New Blood is a yearly graduate exhibition in London that showcases the best work from advertising, design, illustration, multimedia and so on. Back when I was a graduating student, we started a petition to try and get our University to take part and exhibit – unfortunately, this didn’t get us anywhere, and so I never made it to New Blood. When I saw that applications were open for Graduate Volunteers for the exhibition, I practically jumped at the opportunity. Not too long after my interview I was selected, and so my journey into the world of London’s creative scene began. As well as showcasing the best work from participating Universities, for the past 3 years New Blood has run its festival, which promises 3 days of free events and talks for students to attend. It was my job as a Graduate Volunteer to organise the groups of students, liaise with the design studios and then take the students to the events. This meant I got the rare opportunity to take part in some amazing talks! After a fantastic training day at Iris courtesy of Mandy Wheeler, we all got organised with where we would be heading over the next 3 days. Plenty of other blogs have covered the exhibition itself, so I’ll go over the events I got to attend and what you might expect if you fancy attending next year.
My first port of call on Tuesday was the strategic digital design company, Wilson Fletcher. Now, I’ll admit, those series of words meant absolutely nothing to me, so I arrived with little idea of what to expect. With a warm welcome we all got a brief breakdown of what the company does; essentially, it’s delivering research-based digital services, so that could be websites or smart phone applications. If you’re familiar with service design, the process seems very similar. After some tasks to get us familiarised with why research is vitally important to creating services, we got on with a hands-on task. Split into 3 teams, we had to create a new website, tablet application and smart phone application. I was in the ‘tablet’ team, where we created a cloakroom tablet ‘stylebook’ that can recommend you items to match your outfit, tell you what’s in stock and lets you share and save your co-ordinates, among other things. We had mentors on hand to help us consider our ideas and be generally helpful. It was interesting to see the different ways each group approached their service. Finally, we settled down for nibbles and a more in-depth presentation on how the company operates. Most everyone stayed behind for a long time chatting with the staff, who by the way revealed they are now doing formal placements, should you be interested.
Certainly winning the award for most deceivingly huge building, LBi is a marketing and technology company that houses over 500 members of staff in their Brick Lane office alone. We were given a tour by Julian of the entire premises, and even introduced to a member of staff who was hired at New Blood last year. The office houses an entire creative team, meaning that as well as designers and developers the feedback and PR team are also on hand. It’s really an entire functioning body (complete with bar and roof garden). We then settled down for a presentation with Simon, who talked us through how they work on projects and gave some previous examples (some of their most familiar recent projects would be Lloyd’s TSB’s online banking system and the Brandon Generator series for Internet Explorer).
Heading over to the Red Lion pub, we were treated to an A-Z of tips for design graduates by the Graphic Design Studio, Alphabetical. They had especially produced for us a little book with all their information plus more for us to read later, including Q+A’s with people in the industry and what they look for in graduates. Bob and co were incredibly friendly and willing to answer our questions, however silly they might have seemed. A fantastic resource for any graduate heading into the world of work – you can download the PDF for free here.
Jelly is a company that represents various ‘creators’ – mostly in the fields of illustration and animation. We settled down in the D&AD office for a talk with Charlie and Hulya, owner and head of illustration respectively. Their advice was fantastic for any budding illustrator wanting to start freelancing, from how to find work to then how to deal with clients. They brought out some phones for us to play client-illustrator, where Charlie pretended to be a vague and demanding client and the students had to think how best to approach the situation. Nothing makes you think about what you would do than when you’re put on the spot!
Again, at this venue I really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by a very small but friendly design company with technology at its forefront. After some brief introductions we got stuck right in, with the news that we had one hour to create a response to a brief and then to pitch it to channel 4! (yes, really, Channel 4). Our brief was to create a new national holiday for the 1st of October that celebrates Britain, has technology at its core and would appeal to Channel 4. Our team came up with the idea of Swip-swap, which is a day that celebrates Britain through its objects. On our day, people are encouraged through various means to swap an object which has brought them something positive, almost ‘passing on happiness’ then a year later on the same day, swap that object again. We utilised technology to create excitement and events for the day, as well as to track where your item is going or has come from. I think we did a good job of pitching, and the Channel 4 execs still remained very friendly in their (fair) criticisms! It was great to be put on the spot and to learn to work with people you’ve never met before, which is a valuable skill in the design industry.
Now, I hadn’t been assigned to Laurence King, but I really, really wanted to go, so seeing as there was room for me to attend, I happily tagged along! We headed over to their office, which is a treasure-trove of beautiful books. About 15 of us attended, so it had a nice, intimate feeling to the talk. Things kicked off with Laurence King, Angus Hyland and Marion Deuchars having an informal talk about how the company operates and the publishing industry in general. Questions which had been submitted prior were also put to the speakers, before being opened to the floor for any further questions. Also attending was their in-house graphic designer, who I managed to have a chat with afterwards; this gave me great insight into how to enter the publishing industry, which is something I’d like to make inroads in. They prepared for us little totebags including a Laurence King mug, which I’m now using to pretend I work there.
I have to say a huge thank you to all the speakers and those who helped out with the events. It was fantastic to see the amount of care and effort each of them had put into their events for New Blood, I was almost welling up about how lovely everyone had been! If I’ve learnt anything it’s that most people in the creative industries are incredibly friendly and approachable, so really as a graduate, you have nothing to be ‘scared’ of when approaching studios. Also a big thank you to D&AD and Ella for giving me this opportunity; I had an absolute blast while volunteering and I’ll check out New Blood next year for sure – hopefully by then I’ll be living in London!
Most of the Grad Volunteer team! (Photo thanks to Laura)