Live second year brief: Walk Elephant

Walk elephant presentation 6Second year students Alex Robertson, Khalid Abdigaheir and Joe Jackson have recently successfully completed a live brief for Southwark Council. Southwark approached us looking to develop an initiative called ‘Walk Elephant’ which will help promote a network of high quality walking trails across the Elephant and Castle. Many think of the Elephant and Castle as a busy traffic junction but it is so much more. There are so many hidden gems and oases in the Elephant and Castle, and the Walk Elephant project seeks to link them all together, to create safe and enjoyable walking routes which people can ramble through on their way to work, the shops or home. The students were asked to develop a brand identity and a series of playful visuals to develop the initiative.

Throughout the project Alex, Khalid and Joe were mentored by the designer Karl Toomey, who was previously head of It’s Nice That’s design studio Anyways. Karl met with the student design team once a week to help them develop their ideas and prepare presentations for the clients. So this was not a only a great opportunity to work on a live brief, but was also one that gave them the opportunity to work in conjunction with a creative director.

Some of the themes the students had to develop specifically were as follows:

  1. To make people realise the Elephant and Castle is an enjoyable and green place to walk through
  2. To discover the hidden gems and rich history
  3. To make people realise the Elephant and Castle is very central and close to the river
  4. To come up with new community ideas to improve walking routes
  5. To open up the Low Line – Southwark’s answer to New York’s High Line!

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Their solution ended up involving an elephant’s foot and colours taken from details within the surrounding environment and architecture. They turned the elephant’s foot into a circular logo mark (see top of page) that can be applied across a range of media – it scales well and can be used in both colour and black and white. It’s a simple, effective and witty solution.

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They addressed many of the specific themes required through a variety of media – gifs, environmental graphics and posters. The clients were very impressed with the concept, the execution and the pitch, so we can look forward to seeing the work implemented in the coming months.




Second year brief: Symbol Design set by Michael Johnson


The second years are lucky enough to be working with Michael Johnson this term as he has set a symbol design brief. More and more in life we communicate using fewer and fewer words – think of memes and emojis – soon perhaps we’ll revert to hieroglyphics! But seriously, designing symbols is deceptively difficult, but incredibly useful if it is done well. Johnson Banks’ recent design for Action Against Hunger (final symbol shown above) not only unified all the different arms of the charity worldwide (original logos shown below), it also meant that anyone can ‘read’ and recognise the symbol regardless of what language they might speak.


There is an art to designing a great symbol—one that really communicates something about the brand. With Action Against Hunger, Johnson Banks have done that in a beautifully simple, yet clever way. Its perhaps no surprise that Johnson Banks started working with the charity three years ago, as communicating so much through such minimal means is deceptively difficult. We’ll see if the second years rise to the challenge…


Some fantastic new work from the current first years

The current first years successfully completed their first project on BA (Hons) Graphic Branding & Identity last term. The students’ challenge was to develop a ‘brand book’ that captured the ethos, attitude and personality of a particular brand. As part of the project students had to develop personas for their audience so they could understand who the brand was speaking to. The imaginary brands they were working with included ‘Geek Buddy’, a global student study app; ‘Piffle’ an anti-social social networking app for people who write really boring status updates; ‘Smoosh’ an all natural smoothie delivery company; and, ‘Pit Stop’, a sleep pod company. They also had to develop a brand manifesto and a set of brand values, as well as logotype and colour palette. They produced a range of beautiful and creative solutions, of which just a few are shown here.

Student work shown (from top): Izzy Zangarini, Giada Periopan, Natalia Shirokova

Museum of Brands: First year trip

A couple of weeks ago the first years visited the Museum of Brands. The museum laid on an introductory talk and students were given the opportunity to look at objects in the collection with the museum’s learning team. Students also took part in a fast and furious ‘Brand Evolution Challenge’ workshop, in which they analysed the development of supermarket brands from Victorian times to present day, and after undertaking research from the Museum’s collection, they devised their own brand iterations and presented their ideas in relation to current marketing trends and consumer habits. This resulted in some really creative outcomes. The students were then also able to explore the Time Tunnel exhibition area which offered a great research opportunity for their current packaging project.


Visiting Practitioner: Robbie Bates

The second years are currently working on a live brief with four really exciting organisations within in Lambeth: The Brixton Pound, The Brixton People’s Kitchen, The Remakery and the West Norwood Community Shop. Supporting them on this project is Robbie Bates, a member of Uscreates a design group who use design thinking and participatory methods to develop both communication and service design solutions to problems relating to health and wellbeing in communities and organisations. Robbie has been able to share the tools Uscreates use both with clients and within their studios. This has given the students an invaluable insight into a way of working that is becoming increasingly utilised within both the design and business sectors.


Sketchbooks: Where the best ideas usually begin…


At open days we often get asked how ‘digital’ the course is and of course these days students do need to graduate with a range of technical skills that will allow them to resolve their ideas in an appropriate and professional way. Technology isn’t going away and is probably developing faster than at any point previously. Predicting what new programme or App might emerge next is probably impossible, and sometimes things appear and disappear very quickly. Look at Vine—the short video sharing app—it was only launched in 2012 and yet has already been shut down four years later. So, as young creatives in turbulent digital times, students have to develop a proactive, agile attitude that will enable them to confidently engage with new technologies as they develop. However, what doesn’t ever change is the importance of the idea or story that drives a piece of work.


When we talk to our industry partners, they say the same—you can teach a graduate to use a particular new piece of software, but you can’t teach them to have great ideas, and that is what is really sought after. The concept is still king, and the initial development for that starts in a sketchbook. The Canadian designer Bruce Mau, in his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, has written a series of quirky mantras for designers and several apply to this approach to idea development:

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.


The computer sets you up with a series of defaults which immediately restrict your decision making. By starting in the sketchbook, you remove these constraints. Letting your ideas develop from your research, your understanding of audience, and the inspiration from the world around you is far more likely to lead to an unexpected outcome.

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.


Often students worry about getting things wrong, but all designers need to act as ‘reflective practitioners’, which means being able to stand back and assess the work in order to see where things could be changed. In that respect you can often learn a lot more from a ‘failure’ as you can identify what needs to be changed and why. Quick idea generation in the sketchbook is a key part of this experimental attitude and process.

Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.


Well, don’t avoid it completely, but don’t expect it to necessarily give you something different. No matter how cool that Photoshop filter looks, everyone has access to it and everyone can apply it with one click of a mouse.

Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device–dependent.


The software can’t generate the idea or story, and that is usually where the difference lies. Powering up your Mac offers you an amazing tool to generate beautiful end products, but powering up your mind is always the starting point. So, sketchbooks will always be important to build the bridges between the brief and outcome and whilst our graduates will ultimately resolve their ideas digitally, the development always starts on paper.


Guest lecture: Michael Johnson


Yesterday, first and second year students attended a special guest lecture from Michael Johnson—one of the founders of Johnson Banks. Michael talked about his new book ‘Branding in in Five and a Half Steps‘ and the process Johnson Banks take when approaching a client brief. One of the projects he highlighted was their current work for Mozilla which everyone can see and comment on as it progresses, as Mozilla specifically asked for the work to be done under their open source principles.

Over the years Johnson Banks have done some great work, for companies such as Virgin AtlanticThe Science Museum, Cambridge University, and, more recently Action Against Hunger—a project that took over two years to come to fruition. For students to hear from someone who is at the forefront at the industry, and has been for the last twenty four year, was a great opportunity. Michael is also keen to continue to develop his relationship with the course and has agreed to set a brief for students in the near future, so watch this space!