Nestled away on a quiet street in Peckham is work-form. Set up in 2013 by Camberwell graduates Charlie Abbott, Jake Hopwood and Alex Hough, work-form design books, websites and identities for artists, musicians, cultural organisations and small companies. As well as being practitioners, all three members of the studio teach on the first year BA Graphic Design course at Camberwell College of Arts and run projects and workshops across various universities and courses.
work-form’s studio is one of eight spaces at Assembly Point, a new Peckham venue which incorporates a gallery and studio spaces that are home to artists, designers and other other like-minded practitioners, making the building and their own studio a dynamic place to be. We caught up with Charlie here, to hear about his experiences as a student and teacher at Camberwell and how work-form was founded.
Before they founded the studio, Alex and Charlie were school friends and met Jake on the BA Graphic Design course at Camberwell. First working together on live projects during the course, they were able to submit work together and their work became increasingly collaborative.
In 2011 they held their first external exhibition at Kemistry Gallery entitled ‘Questioning Print’. Curated by the group, they also exhibited alongside invited practitioners who produced works that aimed to open the discussion and question the role of digital printing in the production of their work. “The exhibition showed that placing work outside of college was and is possible” says Charlie, thinking back to that time. It wasn’t perfect, however. “Looking back on this first exhibition, we can now question the project, identify its successes but also the areas that could have been improved. Presenting the exhibition in a public space encouraged us to be more objective about our work, and this is something that has increased over time.”
Upon graduation, Alex, Jake and Charlie initially went on to join Camberwell Press, a graphic design studio set up by graduates which, until recently, was based at the college. Their experience at Camberwell Press gave them valuable studio space after graduating. It was through this teaching that they saw how beneficial it is for students to interact with professionals during their degrees. “Through working with active practitioners, students can see the possibilities of what can happen when you graduate”.
Their interest in teaching had grown during their time as students at Camberwell. As graduation approached, they asked themselves what they would want to learn if they were starting out again. This inspired a project which they proposed to teach to the BA Graphic Design students. For the first year they taught on a few specific projects basis, however soon became more heavily involved with the course.
As teachers Alex, Charlie and Jake want their students to understand working in the world outside of education. They set students more than one project at a time, encouraging them to develop time management skills and hoping they will be adaptable to change. “Deadlines can and do shift and the students learn to manage these” explains Charlie. They also believe that research is integral to design projects. As teachers they like to encourage collaboration within and across courses. “Camberwell College of Arts is a unique place in that it has a sense of community and many Camberwell alumni choose to stay in the area to live and work after graduation. There is an ability to network and build connections within the college and in the outside community here which is very hard to replicate elsewhere.”
By being both teachers and active designers they hope that the course teaches students to have an open mind about what it means to be a practitioner. For the three of them, teaching also informs their own practice. It offers the chance to research what they do and there are opportunities for shared learning with their students. Although work-form have moved out of the college, they still have a connection to their students and involve them in their work, having occasionally inviting them to their studios to work with them.
When asked what advice he and his work-form colleagues would give current students, Charlie is clear: “have confidence in what you want to do and understand that things take time. Consider the criteria by which you judge ‘success’, and remember that you have a considerable amount of time ahead of you in which to live and work. As work-form, we aim to support our projects by offering a service that helps each person we work with to communicate – that, to us, is success.”
Find out more about work-form at: http://www.work-form.co.uk/
Find out more about studying Graphic Design at Camberwell on our course page: