The 2018 art and design degree shows had it all


Come summer, degree show season is always in full swing. Around the country, graduating students from art and design schools work tirelessly towards a big finale: the hotly anticipated degree show. Doors open wide to industry, and then public. It’s a taste of innovative work to come and a chance to forecast the creative industry, because – of course –it’s the best place to discover talent.

I went to see three degree shows this summer: Bucks, Brighton, and Chelsea college of art.

The attention to detail was immaculate and the work was passionate

Bucks – 8th June

Was there a common theme emerging from this year’s work?
Most of the work was very much centred around sparking a debate and spreading awareness on a wide range of topics. From the niche to the news headliners, all work focused on clear communication of complex subject matters.

What’s new this year?
Interactive app prototypes. In student work, I’m more used to seeing apps and websites displayed as flat PDFs. At Bucks one student took it a step further, managed to go the extra mile and created a working prototype of his app. This is far better for communicating the user experience and is a very strong employable skill.

What was good?
The sheer level of bravery and creativity was outstanding. The students at Bucks are very much aware of their wider role as designers and are geared towards becoming successful cultural influencers.


University of Brighton – 16th June

Was there a common theme emerging from this year’s work?
Expression and identity. Brighton’s students were very strong at communicating from a very personal standpoint. Every single project was enlightening and engaging, giving you a real sense of the individual talent behind the work.

What’s new this year?
Although not necessarily new, there was a huge amount of attention paid to quality printing, bookbinding and reprographics. Brighton’s students really understood the importance of attention to detail and quality in printed books, magazines and leaflets. Almost all of their printed work would look comfortably in place at any bookstore. For students, often hard-pressed for cash, this makes a really exceptional difference. It’s the sign of an absolute refusal to compromise on quality.

What was good?
Much like at Bucks, the high level of bravery and the range of subject matter covered showed that Brighton students really aspire to be movers and shakers in the design and illustration world.


Chelsea college of art (UAL) – 23rd June

Was there a common theme emerging from this year’s work?
Like Brighton, there was a strong sense of identity and storytelling. As well as strong communication skills, their work also gave the sense that you were getting to know somebody. Most of the work came from very an individual standpoint; students explored cultural heritage, hometowns, family and personal interests. The UAL show really leaves you with a sense of discovery that could satisfy even the most curious.

What’s new this year?
One of the students had created an interactive experience piece for their work. Common Ground by Alice Penner explores the relationship of space in the urban environment to create an immersive soundscape. Driven by data, the more people per capita in the city, the more hustle & bustle you’ll hear. This work is a really inventive and innovative interpretation of data, that drives home a palpable & thought-provoking story.

What was good?
The students at UCL had a real clear sense of craft and polish in their work. At times, I was convinced that it was MA work, as the attention to detail was outstanding. These are graduates that don’t just work hard, but also work precisely and carefully. The entire show was incredible.
While the shows impressed on the whole, three students, one from each show, stood out from their peers.

Stand-out work
Bucks: Krystian Zun

Krystian’s ‘Crypto Buddies’ app is a fantastic educational tool aimed at young Polish people who want to learn more about cryptocurrencies. His Design takes something overwhelmingly complicated and makes it simple and accessible for young investors to work with. The design is clear, succinct and, more importantly, fun!

Brighton: Lauren Holder

Lauren’s project tells the story of the ‘SS Mendi’, a ship which sank during the First World War causing the deaths of 618 black African volunteers. All of the black servicemen who lost their lives on the 21st of February 1917 received no honours, no medals and no memorial for their sacrifice. Lauren’s work aimed to create a much-needed memorial to all who lost their lives in the tragedy. What resulted was a memorial book that recorded each name with sensitivity, compassion and respect. With just one name per page, you can’t help but pause to reflect upon each individual person, as opposed to a list of names printed against a wall. It’s incredible how many emotions 646 names, a synopsis and two posters can make you feel.

UAL: Chelsea college of arts: Sophie Hill

Sophie Hill’s work went all-out on humour with her brilliant ‘God Loves Stockport’social media campaign. Her aim was to raise the reputation and fame of her ill-reputedhome town, though a social media-based game. Visitors are invited toa series of locally known challenges in order to earn badges to become themost bona-fide Stopfordian. The design is witty, well researched and brilliantlymemorable.


Was there a common theme of this year?
Identity was a very big overall theme, this year’s graduates all sought to develop and recognise their own individual way of working. This year’s graduates are all highly innovative, passionate and ahead of the curve.

What’s new this year/what was good?
This year seems to be extremely competitive and by this I mean there is a huge amount of rigorous attention to detail. Students are creating app prototypes that work like the finished product; they’re spending time and money on high-quality print and reprographics; they’re going out of their way to seek out relevant, contextual first-hand research. This is a really impressive year for graphic design visual communication & advertising.


By James Washington, Designer and former degree show exhibitor