Degree Shows

By The Drum, Administrator

August 10, 2006 | 15 min read

06 Degree Show

Duncan of Jordanstone

Dundee’s Degree show – A mixture of pleasure and pain.

As one of the great art colleges in Scotland, you expect a good degree show and every year they don’t disappoint. On show was the endeavours of students studying architecture, interior and environmental design, the fine arts, textiles, jewellry, product design, animation, interactive media, illustration and of course graphic design.

As an institute, Duncan of Jordanstone certainly gives the Glasgow or Edinburgh degree shows a run for their money. Plus it has the benefit of a compact campus which allows you take in at least a taste of all the disciplines. Alas poor directional signage, the first pain, is again something Dundee shares with all the colleges. The best bit of advice I can give is that if a door is open, stick your head in. You never know what lies beyond.

First impressions and the second pain – deja vu.

As a regular degree visitor, I always find my first impression is that I’ve seen this before. This is not a reflection on the individual student’s work but on the institutionalised way of presentation. This is a complaint of all the degree shows. The way that work is presented seems to be controlled to a very high level which seems to have the end result of overwhelming the personality of the individuals work.

Take your time – the enjoyment is in the detail.

The graphic design show was actually full of work that was surprising, fun, thoughtful, very personal and of a high standard. So it’s worth taking your time and indeed it’s always enjoyable to talk to the students overseeing the exhibition. They chat enthusiastically about their work, and even happily point out highlights in fellow students work, while they reflect on their hopes and ambitions. Thanks to Scott Gardiner and Glen Garry for their time and I’ll pass on one of Glen’s observations: "The opening night was fun and very busy, but maybe we should have a family night and a business night... giving us time to spend with possible employers". Well done, already thinking commercially.

What stood out?

Overall, I enjoyed the diverse use of typography, calligraphy and the punchy graphics created using bold colour, illustration, and photography. The work varied from very small, type-based design right through to work that would best be describe as art installation. The work entitled ‘Urban Phoenix’ by Finlay John Hogg used an interesting combination of floral illustration and hard typography. Not sure, I got the product benefit of spray paint that degrades if used outside! But his dripping paint display was highly effective. The anti-smoking work by Louise Millar was straight to the point and real fun. Headlines like ‘Shag more, suck less’ on a pair of pants and beer mats was an excellent use of engaging headline and unusual media. After all, visual communication is all about mixing the beautiful or the ugly and the informative into something functional. Finally, the strong black and white photography used by Callum Strachan in his poster campaign for the Underground jumped out as you looked around. The posters promoted security awareness with clever imagery, related headline and a clear call to action.

An overview of the work.

The creation of something full of impact and useful is the biggest challenge faced by any designer or creative today. An understanding of function was clearly demonstrated through the students response to briefs involving packaging and direct mail while as a year they showed a good understanding of design needs in promotional work. They had diverse approaches to integrating copy, art, and typography into a harmonious single form. In most cases it worked. As a group of students they understood that concept and final execution are part of a single fluid process.

What’s changed over the years at Dundee?

It’s that the two disciplines of advertising and graphic design have merged to a point where they shouldn’t be separated. I expect over the following years it will be the rise of new media and the skills required to capitalise on its unique versatility that will drive the change.

I guess, as a creative director, the real measure of a Dundee graduate would be – ‘are they good enough to employ?’ They are, and I have!

Reviewed by: Alisdair Chisolm, creative director, Avian

Degree Show 06

Edinburgh school of art

I recently read an article in The Guardian written by a student stating that employers are losing touch with graduates. I began to wonder if I was losing touch. Aren’t graduates supposed to be in touch with potential employers? When was the last time we had a graduate in the office on a placement? When was the last time I spoke to a student about design? With these thoughts in my head I went to see this year’s degree show at Edinburgh College of Art.

I always make an effort to see the degree show at Edinburgh. This year was better than previous years. The sculpture court was impressive, an unusual mix of stunning life size workmanlike figures, evocative projections, unusual pods with weird sounds coming from within, and a room made entirely of stacked cardboard boxes. Where else do you get to see so many contrasting ideas in one space. Inspirational.

Upstairs to the design degree show, and its walls of tightly articulated ideas. I entered the white space, graphic design shows tend to be very pure spaces with little disruption, a complete contrast to the fine art, printed textiles and sculpture shows. I turned to my left, the first few walls were disappointing, a mixture of a few good ideas, some average work, and poor production of weak ideas. Where were the students? The place was abandoned. Where was the dialogue? Where was the explanation of four year’s thoughts and ideas?

I eventually turned a corner, and there was a student listening to his ipod. I approached him and asked him about his show. He started to tell me of the work he had completed this year, a mixture of live projects, competitions and general project work. His name was Dane Brown, and he gave a good account of his show. From giant Pimp my Caravan magnets to the interpretation of the concept of Shakespeare being gay through projections of sonnets in a packed gay club. This was more like it.

He then pointed me in the direction of the better projects in this year’s show. Lindsay Mather’s mobile home stamps. What is it with caravans this year? Camilla Storheill’s snowboard graphics, stamps and winning cow for the cow parade. Elizabeth Lewis’s ideas and execution for this year’s fashion show – one of the better pieces of work – as all the invites, signs and adshells were produced on reflective materials so the viewer could see an image of themselves mirrored through the rough typography. This work communicated all the aspects of the Fashion Show, style, vanity, obsession and creativity in one simple idea. It seemed as though one half of the show was better than the other half, or was it that this graduate was fluently communicating both his ideas and the ideas of his fellow students? It certainly bought the show to life and put this potential employer in touch with potential employees.

It is also worth mentioning this year’s illustration show where the talented work of Eddy McGowan, Lisa Molloy, Sorcha Edward, Alison Marshall and Andy Woodside’s vibrant graphic images stood out. The great thing about the illustration show is that the graduates can immediately work on live projects with their existing skills. It’s commercial art and I would recommend design agencies around the country look at their portfolios.

Reviewed by: Vaughan Yates, design director, Contagious

Caledonian Creates

Glasgow Caledonian University

Not having much idea what to expect upon arrival at the Saltire Centre, in the middle of the Glasgow Caledonian University campus, I was struck not only by the diversity of the work but also by the building itself.

The show featured a selection of work from all creative disciplines, from product design, to interactive and gaming design to fashion, not only from degree students but from all qualifications. Although there was a limited amount of work on display it was clear to see that some very interesting ideas were being generated and realised. The focus seemed not only to be on raw creativity, but also real world practicality. Revolutionary designs for chairs sat alongside computer games and websites, while fully realised outfits were just a little bit further along. Personally I would have liked to see a bit more from each of the courses to form an opinion of the overall standard of work.

The items which stood out to me the most, in terms if ingenuity, practicality and aesthetics were all product designs, but this is not to say that the other disciplines featured were not of an equally high standard. My three favourite pieces from the show:

The Batross Chair

Designed by Chris Noble

MSc Product Design & Development

Description: This seating concept has been designed from two-dimensional parts to create a three dimensional object which offers affordable manufacturing benefits. In turn the user can buy an affordable off the shelve product in which the user is invited to explore there own unique way of interacting with the design. Exploring a freedom within there restricted space. Creating innovative seating layouts of there choosing, with limited fuss or confusion. The design allows the user to adapt to varying social requirements, which can evolve at a moments notice.

My eye was instantly drawn to this piece as it is such an unusual object, but entirely practical, I could see this being sold in the shop in the lighthouse, the real attraction here, for me, is the beauty of the design and creativity with relatively simple materials.


Designed by Paul Mcluckie

MSc Product Design & Development

Description: The aim of the project was to design and develop a product that would provide a more accessible and desirable way for an everyday household to produce their own clean renewable electricity allowing them to reduce their electricity consumption and the carbon footprint of their home. The idea for the project came from a desire to buy a renewable energy product for an urban household that was unlike any currently available. Paul wanted to design a wind turbine that was inexpensive, aesthetically pleasing, unobtrusive and easy to install and use.

I was struck by how sculptural a piece this was before I fully understood what the design was for.

I could see this product going into production and being successful, especially for large communal spaces in business parks and public sector workplaces.

Wee man tape dispenser

Designed by Campbell McIntyre

BA Integrated Product Design

Description: The inspiration of the "wee man" range comes from the fusion between the designers liking of the characters developed by Alessi for their domestic products and his dislike of garden gnomes.

This piece of design had real personality and humour, whilst not being an essential item to own it will undoubtedly appeal to a number of people that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Reviewed by: Chris Reilly. senior designer, The Hub

Degree Show 06

Glasgow School of Art

I always wait in anticipation for the Glasgow School of Art degree show. This year was no different, but I have to say that I left feeling slightly bemused. But lets start on a positive note....

There were several student’s that illuminated this year’s show, displaying a real sense of understanding, maturity and awareness in their work. This was undoubtedly refreshing and enlightening. The level of work on show from the photography and illustration students was particularly strong. What bemused me was the unfortunate lack of evidence of student’s typographic skills or knowledge. For me, as a creative director of a commercial design company, this was a surprise and also a concern. This is a major discipline that cannot go unnoticed. Within design practices today it is those who demonstrate exceptional typographic executions that stand out head and shoulders above the rest. These skills are paramount for all designers, a brilliant idea is all well and good but, without the attention to detail, and this includes all aspects of a design, it will never be a superb piece of work.

I am whole-heartedly in favour of experimentation and encourage all designers to look beyond their expectations, but there must remain purpose and direction to a creative solution. I expect the initial years of art school to involve plenty of experimentation, but from this freedom must come from an understanding of process.

In order to produce effective design and be successful in a commercial and brand led environment, designers must be given a structured background to learn from and apply their talents to. Education must connect these future designers with the commercial environment that lies ahead of them. Unfortunately at this years degree show this was not obvious.

Reviewed by: Kenny Allan, creative director

Creative Horizons

Grays School of Art

The nostalgic smell of fresh paint on canvas – a pleasant trip down memory lane. Almost two decades after my own art school days, I find myself reviewing the degree show at Grays. First impressions of the show’s promotional literature were excellent – a tasteful, creative piece of print in the form of a branded envelope with four small booklets depicting all disciplines – great as a reminder of everyone’s talent but also a very useful tool for future recruits. Navigation within the show was also much improved this year – the theme being airport information boards showing the various ‘gates’ and discipline locations.

And now, the show. Painting: a colourful collection of ideas and imagery, from subtle textured floral pieces to simple portraits, bold psychedelic patterns to three dimensional structures, and a vast array of subject matter – industrial environments, insects, pollution and the ocean to name but a few.

Printmaking: another very good year for one of Grays most consistently talented departments. A selection of mixed media included etching, lino, mono and digital print. Some more unusual treatments also explored the use of handmade embossed paper, creative stitching and 3D Perspex cubes as part of the work. One of my favourites was a collection of prints in mixed media by Sandy McEwan depicting shoes – a girl’s best friend!

Sculpture: a thought-provoking show, although I’m always hoping for just one piece of actual sculpture! This year’s installations included bodily waste, a wall of speakers, bedding plants, interesting pink knitted floor creations and even a brick wall.

Product Design: I was very impressed with the diversity of topics and solutions, many addressing important social issues such as stress, design for the homeless and anti drink spiking devices. A personal favourite was Amy Forbes’s pictogram watch for dementia sufferers which alerts them to key points in the day when they should be taking medicine, showering etc – a very simple yet powerful idea.

Digital Media: an eclectic collection of projects dealing with new design approaches to interactive graphics, digital video, animation, 3D modelling and web and computer games. ‘Dodi the Dancing Duck’ cartoon by Roy Stewart and Iain Doig’s title sequence for Ian Bank’s ‘Complicity’ stood out.

Finally, the Craft & Design Programme: Three Dimensional Design saw an interesting mix of functional and fun pieces in a variety of media. A bag made from playing cards, ceramic sea pods and architectural lights to name a few. Textiles and Surface Design included knitted houses, 3-D paper sculptures, clothing inspired by the 1960s, copper interior design pieces, quirky character printed textiles and, my favourite, a selection of fabrics and paintings by Claire McKimmie with a New York graffiti influence. The Visual Communication students presented a selection of paper and digital-based design solutions – mainly advertising and animations, but also some interesting illustrative book designs by Iiris Maanoja. Interesting ideas, but as a Graphic Designer, I would have liked to have seen more pieces of packaging, corporate identity and literature.

Well, that’s it folks – all in all a pretty good show this year and definitely worth a visit.

Reviewed by: Claire Cormack, design director, The Big Picture


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