Ravensbourne College’s Maaike van Neck, course leader for the BA (Hons) Graphic Design, brought together a team of specialists in print, foils and paper to inspire and challenge her Year 2 students.  Here, Maaike explains the importance of inspiring the next generation of graphic designers to think about design in its physical, material form.

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Graphic design and visual communication practice is not isolated to the creation of ‘graphics’ alone. When a reader engages with a piece of printed design, they not only look, but they also feel. Tactility is key.  That’s what we aim to show our graphic design students; demonstrating how format, material, technology and production method all play a key role in the message they are attempting to convey.

We collaborated with G.F. Smith, FoilCo and Baddeley Brothers to create the ‘im-press! im-print!’ competition, setting students a clear challenge to consider the material and production from the very start of their creative thought process.  We encouraged them to include material and print in their research and concept development stage, making it the focus of their message in their design.

The ‘live brief’ challenge had no restrictions or limitations on the use of typography, images or signs but there was a strong focus on budget. Just like real-life projects, the student had to consider costs as one of the limitations (or opportunities!) in their design proposal. We also encouraged testing and prototyping, to show the important part this plays in this process, especially as access to space and facilities is at a premium in todays’ design education climate.

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We were also keen to instil an enthusiasm and realisation that graphic designers must actively seek constructive relationships and collaborate with those who are expert in these fields. That’s why we approached Charles Pertwee at Baddeley Brothers, who has previously allowed our students to come and visit the factory, to be on the judging panel. We also asked Alyson Hurst from G. F. Smith and Andrew Cottam at FoilCo, who have always been generous with their time, conducting look and learn sessions to help students.

It was interesting to see the judges’ thoughts and interpretations of the student entries. Gabriel’s design showed strong consideration for print and print production techniques and he was a deserving winner.

His concept was informed by a study of dimensionality and Gabriel explored this in a number of ways: through his design but also through the use of iridescent foils, litho printing and folding techniques. All the judges felt that it was an informed submission.

I know that the students alongside tutor feedback, felt that it was invaluable to have access and engage the knowledge and experience that Charles, Alyson and Andrew imparted. I’m excited to see where the working relationship can move on from here. Long live print!

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