Who should design university degree show identities? Comment below!

29 May 2015

The days of beers in the park and ice lollies at lunchtime are nearly upon us, and with that comes degree shows, and lots of them. But who should be charged with designing the identity for a university degree show – should it be the students, or an external agency? Indeed, do degree shows need identities at all? We want to hear from you; you can add your thoughts to the comments section below.

There’s an ongoing discussion in the It’s Nice That studio about who should be entrusted with designing the identities for university degree shows, and it’s dividing us more or less into two camps. Half believe the task of making one university stand out in a sea of degree shows should fall upon an established design studio, which is paid accordingly. The other half, however, believe it should fall to students to put their newly earned skills to good use.

London-based studio APFEL is an example of the former. Its founders Emma Thomas and Kirsty Carter studied at Camberwell and Brighton respectively, and having designed the Manchester School of Art’s prospectus, it also created the school’s degree show identity this year. 

Elsewhere, former London College of Communications students James Gilpin and Shaz Madani created the branding and exhibition design for the LCC 2014 summer shows, creating a vibrant and accessible identity which resonated well with both the creative community and students alike.

But should this responsibility fall to design students? Ostensibly, with a huge bulk of work to hand in, not to mention the impending end of financial support, the last thing a design student needs is their show identity to think about too. What’s more, the tensions and competition which accompany the responsibility might drive an unnecessary wedge into some course communities.

The RCA is one institution which seems to be getting it right. Last year it chose Giulia Garbin and Jack Llewellyn, two young designers who had graduated from the school the year before, to design the grad show programme, using woodblock typefaces from the college’s letterpress studio. 

I would argue that a university is responsible for drawing as many visitors to its students’ degree shows as possible – and if that means recruiting an external design agency to put together a cohesive and attractive identity, so be it. Callum Green It’s Nice That Graduate of 2013 and art director at INT Works, disagrees however. “Universities shouldn’t treat a grad show as another arrow in its sheath,” Callum says. “It’s not about the uni, it’s about the students.”

What do you think?

Final year students, you’ve got until midnight on Sunday to apply for the opportunity to be one of the It’s Nice That Graduates of 2015!

We want to come to your summer shows! Send your invitations here.

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About the Author

Maisie Skidmore

Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 as an intern before joining full time as an Assistant Editor. Maisie left It’s Nice That in July 2015.

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