Best of the Grad Shows 2016: D&AD New Blood

10 brilliant illustrators and designers we spotted at the UK's top graduate show.

The D&AD's New Blood exhibition gives those of us in London a chance to see some of the best graduate work from around the UK. If you couldn't get down to it last week, here's our pick of the most inspiring new talent we saw.

New Blood has a reputation as the place to see the best-of-the-best: the illustrators, designers, animators and creative directors who will become the industry’s next big names. Smaller in scale than New Designers or Free Range with fewer grads’ work on show – the idea is that you’ll be able to quickly check out the ‘cream of the crop’.

Myself, our engagement editor Ashleigh Allsopp and our latest recruit Miriam Harris trawled each stand to find you the best new talent who’d produced work that ranged from a devilishly illustrated board game to engaging crowd scenes to a positive ad campaign based around the humble plastic bag.

Read on to see our pick of 2016's best new grad talent.

Alyssa Dieterich – Middlesex University

Lead Me To The Garden is a wooden board game based on Dante’s journey through hell in the first part of his Divine Comedy. You follow the steps down the spiral on each surface, dropping through to the next level as you progress.

While it has an original concept and has been obviously lovingly fashioned, it’s the little details that make Alyssa’s project rather wonderful. Laser-etched black paint on wood, it smells wonderfully infernal. To move from board to board, you pull a strand of black cloth that’s revealed to be a snake’s forked tongue – another reference to the Biblical lord of Hell.

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Ash and Will – Falmouth University

A copywriter-and-art-director straight out of the Dave Trott School of Advertising, Ash and Will specialise in punchy, billboard-style ads that are all about the double-punch messaging – juxtaposing statements and words-vs-images to hammer home their point.

This campaign for the NHS is a great example of this, taking issue with the idea that social smoking isn’t really smoking and encouraging those who have the occasional cheeky cigarette to seriously consider stopping.

Fi Smart – Plymouth

Fi specialises in illustrating stories on ceramics. She creates artworks based on novels such as Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse and Melvyn Peake’s Gormenghast, wrapping them around jugs, vases and – in the case of War Horse – handmade bullets.

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Each artwork is painted onto the objects in a series of layers, with a glossy lustre applied on each – followed by firing – before the next layer is painted. This gives each work a real sense of depth - both visually and figuratively.

Hannah Packard - Plymouth

We loved the concept behind Hannah’s campaign around last year’s 5p carrier bag charge. Rather than focussing on the negative side of charging people to buy carrier bags – the cost does this itself – this focusses on trying to get people to reuse the bags that they ended up having to buy anyway.

These warm, charming designs extol the virtues of re-using bags for putting your wellies in to stop mud getting through your house (while you’re wearing them or not) or keeping your bike seat dry.

The bags themselves were accompanied by well-shot, authentic-feeling photography of the bags in use – which helped to make the project feel more real, rather than just a concept.

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There’s a professional polish in everything Hannah had to show, down to her own identity with its diagonally symmetrical logotype of her name.

Jasmine Alice – Bucks New University

Another project with a strong, original concept was Jasmine Alice’s The Adventure Kit. Working to a brief set by Save The Children, the kit gives fathers with poor reading skills a way to tell bedtime stories to their kids without having to read from a book. Instead, they can use plastic characters and props based around set themes – such as exploration here – to tell those stories.

Jasmine does lose a few points through for inconsistent branding that made it hard to find her contact details – as her work was labelled as being from Jasmine Burgess (which may be her real name, but consistency of branding at grad shows is a must as most people won’t go to the lengths we did to find her card).

Kasia Serafin - Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen

This concept for a window display at John Lewis’s Oxford Street store is just lovely. Kasia’s style is fully formed and we expect to see high-profile editorial and commercial commissioned work from her soon.

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Viewed through the store's window, the project is mean to feel like looking through binoculars at an idealised London scene containing iconic landmarks, the Tube and a selection of the shop’s departments that show the range of the products on sale.

It also glows in the dark for late-at-night viewing.

The scene is rendered in autumnal colours with some delightful character design. It’s layered to allow different elements to be animated, with holes at the back so LED lights behind it can make the stars twinkle.

Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown’s Planes, Trains & Automobiles strips the likes of Google Maps and Citymapper down to their simplest, non-interactive form. It's is a newspaper comprised of elegant infographics that highlight the differences between different ways to travelling around the UK – graphics that are possessed of a clarity that makes them super-easy to understand without being visually boring.

We also really like the way Lisa’s website, which clearly explains each of the projects she’s works and even succeeds at doing that thing you’re really not supposed to do – selling yourself on your site’s homepage based on your personality and experiences (especially in a video).

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Nicole Cowan - Middlesex

Nicole's crowd-based artworks are something special. We saw lots of examples of this form using flat colours but with samey characters – sometime literally copied and pasted. What marks out the work of Nicole Cowan is how the different personalities of each individual come though

I really liked Nicole's Shop Till We Drop project – and I’m not the only one, as it has won a D&AD Student Awards Pencil. In it, she has interpreted three traditional story archetypes – Tragedy, The Quest, Overcoming the Monster – into everyday stories of consumerism.

Robin Barnes

Designed for a brief to promote that paper brand Fedrigoni is now selling single sheets, Robin has created a rather lovely isometric poster (and CG video, below) that showcase the colour, texture and weight of the stock.

We also rather like his choice of URL.

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Simon Hayes

You can't not love a typeface created from the shapes formed when you look at electricity pylons from different angles. This was one of the most nerdy projects we saw at New Blood - and one of the best.