Work / The Graduates 2013

The Graduates 2013: Kingston’s Ollie Willis is next up in our annual showcase

When it comes to Kingston University we’ve come to expect something a little bit more conceptual from their graphic design graduates. Often going above and beyond fancy typography and swish book design, they tend to challenge the traditional limitations of graphics, wandering confidently into neighbouring disciplines as well, demonstrating how all-encompassing design ideas can become when paired with an open mind and a healthy dose of experimentation.

Ollie Willis fits into this category exactly. Taking the aforementioned fancy typography and building it into a 3D miniature golf course, he had us “oohing” and “aahing” like an amateur church choir as we admired the breadth of his work and his willing to try his hand at product design. He also created an ingenious secret code for his cover designs of mystery novels, and painstakingly produced ready-aged football cards featuring images of commentators in an interesting play on the idea of the idolisation of football players versus the importance of commentary for entertainment. We caught up with him to find out about the man behind the work…







Why or who or what made you go to art school?

There are a couple of reasons; mainly because most people I know went to do sports-based courses or apprenticeships so it just seemed like something different to pursue. My GCSE and A-Level art teacher Louise, who had taught me after school when I was six and then ended up teaching me again 10 years later, had a great influence on me going to art foundation, as before then I had no idea what I wanted to do. That was the first time I tried graphic design – before then I’d studied fine art, photography and product design, and I didn’t really know what graphics was.

My foundation tutors also convinced me not to go travelling, and instead to go to university, which was great advice. I wouldn’t have come to Kingston if I’d pissed off abroad.

What’s the best mistake you made when you were studying?

Never going to a university open day. I asked a family member who’s an art tutor where was best for graphic design, she told me five places, and that was what made the decision about where I wanted to apply. Other than that, I would say letting my mate Jack fix my tooth in the studio with a home-made filling was a good mistake, even though it didn’t stay in long.

If you could show you your work to one person, who would you choose and what would you show them?

My grandpa Don – he never saw any of my design work, and he was quite a jack-of-all-trades, being an electrician, a keen woodworker, and anything that needed building or fixing he’d do it. I’d show him what I’ve built as that’s what would have interested him most. I’d also like to see what score a professional golfer like Ian Poulter would get on my Typographic Golf.

Can you give us one prediction about your work for the next year?

Hopefully i’ll keep doing self-initiated work whilst looking for placements and a job. I’d ideally like to get in at a studio where I’m still able to do a little bit of 3D work and be diverse as possible as I enjoy building and trying new things I’ve never done before. If that doesn’t happen I might have to find a workshop space I can use, or pop home to Leicester on the occasional weekend to use my dad’s workshop.

What’s the best thing you saw in the last three years?

Yuri Suzuki’s Denki Puzzle and Tube Map Radio, which I saw at the Design Museum’s Designers in Residence exhibition. That guy is ridiculously clever and thinks in such an interesting way. I’d love to learn some of the technical things he knows.


Ollie Willis: The Big Sleep


Ollie Willis: The Big Sleep


Ollie Willis: The Big Sleep


Ollie Willis: Golf


Ollie Willis: Golf


Ollie Willis: Golf


We are very pleased that The It’s Nice That Graduates 2013 is once again being supported by Represent Recruitment who are themselves celebrating being ten years old this summer. The graphic design recruitment specialists have developed a peerless reputation working with designers of all levels and matching them up with the right positions in some of the top agencies around. Represent’s support has helped us grow the Graduates scheme over recent years and we are thrilled they have partnered with us again in 2013.