Degree show reviews: On the hunt for a great idea at Liverpool John Moores University

The Drum is dispatching industry professionals to this year's advertising and design degree shows to see what we can expect from the next generation of talent coming into the industry. If you'd like to review a degree show for us, or see your show reviewed, please email

Continuing our series of reviews of the 2013 degree shows, Ali Vermilio (pictured below), a creative at Liverpool-based agency Uniform, takes a critical look at this year’s LJMU graduates.

LJMU has an excellent reputation, and I was delighted to be handed the mantle by The Drum to give my own personal view of the work on offer. I’ve had great experiences collaborating with both lecturers and students from LJMU, since my time at Uniform, so my expectations were set quite high.Fortunately, the students did not disappoint. When I first looked around, it was clear that they had put in the hours, carefully crafting beautifully executed pieces with some interesting production techniques thrown in the mix. While there was no doubt that the work was of a high standard visually, I was looking for more. My approach is always ideas led – so the work that I could really relate to was work that had an idea at its core.As I walked around, I did feel like a lot of things looked great but were lacking the idea behind them to really appeal to me. However, there were several students that did exactly this, and they really stood out because of it. Here are three of the best:

Sam Howard Howard’s work, “dislexically disigned”, got my attention, mainly for its immediacy and simplicity. It was one of the few projects that needed no explanation at all. I didn’t need to read the blurb, or stand staring for five minutes trying to decode what it meant – it was just there, which I liked. I was more impressed still after spending 10 minutes engrossed in his portfolio. There were several standout projects ('Ken Garland Lecture' and 'Right&Wrong') and more importantly to me, his work had a voice. It was opinionated, often witty and felt like he was actually saying something.

Jenny Stuttard favourite for me was Jenny Stuttard’s 'we are undersigned'. This was a great example of the value of production in bringing an idea to life. This publication, on double agents in World War II, at first appeared to be a series of photographs of spies. However, upon further investigation, (pulling a subtle string), the pages would tear to reveal secret pages within.

Rachel Davey finally, Rachel Davey’s illustrations were not to be missed. I wasn’t just impressed by her bright and graphic style, but the level of detail and depth in them. I became transfixed by the images, seeing something new everytime I looked.Others to watch were Adam Ward and Reuben Barr.So, in conclusion, the good were very good, with some great ones to watch – so keep tabs. If you’re on the search for excellent placements, you should look into my hit list of those capable of ideas generation. I was a little disappointed that there was not more of this and that some work, though aesthetically beautiful, seemed to lack a strong core concept. The creative world needs strong ideas in my mind, not just great design, but I’m glad there were a few from LJMU that had cracked both.

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