On the Graduate Showcase you'll find a collection of work by students who place collaboration at the centre of their creative practice. Here, we pause on three projects – from mental health to material innovation – that rely on connection and codesign.
PLURAL is a collection of work co-curated by Pentagram and Do The Green Thing. Celebrating collaboration in its many forms: "They can be seamless – where it’s hard to see where one contribution stops and another starts. They can be amplifying – where multiple voices ring louder than one. They can be catalysing – where the collaboration makes new things possible."
Shielding by BA Graphic Communication Design student, Cameron John, is an intimate, socially distanced documentation of the daily routines of people that had to shield because of COVID-19. Shielding refers to people that are clinically extremely vulnerable and are at a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. During the pandemic, 2.2 million people in the UK were advised by the government to shield by remaining at home and avoiding as much face-to-face contact as possible.
A friend of his family was shielding and Cameron became aware of the intense isolation of that experience. “I felt they deserved more recognition,” he says, “I wanted to create some form of platform”. With a combination of friends, family and social media, Cameron found more shielding volunteers aged from 16 to 90. He asked them to record their daily routines using disposable 35mm cameras, free to document anything they wanted. Alongside the photography, volunteers also wrote down reflections – some wrote pages upon pages, others very little. Once lockdown restrictions were lifted, Cameron visited each volunteer to take their portrait.
All these components were then compiled in one publication, a chapter for each person. The final document doesn’t focus on why the participants are shielding but instead presents their view on that experience. Keen to minimise his control within this collaboration, Cameron made no edits to the texts or corrections to the photographs, in fact each chapter closes the full contact sheets (you can support the project at its Kickstarter page)
Graduating from MA Graphic Communication Design, Lily Kong explored loneliness with anonymised contributors. For I’m Fine, she requests people’s stories of small incidents that trigger loneliness and then she illustrates them. Those illustrations, shared on Instagram, share glimpses of other people’s experiences, at once so specific and, yet, universal. Everyone who submits a story receives a postcard of a stranger’s story. At the centre of the network, Lily had created a platform of anonymised connection during a time of pandemic isolation.
As the illustrator, Lily frames the stories with a gentle humour. The title of the project I’m Fine closes each story, puncturing any sadness with self-deprecation.
Speaking to Creative Review, Lily said: “I always try to find humour in these upsetting stories and make myself feel better. It became particularly significant in the year of the pandemic. I wanted to introduce it to my friends and audience, hoping that they will feel better about being alive. I decided to subtly introduce a more positive attitude towards upsetting stories, hence I started the project I’m Fine.”
Paula Camiña Eiras’s project for her MA Biodesign began in lockdown, while she was at her home in Galicia, Spain. Looking to the local fishing industry, she found that 602 tonnes of seafood exoskeletons were wasted annually and began exploring biomaterials that she could make from the shells of seafood. The result was a flexible and elastic biomaterial that biodegrades, and in those material properties, she reflects: “I see so much potential.”
At the same time, she saw how basketmaking and its craft knowledge was in decline in Galicia. Demand had fallen and reforestation in the area introduced non-autochthonous species, reducing the plants that had, for centuries, been available to basket makers.
In the past, basketry and the seafood industry had been closely connected because the fishing traps were made locally; Co-Obradoiro Galego reinstates this collaboration. Paula approached makers with her extruded material, asking them to explore the material possibilities. Her intent is to retain the traditional forms of basketry in Galicia while incorporating this new sustainable material. In conversation with basket makers, she designed a series of vessels sensitive to those traditions.
Through Co-Obradoiro Galego, Paula demonstrates how designers can rethink the relationships between industries. Working at home due to the pandemic only emphasised her contextual perspective: “As biodesigners, we need to always take the local approach and look for local solutions.”
Support Cameron's Shielding project on Kickstarter. Explore more collaborative work in the Plural Collection on the Graduate Showcase.