New Designers is the UK's largest design-led grad show, bringing together work from over 1,500 just-graduated artists and designers. Last week focussed on art, textiles and ceramics, while now it's the turn of illustrators, animators and graphic and product designers to show what they're capable of.
While for illustration and graphic design, New Designers doesn't have the cachet of the D&AD's New Blood (which kicks off next week) or some single-institution shows such as Central Saint Martins', it's an always-inspiring exhibition of work from accomplished new creatives from universities both high-profile and not.
Oxford Brookes University in Swindon may not have the prestige of a UAL institution, but Alexandra Richardson has produced exceptional illustration and pattern work that can rival the best work we've seen from any institution this year, which also saw her picking up the show's Zizzi Fresh Talent award.
Alexandra's starkly monochrome animals and plants filled with super-detailed patterns – which she also incorporated neatly into her own branding – look great on roughly textured paper and tote bags.
Photos from the show shot on the Huawei P20 Pro phone. Read our P20 Pro review.
Environmentally conscious themes can also be found in Alexandra's Outside In patterns, which are designed to bring natural imagery into the workplace to improve the mental health by the people there, helping their minds to defocus from 'the feel of work' and to relax.
Abbie Dewbrey is already proving to be a master of the collage, especially work with a Dada-esque and anthropomorphic edge.
This Cambridge School of Arts student is also not averse to animation, and we love the GIF posters she made for an imagined Darwin exhibition. London's Wellcome Collection would do well in giving Abbie a call.
Cyberpunk is back with a vengeance, and nobody knows this more than Blake Gedye of University Centre Weston. His neon-based starting points look towards a Ghost in the Shell/Blade Runner future, but it's his more present-day concerns that caught our attention.
Blake's Aggro project calls out the sexual harassment that's unfortunately part and parcel of gaming interaction, juxtaposing written online abuse with various heroines from the gaming sphere. His campaign school pack for the project also has some great touches, with stylish masks and flash cards included.
Falmouth University's illustration course is very well regarded, and there's a relaxed confidence to the way the grads present their work – even taking the ballsy decision to charge a tenner for the show book that other institutions try to thrust into your hands for nothing.
The quality of the work is high – though perhaps not quite up to previous years with the arresting, standout work of the likes of David Doran or Ana Jaks (whose artwork is on the front of that show book, rather than a new grad).
Our favourite from Falmouth is Cherry Harris, whose mix of fineliners, coloured pencils and watercolours are bursting with life. Primarily focussed on children's illustration, there as sense of distinct and intriguing personality to her animals that prevents them from being twee.
Though only context-free storyboards, this frog is involved in a story we want to know more about.
Plymouth College of Art student George Goodwin caught our eye with the cover to Don't Shoot the Long Tailed Tiger, a kid's book that puts a conservation-based spin on Where's Wally. The book has the redemptive arc of a hunter tracking his quarry through George's detail-heavy jungle-scapes, before having a change of heart once realising that tigers will soon be missing from the picture altogether.
George has already made a name for himself designing tour merch for the likes of Jack Garratt and Prides, and his stall at New Designers showcased some lovely pins and even a cute roller stamp for you to customise his business cards. With a wobbly, colourful universe of his own making evident across all his pieces, we just had to make and take a card for ourselves.
Hazel P Mason from the University of Cumbria has taken on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for her final year project, rendering the ribald characters in costumes and landscapes of block colour, against which the rough, pencil-straggled features seem even more characterful.
She’s combined her illustrations with rewritten copy to create a book from four of the tales.
Jennifer Slater’s artwork for a reimagined cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban caught our eye almost as soon as we ventured into the non-product-design portion of New Designers. There’s a rough, tactile texture to the central portion of the inky black brushwork that comes from very well-directed mark-making, which contrasts nicely with the detailed silhouettes of boy and dog.
Combined with hand-painted type and a muddy background, there’s a coherence and professionalism to the whole composition. We’d like to see more work like this from Jennifer.