The Cass degree show identity, created by Sarah Boris and students

It’s not just the recent graduates themselves who reveal what the “future of design” might—or might not—look like. The degree shows identities they create also reveal trends we’re pretty sure will rapidly be picked up across the wider world of branding.

From this year’s shows, a few decisive trends have emerged. For one, there’s the playful, blobby approach to typography we’ve been seeing everywhere—not to mention a helluva lot of typography that moves (though we predicted that a while back, just sayin’). This year has also seen many designers taking a very type-heavy approach to degree show identities in general, whether they’re created by the students or by external designers brought in to work on the projects.

There’s also a hint of the sort of performative approach to graphic design as espoused by the likes of Suzy Chan and The Rodina, with some schools opting to use actual people as signage in a corporeal take on wayfinding. Here, we look at a few degree show identities that seem to hint at where identity design might be headed very soon.

John Philip Sage and Carlos Romo-Melgar, London College of Communication

Created by duo John Philip Sage and Carlos Romo-Melgar, external designers who were commissioned by the school, the LCC identity ticks a lot of trend boxes: elements of bubbly graphics; a simple color palette of red, white, and black; and a series of flag-like tabards worn by performers at the degree shows who acted as human wall texts and visitors guides (as well as documentarians—some wore recording devices on their heads for live streaming).

According to Romo-Melgar, the identity was focused on helping people navigate LCC’s “spatially complex and visually saturated venue.” He says, “The visual identity proposes an inside/outside duality: an understated and supportive tone for the inside with the aim of highlighting the students’ work; and a loud and dynamic outlook towards the outside and the digital realm.”

The building and its graphics divided the show into six interconnected acts created so as not to “overlap with the existing signage of the building,” using a floor-based wayfinding system that was activated by a group of performers during the opening night. These performers were there to both offer “practical information and provocative questions to the audience in their interactions,” says Romo-Melgar. “This way, the opening night becomes a choreographed event in which the different actors (the work, the public, the performers, the institution), interact and expand the experience of a degree show.”

The show guide design continued forward this idea of translating a temporal event, by using two different components: a folder-like cover and a thin saddle-stitched booklet. Both elements translated into print “the dual identity of the outside/inside of the exhibition,” says the designer.

Romo-Melgar adds: “The visual identity of the show represents the moment of graduating: of transitioning from the academic environment into the professional world. For this reason, we used materials that evoke fluidity, like liquids and fabrics. These elements appeared recurrently in all the different visual elements used to articulate and communicate the show. This exhibition aimed to celebrate the diversity of disciplines that happen within the college and looked for a sensory experience that is positioned beyond the traditional visual container. The design itself is an event where interactions, visuals, and performance coexist while testing the boundaries of what/who/how a degree show should be.”

 

Sarah Boris  in collaboration with students, The Cass School of Art, Architecture & Design summer exhibition, London 

Sarah Boris created a Bauhaus-inspired typeface for The Cass School of Art’s degree show identity, working with a team of second-year graphic design, illustration, and animation students. The show at The Cass takes an unusual approach in that every year students from across the school—from first year to post-graduates—show their work together, rather than the usual divisions across disciplines and year groups.

Boris has been teaching at The Cass as the industry designer-in-residence for visual communications for the academic year 2018/19, mentoring small teams of students on a number of live briefs. This is the first year that students have had a direct hand in creating and producing the identity. The team comprised Gemma Ageraniotis, Michael Brown, Luigi Conte, and James Iredale. They had pitched and won the opportunity to work in collaboration with Boris to develop and realize their winning concept, which is based on a typeface inspired by abstractions of the style of the Bauhaus school. It’s a timely approach as the Bauhaus is celebrating its centennial this year. The identity also looks to the “dynamic minimalism” of Swiss Style, according to The Cass.

The typeface is fully functioning and available for anyone to download for free, and for the show identity it exists in both static and animated forms. The identity uses a suite of shapes that were inspired by the tools used by the various creative disciplines taught at the The Cass. Boris says that the students “developed many iterations of the typeface, and the work-in-progress is as fascinating as the end result. The reference to the Bauhaus really reinforces The Cass ethos and is spot on to represent the varied art, architecture, and design departments.”

Student designer Brown adds, “It was the first time that I experienced pitching, being selected, working with a client and using typography in a way that I hadn’t experienced before,” says Brown. “The outcome is great work to add to my portfolio… I got to collaborate with amazing designers such as Quentin Schmerber and Sarah Boris, from both of whom I have learned a huge amount about working with clients in the real world.”

Chris Cote and Ji Kim, Rhode Island School of Design MFA Grad Show 2019, Rhode Island 

Chris Cote and Ji Kim are both MFA graphic design students who graduated this year, and like many of the identities we’re seeing, used motion design and animation skills to create a design that works as well online as in the vast 28,000-square foot show space. It’s not an easy thing to design for such exhibitions, as this one showcases the artists and designers graduating this year’s work across multiple pieces or large installations representing their studio experiences across RISD’s 16 graduate departments, which include classes from glass to graphic design, teaching and learning in art and design, textiles, and more.

Cote and Kim opted to use the typefaces Boogie School by OR Type and Union by Radim Pesko, which come to life using simple colored arrow devices in their animated version.

Regular Practice, Royal College of Art, show identity 2019

Regular Practice, Royal College of Art, London

Design studio Regular Practice is behind the Royal College of Art’s graduate show identity, having also created the 2018 show designs. Again, the designs look to the idea of fluidity and motion (you can see the video of the lettering on the RCA site), but the overall system was created using a tool that can make letters based on the traditional strokes of calligraphic scripts while digitally varying their spacing and modulation. This means the typeface varies across its numerous applications, which are more numerous than most since the degree show takes place across three sites throughout London.

Regular Practice, a duo who graduated from the RCA’s MA in Visual Communication in 2017, told It’s Nice That the identity designs aimed to “really push the traditional formats of how an identity should be built,” and that the tool it developed to create the typeface is part of the studio’s ongoing research into software that constructs and draws type. Looks like the designer behind the Pratt Shows site has taken a similar approach with its moving typeface, too.

Bryant Wells, Julia Schäfer, and Orysia Zabeida, Yale School of Art Open Studios,  New Haven, Connecticut

The Yale School of Art Open Studios event, which took place back in April, showcased the studio-based education approach of the school across  graphic design, painting, and printmaking, photography, and sculpture. The design for the site fits nicely within the apparent 2019 adoration of all things blobby, kinetic, and limited of color palette. Created by the school’s graphic design students Bryant Wells, Julia Schäfer, and Orysia Zabeida, the identity uses simple red and white patterning which morphs into letterforms.