Studio Koseda’s fragmented grad show identity for RCA is built on student participation

With a dismantled royal crest, flags and ethereal sound design, Studio Koseda has put together an identity that celebrates the work and ethos of RCA’s students.

12 July 2023


Creating a grad show identity is no easy task. With it, you take on the responsibility of representing the vast nature of arts institutions; the many disciplines, people and projects that make it what it is. So when Studio Koseda approached its identity for the RCA, it put the perspectives, work and ethos of its students at the forefront. On top of this, studio founder Sebastian Koseda explains that the identity aimed to explore what it means to be a ‘royal’ institution using the question of “What are we celebrating at the RCA?” as a driving force. These two poles have resulted in a striking identity that has a “culturally responsive framework” at its core, built on the foundations of student participation.

The central focus of the identity is the institution’s royal crest. But rather than keep the crest intact, Sebastian – in collaboration with 3D artist William Fairbrother – dismantled it, reducing it to various fragments. Each fragment was rendered in materials that represented the different courses on offer at the institution, as well as glass ceramics, concrete textiles and jewellery. All of the fragments were then scattered across all of the digital and print placements, including 10ft vinyl across the campus. “The giant rendered files crashed my computer to the point where it sounded like it was going to take off, but they’re up on the walls now, thank God,” Sebastian adds. In terms of colour, Sebastian opted for a chroma key blue and green make up. Both colours are symbolic of the technical, post-production process and thus suggest “a digital blank slate and an opportunity to fill a visual space with any chosen content and context,” Sebastian says.


Sebastian Koseda: RCA2023 (Copyright © Sebastian Koseda, 2023)

To centre the perspectives, investigations and outlook of the RCA’s students, Sebastian put out an open call for critical and speculative questions that informed the students' final projects. “Year after year, the big questions asked by students at the RCA position them as thought leaders in their relevant industries,” Sebastian says. After an overwhelming response, a number were selected, including ‘Can we design an immune system for our cities?’, from Sebastian Tam who's studying for an MA/Msc in Innovation Design Engineering; ‘Is it possible to decolonise the senses?’ from Paula Cordoba, MA Sculpture; and ‘How do raise awareness of the impact of plant extinction?' Zhiyi Lu, Information Experience Design. These questions were then printed onto large blue and green flags, featured around the Battersea and Kensington campuses.

Student participation events extended to the identity's soundscape. In another open call, Sebastian asked students to submit ASMR recordings of their work being fabricated, alongside ambient sounds from the studios – conversations, seminars and symposiums. The sound designer James Rogers then turned the sounds into a repeated, rhythmic composition which acts as the “ethereal backdrop” to the identity's motion elements.

Wrapping things up, Sebastian identifies how the “ephemeral” nature of graduate shows appeals to him – the ability to respond to very specific conversations, debates and cultural moments. “The beauty of graduate shows is that they are short lived,” he ends, “but their impact can influence generations of art and design students.”

GallerySebastian Koseda: RCA2023 (Copyright © Sebastian Koseda, 2023)

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Sebastian Koseda: RCA2023 (Copyright © Sebastian Koseda, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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