Spanish publishers, Promopress, have recently published a translation of Communication Design under the rather grand title of ‘DE LA PUBLICIDAD AL DISEÑO DE COMUNICACIÓN La revolución creativa que está cambiando el mundo’. Jessie and myself were extremely excited to discover that this means that the book will be available in Central and South America! We also got a wonderfully flattering Email from Joaquim Canet of Promopress saying “My designer was really excited with your title and the translator too. He said it was the best book that Promopress have ever translated.”
Its great to get such positive feedback – thank you, Joaquim!
After my visit to Chelsea I had to hot-foot it over to Waterloo and get on the 12.42 to Farborough, where I was booked in to visit an art department which I believe leads the way in delivering relevant/ industry connected education at Level 03. Rose Davies, Saskia Smith, Ben Hasking, Abi Everett and Rachel Buck have created a haven of exciting, dynamic and relevant creative education for 16–19 year olds and it is always a pleasure to visit the department and see what their students have been up to. On this occasion I was extremely honoured to be invited by Rose to run a professional development session that used my book as a starting point for examining how to ensure that our teaching responds to emerging practice within the creative industries.
Over 3 hours we examined ideas from the book in detail and I was able to go through some of the developments related to the ‘transitional learning’ pilot we are working on at WSA. In truth many of the ideas I was going through are already firmly embedded in the Graphics program at Farnborough and the ideas that, in other departments, might have been considered radical or new are already being explored. It is clear that what the team are delivering is already super relevant and clearly connected to ideas related to employability and innovation. In addition the department is extremely professionally organised and they have managed to set up an environment that not only provides a great place to work but also celebrates their students creative achievements. I visit a lot of art departments and I honestly can’t think of another that feels as creative and student centred.
After the session I was very pleased to receive this Email from Saskia Smith who organized the visit:
“Thank you for spending your valuable time with us today. It was so inspiring to hear your ideas and discuss your research findings. It’s fantastic to hear such positive feedback from you and have what we’re doing, celebrated. We respect you as someone forward thinking who continues to innovate and develop an amazing course at WSA so it means a lot coming from a fellow practitioner. As a department we really connect with your ideas about education and employability and the need for open, engaged, collaborative and explorative approaches in the fast developing multi-disciplinary area of Graphics. We will definitely be recommending your course to our students. It’s been so valuable for us, the Graphics staff, to gain an insight into the ethics, approach, structure, environment, resources, equipment and opportunities in Graphics at WSA.”
On Wednesday 25th November I took the tube down to Pimlico to give a talk to students on the MA in Graphic Design Communications. Course Leader, Sadhna Jain, wrote to Jessie and myself in early October to say, “First i would like to congratulate you both on the Communication Design publication. It has already become really valuable with my MA students reinforcing the different trajectories of design practice they could engage with themselves.” And to ask us to “give a presentation about the insights of the book, particularly the emergent methodologies in design practice.” Unfortunately, Jessie was busy working with Lucienne Roberts, but I was able to spend a very exciting two hours presenting ideas from the book and examining their significance to education in a provocative question and answer session.
The students I spoke to have come from the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and Europe to study in London and as a result the discussion had some interesting international dimensions. One student had worked in advertising in Uruguay before coming to Chelsea and, during his time in education, he had been struck by the hierarchical judgments that the ‘academy’ (as he called it) makes between different types of design practice. He referred to advertising and branding as the ‘ugly sisters’ of creative education and from this starting point we were able to examine how and why certain types of niche/ individualized/ research orientated practice are revered in higher education despite making very little impact on the experience of the wider public. Also several students questioned my apparent focus on digital practice and asked whether I thought there would be a backlash against digital interaction and a return to more traditional, physical communication channels. In the lengthy discussion that followed, we examined a resurgent interest in craft, the popularity of Risography and zines and the rediscovery of the power of physicality. However, I had to maintain that practitioners engaged in these areas are still very much in the minority and it seems clear that digital channels still continue to have the widest reach and as result be the most influential indicators to the future direction of communication design practice. I have stated on several occasions that good communication design exploits relative strengths of the media it utilises. Digital media and physical media communicate in different ways and we need to exploit each for what they do best and connect up the different experiences they create. We concluded our discussions by questioning the connection between the education of creative practitioners and the professional practice that these practitioners will go into. The audience made some really interesting observations related to their experience with the consensus seeming to suggest that there should be a more direct relationship. My belief is that education should NOT aim to replicate industry practice, but by this I do not mean that we should ignore industry practice. Rather that we should understand the principles/ ways of thinking that are driving this practice and building educational experiences that examine, explore and critically question them. This for me will ensure that the employability of our students will stretch into the future rather than be restricted by the present.
Changes to University tuition fees mean that perceptions of ‘employability’ are an increasingly significant factor in student choices for further and higher education. It is the first question parents ask at open days and quite rightly it is a major metric in the construction of University league tables. As a result, academics are being asked to consider, and be able to articulate, how employability relates to their subjects.
Unfortunately, the pressure that this public focus brings does not always allow for an even handed or intelligent analysis of what the term really means or account for definitions to be differentiated according to discipline. The momentum of prevailing logic can also encourage a ‘one-size fits all’ approach that doesn’t account for the full complexity of the employment market. Received wisdom draws upon notions of ‘employability’ that were formed in the recent past, rather than embracing those that relate to the future that our current students will be working in. Complex issues are simplified into sound bites and this can be extremely harmful to those whose subjects do not have immediately obvious employment avenues. The government has framed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects as the drivers for economic growth and dispelled creative subjects such as Art & Design as being connected to some notion of spiritual fulfilment or aesthetic improvement. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan even stated recently that pupils were being ‘held back’ by an ‘over emphasis on arts subjects’. All of this seems to ignore the paradigm shift that has taken place in our economy fuelled by the rapid development of new technologies. Creativity and innovation are central to the success of the businesses that are shaping this change. Last year the BBC announced that the creative industries are the fastest growing sector of the UK economy and treasury analysts have predicted that 50% of new jobs in 15 years’ time will be in the creative sector. Design is now seen as a key driver to growth and giants from these industries such as Sir John Sorrell are putting pressure on government to add Art to their favourite acronym and talk about STEAM rather than STEM subjects.
My feeling is that Art & Design education, should be more active in promoting and nurturing its role in feeding this economic growth – connecting itself to the industries it serves, rather than retreating into a traditional esoteric ghetto. Talking to 16 –18 year olds in schools and colleges I visit as part of my job, I do not get an overwhelming sense that they understand that the design experiences that they engage with every day as consumers have a connection with the lessons delivered in their art rooms. This need not necessarily be a bad thing but too often it is because they see our subject as stifling, old fashioned and only of interest to a small, specially gifted minority.
Here is a description of Art & Design teaching from the 2012 draft of the National curriculum: “Art and design teaching should instil in pupils an appreciation of beauty and an awareness of how creativity depends on technical mastery. They should learn to draw, paint and sculpt as well as design and create aesthetically pleasing objects in two and three dimensions. Pupils should learn about the achievements of great artists and designers.”
Sadly, there are still many within the educational hierarchy who would find it difficult to understand what is so offensive about this statement. But there is also a legion of hardworking art & design teachers who are fighting to dispel such antiquated definitions of our subject. Last year I visited Farnborough VIth Form and witnessed Graphic Design (Visual Communications) being delivered with relevance and dynamism by teachers like Rose Davis and in June at Bishop Wordsworth Grammar School in Salisbury I witnessed Kate Mclaren and her students producing work as challenging and experimental as I have seen on many degree courses. I hope that my book (and this website) can help support the work of these and other exceptional teachers as they struggle to deliver creative education that goes beyond creating “aesthetically pleasing objects in two and three dimensions.”
The Communication Design project has given me a platform to try to connect Art & Design to innovation, exploration, discovery and opportunity in the public perception. To this end, in May I visited the UK’s leading educational research institute at University College London to talk to MA and PGCE students about how Art & Design education might respond to emerging practice within the creative industries.
In front of an audience of intimidatingly knowledgeable educators I tried to demonstrate how success within the UK’s world leading creative industries does not come from performing to instruction alone. The dynamism of these industries is fuelled by a culture of innovation that is constantly re-evaluating and looking for new opportunities. The practitioners that I interviewed in my book spoke of the necessity to respond to change in positive and dynamic ways and to proactively update skills in response to the evolving demands of new technology. Educational models that passively imitate current industry practice and teach students to respond to guidelines will not set them up for this world. I stressed the need for Art & Design educators to promote critical investigation, collaboration, hacking, iterative development, open ended exploration and rapid prototyping. To not see digital technology a separate field and to explore how their students might experiment with experiences that connect across both the digital and the physical media.
The response to these ideas was wholeheartedly positive and, given the current negative press around creative education, the discussion that resulted felt very timely. I quickly became aware of how hard it is to promote these ideas within an education culture that promotes grade acquisition and achievement by instruction. I feel very passionately that we need to oppose such passive learning models because they will undoubtedly limit the future development of our industries. To do this effectively we need to work collaboratively with business to promote the sort creative education that enables students to go beyond expectations and challenges them to make their own discoveries.
After the talk I was very pleased to get this Email from Dr Claire Robins, part the Department of Culture, Communication & Media at the iOE that said “Thank you so much for leading such an inspiring and engaging session for our MA group last week. Much discussion about your contribution and at least 5 students have bought your book.
I look forward to working with Claire & her students in the future and maybe trying to re-visit the discussion that was generated by the Alt/Shift research platform that I co-ordinated in 2012 & 13.
After the publication of ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ many of the practitioners featured in the book ran pieces about it on their blogs and websites.
The most flattering feature came from Adrian Ho at Zeus Jones who called the book ‘the definitive guide to modern branding’! From a partner in one of the studios that is revolutionising this world – this is praise indeed!
After all… it’s not everyday that you are mentioned in the same sentence as Kesselskramer by a journal that you have respected and read avidly since you were a student!
We have been very pleased to note a number of blog posts from students responding to the various talks that we have given around the country about ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ – this one by Holly Matthews studying Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam University, stood out in particular for being well informed and intelligent in its response.
She finishes the piece by stating:
“I thoroughly enjoyed the session with Derek Yates and feel all his points were valid and that as students we do need to learn to collaborate, cross disciplines and learn to adjust to a more open and interactive world. I very much look forward to reading his book once it is published.”
On the 20th April, Derek Yates went north to speak to students from a course that is rapidly establishing itself as one of the top Graphic Design degree courses outside London. Over the last 3 years their students have racked up a string awards from the likes of the D&ad, the ISTD and Creative Conscience and it was a priviledge to share some of the ideas from the book with them. The talk seemed popular and here is what they said on their blog:
“Experience/ Participate/ Share
On Monday we started the week with a guest lecture from Derek Yates, Programme Leader of BA Graphic Arts at Winchester School of Art, and co-author of Communication Design, published by Bloomsbury. The lecture gave a great insight into the skill-sets required to succeed in an ever changing communication environment, and ideas shaping contemporary practice. Derek’s book carefully considers this, with input from key thinkers and industry practitioners. Many thanks again to Derek.”
After the talk we received an Email from Course Leader, Jo Hamill that simply said: “Many thanks for a very inspirational talk, the students are buzzing!” Cheers Jo, glad it was useful.
Earlier in this blog I described a discussion event that I took part in at Central Saint Martins, UAL. It was organised by Luise Vormittag and was designed to examine industries potential involvement in design education. Here is a film recording the discussion..
On the 5th March at the Accept & Proceed Project Space we had the opportunity to not only celebrate the the launch of ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries but also say thank you for some of the support and help we received in its production. To do this we created a small exhibition that displayed quotes from key contributors such as Shane Walter (onedotzero), Mason Wells (Bibliothéque), Max Gadney, Mat Heinl (Moving Brands), Matt Mills (ustwo), Futerra and Dunne & Raby alongside printed work from the likes of Accept & Proceed, Visual Editions, GraphicDesign&, Kin, Artomatic & Jonathon Barnbrook. Guests were entertained with cocktails mixed by Niall MacDonagh, founder of the ‘One and the Other’ and entertaining (if slightly sycophantic) thank you speeches from the authors.
A massive thank you goes to Matt Jones, one of the founding partners at the supremely talented, Accept & Proceed for hosting the event and supporting the project.
We received our first review earlier this week from Dr Iain Macdonald, Programme Leader for MSc Creative Advertising at Edinburgh Napier University for AD Magazine published by the National Society for Education in Art & Design (NSEAD).
Here it is in full:
‘Derek Yates and Jessie Price’s book Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries is about designers who make a difference in the world. Its aim is to bridge the gap between education and emerging practices in communication design so that graduates will be more employable. But it is more than just having the right skills and approach to get a job, this book also illustrates the diverse and dynamic field of marketing, advertising, graphic, interaction and digital design, and all the spaces in-between. The authors articulate the zeitgeist: design has an economic value, but also it can raise social and cultural awareness bringing change for a greater good.
The book is designed and written to be approachable and functional. It delivers a lot of content in a well-structured format that allows easy navigation from each section. There is a good balance of text and illustrations, the rich images draw your interest and the text sustains your attention.
I’m pleased to have read it. It’s on the pulse and very current. It sets out an important curriculum for communication design that embraces process, politics, society, media and technology. While many books on graphic design education have come from USA, and especially the influential pen of Ellen Lupton, it is welcome to see world-leading UK and European practice being recognised. Conversations with leading designers provide authoritative accounts of changing and developing practice in the field. The ‘Collaborative’ section is a delight because it critically examines traditional production-line approaches, introducing hacking, play and shared interactive design. Branding, navigation and information overload, sustainability and design advocacy are finally all under one cover.
I would recommend all FE and HE lecturers in the subject area to read it and use it in lectures to support their teaching. It is both contextually and practice led, so it really underpins industrial and pedagogic approaches. But it would also assist A Level and Highers art and design teachers in understand what Graphic Design/Illustration/Communication Design undergraduate study is and should be.
I think the case studies are probably the most approachable aspects of the book, which could also attract and interest 14-16 year olds. They are succinct, well illustrated and capture a wide range of exciting real-life examples that will really broaden their perception of communication design. The inclusion of Kate Dawkins’ work for the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony is one of many excellent contemporary examples.
As an overview it provides an important introduction. For further, deeper investigations an advanced reader/practitioner will need to look for more subject specific literature.’
‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ is rapidly approaching publication – on Thursday 26th Feb to be precise! So we have been working hard to mark this event with an appropriate fanfare. For this purpose we commandeered the help of 4 extremely talented second year students from the BA in Graphic Arts at Winchester School of Art: Ed Hatfield, Alex Rivett, Callum Strachan and Espen Gronberg. So impressive was their work that we were soon referring to them as the ‘dream team’! Over the last 3 weeks they have overcome a series of technical obstacles that would have defeated far more experienced designers to create 7 beautifully finished, individual laser cut invites. Leading UK paper suppliers GF Smith very kindly supplied a rainbow selection of 700gsm Colorplan for the job and the quality of these materials certainly helped add something special to what they created. Alex, Ed, Callum and Espen then used the invites to create a stop motion animation that brought to life the 7 stage design process described on each of the invites. Look out for them in your postbox/ inbox!
’Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ is currently being featured on the website of leading UK branding agency, Someone. In their ‘News’ section they feature our film and quote a large chunk of the introduction and we are very happy to note that they refer to the authors as ‘the rather brilliant Derek Yates & Jessica Price’. In our book we feature an interview with one of the agencies partners, Simon Manchipp and a case study of their ‘Big Eyes’ brand – so I think the feelings mutual!
Over the last few weeks we have been visiting Universities and colleges to discuss some of the ideas covered in ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative industries.’
CSM UAL 28.01.15
On the 28th January I was invited by Luise Vormittag in order to take part in ‘Art School Inc.’ a discussion forum that aimed to examine the relationship between art & design education and the creative industries. Key themes from the discussion were the need to innovate rather than imitate and how live projects and placement opportunities are not always the best way to enhance employability skills. During the discussion, I met Arjun, Ben & Jordon current year three students on the BA in Graphic Communication Design. These students argued that graduates should not be pegs ready to fit into an industry ready hole and that we need to be mindful of the need to nurture the sort of independent thinkers that will create the next generation of innovation and not imitate the last. In conversations after the event I was extremely impressed by how proactive and resourceful these students were in connecting their creative practice to the world outside Art School. They were part of the team that initiated the Worth ‘the worlds most expensive pop up shop’. Each product in the shop started at a price of £1,000,000 and each time, news of the pop up shop was shared on social media the price was dropped. Very soon the campaign went viral, with eventually prices dropping right down to £50.12. A great YCN article about the project can be found here. I invited Ben, Arjun & Jordon to visit WSA in order to run a workshop with year one Graphic Arts students that is designed to get them thinking of exciting and innovative ways of showcasing their work to the public.
Sheffield Hallam University 04.02.15
I’ve long admired the course that Pam Bowman and Matt Edgar have been building up in Sheffield over the last few years. They recently hosted a major retrospective of Ken Garland’s work and alongside Ian Anderson, formerly of Designers Republic they have made a significant contribution in establishing Sheffield Design Week as a major international event. I was therefore, extremely pleased to be invited to speak to students from all years on the BA in Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam about ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’. The talk focused on examining the range of things that Communication designers do, attempting to demonstrate why this industry is booming and how valuable our skills are in both creating profit and nurturing behaviours that have positive benefits for society. Feedback on Twitter seems to indicate that students found the talk useful.
Camberwell College Arts 09.02.15
On Monday 9th Feb, I made an emotional return to Camberwell, my home for 10 extremely productive years. I met my co-author, Jessie Price, at Camberwell and it was where we forged a professional partnership that led to the launch of AltShiftUAL and then a commission from Bloomsbury to translate our research into a book. It was strange to return to a building I know so well as an outsider, but it was great to meet first year students from BA Graphic Design and my examination of the expanding definitions of contemporary practice seemed particularly suitable for this audience. Graphic Design at Camberwell continues to be home to the some of the most challenging and exciting work communication design within the UAL. This is down in no small measure to the hard work of Tracey Waller, the brilliant course leader who continues to maintain an approach that continues to question the conventions of contemporary practice. Recent graduate, Peter Hudson’s video installation at the Wellcome Trust provides a good example of the scope and ambition of the work produced on this course.
We are extremely excited to reveal that the launch party for ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ will be held on the 5th March from 7pm at the Accept & Proceed Project Space in Hoxton. We first met Accept & Proceed, when we asked them if we could use their data visualisations in the ‘Authenticity’ section of the book back in 2013 and since then founding partner Matt Jones has been extremely supportive of the project. In the past 43m3 their gallery/ project space has hosted collaborations between A&P and the likes of Sennep & Field, so it would seem to be a perfect venue from which to launch our project. A massive thank you goes out to Matt, David and their team for all of their help & support.
This is a book about designers that make a difference in the world.
It is not about marketing, advertising, graphic, interaction, or even digital design—it’s about all of these disciplines and the spaces that connect them. It’s about a new generation of collaborative designers that are creating visual experiences that connect across media channels. In a highly competitive global market, consumers are bombarded with messages. Producers, and indeed even governments, struggle to differentiate themselves within this barrage. At the same time, economists have realized that association and instinctive perception can radically alter the real-world value of a product or service. In today’s markets perceived value provides a much more meaningful measure of what something is worth than the inherent values derived from tangible evidence such as labor, engineering, or raw materials. In short, the way people feel about a product or service is what really influences what they are prepared to pay for it. Within the complexity of this landscape, traditional techniques for shaping perception are being re-assessed.
Established models for advertising and marketing are questioned, and there is a realisation that we need to find new ways to engage an audience. We can no longer instruct and expect to be obeyed. Increasingly sophisticated consumers distrust obvious attempts to persuade, and a sales pitch is often rejected without consideration. In this world, an audience requires you to provide evidence of a claim, and a set of satisfying experiences can validate far more successfully than a broadcasted message. Brands build interconnected strategies that explain values and provide proof that what they mean runs deeper than the tagline. In this way, a trust is built between brand and consumer that will influence future preferences. The success of brands like Apple and Nike is built on more than clever advertising—it comes from the coordination of marketing alongside great design. Designers are able to underpin a brand’s communication with consumer experiences that demonstrate its values in tangible terms. They create compelling content and tell visual stories that bring a brand to life. Their ability to orchestrate experiences that enable consensual involvement has given them a place at the top table in the businesses they work with. Not only can design provide the key to the creation of a successful brand, in the public sector it is seen as having the power to positively influence behavior.
In May 2012, American business magazine Forbes, hailed a new “Era of Design” in which “design-oriented businesses are winning.” Evidence from across the sector suggests that we are in a creative boom, especially in the UK, where the industry has grown by almost a third between 2005 and 2012. These opportunities require designers with new skills. The ability to analyze, understand, clarify, and define is as important as the ability to visually style and aesthetically judge. These designers need to be able to collaborate across disciplines and not be restricted to particular medias. By working in both the digital and physical environments, they are able to create narratives that frame zeitgeist and initiate culture. Maybe more importantly, in a world of dwindling natural resources, designers can influence attitudes that might help us value what we have and use it more wisely. Unfortunately education has struggled to keep pace with these developments, and the new skill sets required are not always being addressed in a formal context. As a result, in the UK, while graduate unemployment increases, successful creative agencies are unable to fill vacancies. This situation has led some designers to question the economic sustainability of a subject like graphic design; others, such as Fred Deakin speaking at AltShift in April 2013, talk of the “‘black hole’ or ‘cliff’ that looms large for every design student.”
Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries aims to help graduates avoid this black hole by bridging the gap between education and emerging practices. In doing so it hopes to provide students and practitioners with the information they need to understand the new skill sets required. Organized into themes of Brand, Experience, Conversation, Participation, Navigation, Advocacy, and Critique, it explores the core principles that are shaping contemporary practice. Alongside case studies of game-changing projects, it uses analysis of the historical context and interviews with key thinkers and practitioners to provide a relevant and contemporary guide to the creative employment landscape.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
“Our ‘age of anxiety’ is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools – with yesterday’s concepts.”
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage.
I am currently the Programme Leader for a degree course in the UK that each year deposits over 90 graduates into the creative industries. Each of these young people is hoping to develop the sort of sustainable practice that will allow them to pay back the £27,000 they have invested in their education. The employment market that these graduates are entering is going through a radical and continuous upheaval. New paradigms are being created that provide challenge and opportunity in equal measure and those working in Higher Education can no longer assume that the skills that we have in the past believed would help them survive will continue to do so. I embarked on the research that informs ‘Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries’ in order to try to understand this world. The book was written in 2013 and captures my thoughts at that point in time. Due to the editorial process of this sort of publication the projects described are now at least two years old, but they are illustrative of ideas and concepts that are more lasting and significant. As is the nature of online media, this website now provides me with the opportunity to create a live and evolving record of my research. It provides a home for the film I made with Mind the Film and a vehicle for promoting book sales. However, more importantly, the ‘Resources’ section is designed to provide an ongoing archive of significant thoughts and ideas. I hope will provide a useful tool for helping students and fellow educators gain an understanding of the contemporary communication design industries.
Please get in touch on twitter using @altshift_edu, if you have ideas, projects or resources that you would like to discuss or think I should feature.