Designing no identity

Combining restrained visuals with blunt commands, this year’s Degree Show identity has been created by BA Graphic Design students Lorna Searl and Joseph de Weijer

Q: What drew you to the design competition for the Degree Show identity?
LS: We’re both on the Moving Image pathway within our course and it means we don’t do traditional two-dimensional graphic design often. So, the degree show was a good opportunity for us to work in that way – I was really eager but Joe was more reluctant.
JdW: As soon as the brief was mentioned I just thought that it sounded unfair to brand everyone under one image.

You couldn’t encompass the entire Degree Show in one image, so if you can’t show everything then you have to show nothing.

LS: Then the question was how do you communicate something by showing nothing? We were stuck for a good while until we stepped back and asked what’s the point of advertising and branding? Why does it exist? Well, for people to come to the show. I remember when we got the idea – it was a split-second thing.
Initially, I was reticent to present it. I’d seen the other groups who had created some beautiful work and all we’d done is type “come” into illustrator – I was feeling slightly guilty.

Q: Essentially, it’s the ‘no identity, identity’ which means you have to be sensitive to every design choice and any kind of embellishment?
JdW: Yes, it’s been a very careful operation because it’s so easy to cross the line into something needless. We stick to Helvetica Bold in lower case and with a bit of spacing it starts to define itself visually.

Q: The identity is sparse but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to execute?
LS: Exactly. When they saw the design, everyone was saying “it’ll be super easy for you” but because it’s so simple, everything has to be perfect.

Q: Has working on the Degree Show had an impact on your individual work?
JdW: It’s ruined me! Now we’re both Helvetica Bold people
LS: Definitely. I’ve been looking back over my work now and think “what’s the point of that line?”  or “what’s the point of this colour?” This design fits our personalities. We’re direct, honest. I’m quite serious, whereas Jo is more chatty.
JdW: That’s what’s important with the design, there’s seriousness and humour at the same time.

Q: You’re graduating this year, do you have plans for the future?
LS: We work well together so we’ll see how it goes but we want to get straight out there. Working on the Degree Show hasn’t simply been a learning experience, it’s got real world impact and that’s been good for both of us. It’s been a definite confidence boost.