Part One of the New Designers exhibition opens on Wednesday (27th June) this week, with Part Two scheduled for July 4-7. Ahead of the year’s biggest showcase of graduate talent, New Design editor Alistair Welch spoke to the event’s director Chris Hall.
The twin New Designers exhibitions held annually at the Business Design Centre in Islington are as much a part of the creative industry’s calendar as Milan Salone or the Cannes Festival. Every year some 3,000 of the country’s most talented young designers assemble in North London to showcase work to recruiters and the public.
The first instalment (June 27-30) is the time to visit if you’re interested in fashion, textiles, jewellery, or ceramics, whilst Week Two (July 4-7) focusses on product and industrial design, furniture, interiors, and graphics and illustration.
As always the exhibition is accompanied by an extensive talks programme involving a variety of presentations from design industry professionals and (re-named for this year) is the One Year In satellite show where new design businesses are able to show and sell products to attendees.
Here Chris Hall, New Designers event director, explains what makes the exhibition so special to students, course leaders, and the design industry alike.
New Design: What sets New Designers apart from other design graduate shows?
Chris Hall: New Designers is a celebration of creation and connectivity. The event is a vital platform for the design of tomorrow and ensures that the industry is constantly revitalised with fresh ideas and creative energy. While the design industry and the design-savvy public can go to an ever-growing number of events, festivals and exhibitions, New Designers is entirely unique in presenting the work of 3,000 designers that has never been exhibited before. You never know what you’re going to find or who is going to be there. It is your chance to see it first and catch a glimpse into our creative future.
ND: In what ways has the show grown and evolved over its many years of running?
CH: Design education and, more broadly, society’s needs are continuously changing and adapting. Each year, New Designers responds to and anticipates this shifting landscape. Over the years, the number of traditional craft courses has dwindled across the country – New Designers consciously works to support these important disciplines, continuing to provide them with the platform they deserve (and that the industry needs), as well as making room for rapidly developing areas such as Visual Communications.
ND: In the age of digital and social media, is the physical exhibition still as important as ever in linking graduates with industry?
CH: I don’t think anything can replace face-to-face networking and the physical nature of New Designers and the work on offer means that it is vital to visit the show in person. Images on Instagram are great to give you a sense of someone’s work, but to really understand the quality of the materials used, the true craftsmanship of the products and the passion of their creators, it really needs to be experienced in person. You never know who you might meet when attending the show; whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor – being there in person is often full of surprises and serendipity. Connections are made, talent is discovered and careers are launched.
ND: Could you tell me a little more about the show’s new visual identity?
CH: Our social and cultural world continuously shifts and evolves, as does the design industry. As a creative show, we’ve updated our visual identity to better represent the fresh ideas and innovation fuelling our exhibitors, and our new visual identity is a reflection of the talent on show this year: their energy, radical thinking and the breadth and substance of their original ideas.
ND: You must be well placed to understand trends and innovation in design practice – is there anything you’ve noticed in particular over recent years?
CH: Each year we are amazed at the dedication and sheer imagination of the graduates. Trends we see often involve the use of materials, in particular the use of sustainable materials that look to support environmental concerns. Designers also look at society and the way technology can help resolve issues in healthcare and social care. We never know what we’re going to get, which makes the show unmissable – you can spot trends, and see the way these designers will shape the future.
ND: What advice would you give to design students to maximise their chances of career success?
CH: Although the quality of their work is a major priority, there are a number of other factors that contribute to a successful career: networking at the most appropriate industry events and meeting the right people; researching the industry; keeping up with newsletters, events and publications to keep your finger on the pulse; understanding how to market yourself effectively, either as a potential employee or as a business; getting to grips with your finances and being selective about the work that you choose to take on – you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything, but go for the opportunities that align with the vision you have of your career.
ND: Are factors such as Brexit and tuition fees having any influence on design education in the UK?
CH: Universities have undergone a huge restructuring with the new tuition fees being recently introduced, and some courses have suffered lower applications because the fees have increased from £3,000 to £9,000 per annum. However, we can see years later the uptake and quality of work and courses is still there, and every year we are continued to be amazed at the exceptionally high standard and maturing of work the emerging design graduates bring along.
However, what’s more worrying is the threat of the eBacc which casts a grey shadow over the Creative Industries in the UK. This is a wider topic of concern across the entire creative sector and educational institutions as it will reduce the pool of students who wish to pursue a career in design without there being a focus on design or art at school. 87 per cent of the graduates exhibiting this year studied arts or D&T subject at GCSE level.
Despite this period of economic uncertainty, New Designers, is proud to present our 33rd edition this June/July and the exhibition continues to go from strength to strength.