 students, artists, technologists, educators and designers attending from all over the globe. As well as free access to the full festive exhibition and free wine, DJ Renaissance Man put on a two hour set running till 11pm as attendees networked and soaked up the atmosphere.

In past years Transmediale has tended to feature a lot of conceptual digital art, virtual interaction and installation work, so it was great for our design students to see what felt like a much more tangible exhibition this year, containing some stunning and original visual communication via print, screen and video, including the following highlights -

Main Exhibition : Jennifer Lyn Morone

In this standout piece, the artist turned herself into a real corporation called Jennifer Lyn Morone™, Inc.  As a commercial venture, she presents herself and her belongings as items in which you can buy shares.  In this way, as a direct attack on the culture of data-mining,  digital marketing and social media, none of her personal data can be shared, stored or accessed unless the viewer actually owns it. Morone explains this idea in a cool video, alongside documents detailing the incorporation, plus the terms and conditions of her personal data market. There's also an iPad App where you can select and purchase Morone's email, mood, and location data, amongst other personal information. Check out more about the project on the web at jenniferlynmorone.com

Main Exhibition : Networked Optimization

A collaboration by Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg, this work uses digital publishing and access to reading materials to examine data interaction. The work presents a series of three crowdsourced versions of popular self-help books — The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, The 5 Love Languages, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. The books are displayed on a glass table for reading, but when you pick one up and flick through it, almost all of the pages are empty. The cover artwork for each title is also devoid of text.

The only text that remains readable is a selection of popular highlights - passages which were underlined by Kindle users – together with the tally of highlighters who have read each title. Each time a passage is underlined, it is automatically stored by Amazon. The e-books can be downloaded, and paper copies are also available in the HKM bookshop.

Guest Exhibition : Ellie Harrison

For almost five years Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison recorded information about every aspect of her daily routine.  The result was a spectacular piece of work called 'Timelines', which documents everything she did, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for four weeks.

Each day the data about every activity was transferred into an excel spreadsheet. By the end of the four weeks it contained 2,297 entries, which were then transposed into a series of 28 colour-coded timelines.  This produced a dazzling infographic which allows the viewer to identify any activity from the artist's life, including eating, showering, commuting to work, buying food, using email, driving, socialising and so on.

Foyer Programme : Datafied Research

This panel-led event discussed the findings of a year-long project exploring Transmediale's theme of 'Capture All', and looked at issues surrounding the limits to how much personal information about us can or should be digitised. The panel featured participants from the Datafied Research PhD workshop between Aarhus University and the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong City University. The results were also published as a peer-reviewed newspaper, which was launched at the festival and exhibited in the foyer. All the double-page spreads were hung up in a flatplan sequence to create a huge single image as a landscape poster. On the other side of this, all of the findings, statistics and related articles, beautifully typeset, were there to read. We managed to pick up a few copies of this nice editorial product for the studio.

Foyer Programme : Hybrid Publishing Toolkit

This workshop, held on Friday, was part of the Digital Publishing Toolkit research project, and featured a presentation by Florian Cramer, Patricia de Vries, Miriam Rasch and Margreet Riphagen, who described a set of tools for digital publishing. The Toolkit, available as an e-book, is aimed at anyone working in art and design publishing, providing hands-on practical advice and focusing on working solutions for low-budget, small-edition publishing.  Approaches for the use of the toolkit can include catalogues, magazines, research publications, and design or art-themed books. More can be found at the networkcultures.org, including a free download of the e-book.

Transmediale also runs in conjunction with the CTM Festival of experimental sound, with events held at world-famous clubs such as Berghain and Tresor.

Transmediale flickr stream
Transmediale facebook page
Transmediale website
CTM Festival website