When we visit a city we sometimes purchase mementoes as a way to objectify our understanding of a place, keeping them for ourselves or to gift them to others becoming tokens of deep personal value.
This year, collaborative multi-disciplinary groups of Year 2 students from BA Interior and Spatial Design have worked with their Chelsea colleagues on BA Textile Design and BA Graphic Design Communication to design, make and exhibit a sustainable souvenir for London.
This project builds on knowledge exchange activities recently explored with Bunyko Gakuin University, Japan between Interior and Spatial Design, Graphic Design and Psychology students in developing place-specific souvenirs for Kawagoe.
This time, the project was reimagined for London in partnership with Not Just a Shop, UAL’s retail space which sells design products and artwork created exclusively by students and graduates from UAL. Outside of retail hours it is also a learning space, with a programme of enterprise events which are designed to help UAL students and alumni to launch and develop their creative businesses.
Through workshops, tutorials and small prototyping, the students working on the Souvenir project united to design a visual, material and spatial language that embodied a meaningful sense of place. A series of talks by Zoe Tynan-Campbell and Natalie Stevens from UAL Not Just A Shop and collaborative workshops with the teaching team including Nick Dunn, Ansel Neckles, Wendy Carlton-Dewhirst, David Barnett and me helped students to decode the identity and value of the city to configure a new product for potential sale that pushed boundaries.
Isabella Fontana, an Interior and Spatial Design student said of this process: “I have learned that risk-taking is what gives a group the motivation to keep on working and thanks to this you can build trust with one and another”.
The collaborative unit brief aims to provide students with the opportunity to meaningfully work across disciplines and connect to larger universal themes, providing an external focus for project development. This year the project considered ideas around the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages and Sustainability Development Goals, framing a space to ethically consider individual and collective perspectives as Londoners.
An individual material spend limit of £10 per student encouraged economic responses to how, what and why these objects can be sustainably crafted and commercially minded. Marah El Saleh, an Interior and Spatial Design student said “the unit was such a great experience as it allowed us to work with people from different fields as well as understand how to communicate and work with one another”.
Students also questioned how they reconcile these issues and at the same time acknowledge as humans we belong, enjoy and connect to the world in a multitude of ways.
As the project focused on the evolution of collaborative working practices alongside resourcefulness, many of the souvenirs investigated up-cycling, recycling, reuse and adaptation. As a Graphic Design Communication student Milda Pranskute explained, “I learned so much about sourcing sustainable materials, I realised that the work I make can in fact make a difference.” Souvenir prototypes included ideas for lint mobiles to ecological soaps, royal mail tote bags to cycle masks, biscuit cutters to coasters, map wallets to scribble seed pencils.
These where displayed at the Showcase Exhibition in the Banqueting Hall at Chelsea College of Arts, with Textile Design student Molly Nencini saying “I was really looking forward to seeing what everyone else had produced for the project, as the outcomes were all so different, it was interesting to see different people’s take on the brief. I was also looking forward to hearing and seeing other people’s reactions to our product and seeing what all the components would look like all together!”
From the 49 products, 7 were identified for further development and UAL Not Just a Shop met with students to discuss refinement and commercialisation of their designs for potential sale. All students were also directed to get in touch if they wished to pursue development of their work in the near future.
One of these was the design team comprising of Jamie Carroll and Yulia Grabuzova from Graphic Design Communication, Phoebe Howard, Daisy McKeever and Victoria Sauvage De Brantes from Textile Design and Caitlyn Isaac from Interior and Spatial Design who together designed Chaos in the Capital, a card game.
A contemporary remake of the popular game Happy Families, the souvenir explores contemporary sub-cultures within London encouraging players to share and exchange cards of hipsters to pub-goers. Following further meetings with the UAL Not Just a Shop team and some small tweaks the product is due to be on sale over the coming months.
With the plan to display the works for London Craft Week in the Business and Innovation Cabinet at Camberwell College of Arts sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is hoped that the works will be exhibited online in the future.