Your typical college grad will likely leave school and start an internship. If they’re lucky, it’ll be a full-time job with benefits. Or maybe said graduate takes some time off to go home or see the world before joining the workforce.
James Gilchrist and Beth Wilson took a different tack. Upon graduating from design school, the Scottish duo, who together are Warriors Studio, set out to shake up the Scottish design community. “Scottish design is really commercial,” says Wilson. “This is terrible to say,”—out of patriotism, she means—“but I don’t think it’s pushing the boundaries of design. The community isn’t about thinking about new ways of design. London always seems to be the most forward-thinking city.”
You could call it an identity problem. Unlike Sweden, known for its spare and efficient design, or Italy, for its heritage and luxury, Scotland doesn’t own a particular aesthetic. It’s also a retention problem. Without a tight-knit design community to fall into at home, young creators tend to leave Scotland, taking their talents to bigger, bolder firms in London.
To fix that, Gilchrist and Wilson decided to launch Scotland’s first design festival. The idea was simple: to foster relationships between students and established designers so that youngsters would realize the stateside opportunity. Within six months of conceiving the idea, the duo made an announcement on social media and began inviting designers—both local and international—whose work they found exciting. The responses poured in: by the end of the five-day Graphic Design Festival Scotland last October, Glasgow had played host to around 700 people attending the various venues across town. Warriors Studio set up a poster design contest that received 3,000 entries. And, perhaps best of all, Gilchrist says 16 students got job offers.
Warriors Studio was probably well equipped for this kind challenge because—not in spite of—the pair’s newly minted résumés. For one, the festival’s programming needed to appeal to students with similar levels of experience. But it’s also clear in talking to Gilchrist and Wilson that they’re open-minded about projects. They embody the energetic, generous creative spirit that the festival was designed to encourage. Warriors Studio’s work—from the sunny, geometric mural in an Urban Outfitters, to a playful palm tree-embossed brochure for the Glasgow club promoter Tropical—is full of color pops, experimental angles and alignment, and sans serif typefaces evocative of indie blogs. They cite both “online culture” and “social design” as overarching themes they think about, and to wit, one of their earliest projects for the Lake Victoria Disability Center, in Musoma, Tanzania, is a graphic game aimed at encouraging people to donate spare change.
During the festival planning last year, Warriors Studio won the Deutschebank Creative Award, and with it, the funding they needed to officially open their studio. Thanks to that, the duo is fielding a handful of new projects. They’ll also be at the helm of the second Graphic Design Festival Scotland again this year, with a new program, new venues, new speakers, and, of course, new talent. Here’s hoping they stay in Scotland.