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BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design students connect with leading practitioners through Critical Forum series

A range of colourful abstract shapes.
A range of colourful abstract shapes.
Image credit: Colour, Space and Story, Oreoluwa Mary Adekoya.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
29 June 2021

Students from London College of Communication (LCC) go on to achieve great things: graduating with the technical skills needed to excel in their fields, and a drive towards connecting communities, tackling contemporary challenges, and sparking change in industry.

Whether working for start-ups, non-profits, global brands, or agencies, or by choosing to pave their own way as freelancers, they apply their holistic understanding of creativity to transform the world around them. Some even become academics and mentors, using their skills to nurture the next generation.

On our BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design (GMD) course, students are encouraged to take part in workshops, tutorials and in-conversation sessions where they’re connected to a range of leading practitioners - many of whom are LCC alumni. Belonging to such a vibrant community of visionary creatives not only enables students to build their skills and their networks, but also prepares them to explore the future landscapes and technologies of their field.

During the 2021 Spring Term, GMD students were invited to attend a number of exciting live events where they engaged with high-profile industry professionals, including a series of sessions programmed as part of the celebrated Critical Forum series. One such session introduced insights from the multifaceted designer, author and senior critic, Eddie Opara – himself a graphic design graduate of LCC’s precursor, London College of Printing.

Sharing the story of his own creative journey, including roles at ATG, Imaginary Forces and 2x4; the eventual founding of his own studio, The Map Office; and experiences from over a decade of his role as Pentagram Partner, Eddie discussed his prolific career across graphic design, art direction and academia. He also discussed some of the major influences on his creative practice, and emphasised the importance of considering the wider socio-cultural impact of choices made as a designer.

Second-year student Mary Adekoya recently wrote about her highlights of the session for the GMD course blog. We caught up with her to discuss the importance of connecting to graduate practitioners, her passion for graphic design, and her broader experiences as a student at LCC.

Colour, Space and Story | Oreoluwa Mary Adekoya.

Tell us about your creative practice - what first inspired you to pursue graphic and media design? 

I've always had an interest in art, and throughout my education, much has inspired me.

One of my first inspirations came from my Fine Art teacher at secondary school. She took an interest in my work and helped me build my confidence. I remember a few times when she shared her own work to the class, which I found useful - knowing your teacher is a practicing artist and teaching you from their own experience is something I find very important.

Then, for my A-Levels, I studied both Fine Art and Graphic Design; I ended up taking more interest in my Graphic Design classes because I was creating design to communicate a range of information. I knew I wanted to pursue the subject further because I found it very challenging and more enjoyable. During my 2 years of A-Level study, I learnt how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for the first time, and my teachers were very helpful and gave us a lot of guidance. It was a new way of working and thinking for many of us, and I also experienced the difficulty of meeting design deadlines which made the course hard at times - but it was worth it for my learning.

During this time, I also started doing design-related work for my home church. This opened me up to practising the skills I was learning, and especially using design software like Photoshop which, retrospectively, was quite new to me. I learnt skills in communication, meeting deadlines, and just trying to be creative, so studying and doing freelance work really kept me motivated and interested by offering a glimpse of what this creative practice had to offer me.

Now, at university, I’m seeing a wider range of possibilities, which is all very exciting. Besides always having an interest in art since a child, people I’ve encountered so far in my creative practice - most notably my teachers - have all contributed to me pursuing my discipline.

Examples of risograph and photography work.
Image credit: Risograph and Film photography experimentations, Oreoluwa Mary Adekoya.

Are you interested in exploring a particular approach, area or theme through your work?

My design interest lies across type, editorial and print, and often in exploring them all simultaneously. I’m particularly interested in learning more about typographical considerations for visual systems, and designing custom/experimental typefaces in order to use type to communicate effectively.

In terms of editorial, I hope to learn more about design layouts for both physical and screen contexts, with attention to user experience through detailed consideration around scaling, layout, book-making and paper selection.

When it comes to print, I’d like to gain more practical skills for screen-printing, risograph, letterpress, lino printing, lithography and digital printing. I’d also like to obtain more substantial knowledge of the history of traditional printing, including its use and print organisations.

Additionally, I would like to work solely on design that aligns to my faith. As a Christian, and due to my early work which started at church, I feel grounded and purposeful in this space. I want to explore community-based and charitable projects that help people and do good.

Photographs of a colourful printed magazine.
Image credit: Time Capsule, Oreoluwa Mary Adekoya.

Why did you decide to study on the BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design course at LCC?

I had many reasons, but the main reason was open access to facilities. I love printmaking, and to have everything literally at my doorstep was a huge incentive to study at LCC. Before Covid and online lessons, our classes were very practical, with us moving around the classroom and the College Building, as well as receiving inductions to all the different kinds of workshops available to us.

Another reason was the course structure. I went to quite a lot of university open days and taster days across England because I was really unsure as to which university would be right for me. I ended picking BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design because the course content caught my attention, as it would be teaching me new concepts. The diversity of its structure has meant that the outcomes for each project are really varied, and you aren’t limited because you have access to so many different resources.

GMD is also such a big course; I think there are roughly 150 students in my year, and I don’t know any other graphic design course with that many students. It’s great because you meet so many interesting people all the time.

And being in London, which is full of creative opportunities, can be incredibly motivating.

An event banner featuring a photograph of a smiling man.
Image credit: BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design.

Tell us a little bit about taking part in a workshop with Eddie Opara – why did you want to get involved, and why was this a useful opportunity for you as an emerging creative?

The Eddie Opara session was one of many great GMD Critical Forum sessions that run weekly during term-time, bringing a range of lectures, workshops and tutorials from LCC tutors and guest speakers. I wanted to join this session because I’d heard so much about the work of both Eddie and Pentagram, and this was my first time to hear him speak. He was also offering portfolio reviews that I wanted to take part in.  

The session started with Eddie sharing his background, his time at LCC (which was known as London College of Print back then), his creative work, and how he got into Pentagram New York. He showed a selection of work which focused on his black and African clients at Pentagram, and it felt very adaptable. I particularly liked his editorial work, which also shows connection and humanity. I think my major takeaway from his talk was a strong sense of community.

Eddie’s story was especially inspiring when I discovered that we are both Nigerians, our mothers are both nurses, and we both attended the same university (under different names). I also have a focus on community and building human interactions in my work, and being able to see that Eddie is able to do this as a full-time job – and loves doing so - is encouraging to know.

A 3D render of a bird.
Image credit: Focus x Format, Oreoluwa Mary Adekoya.

What have been the highlights of your experience at LCC so far?

My highlights would be meeting students from different backgrounds, and also my overall learning growth. For example, 2 of my first-year projects required me to create a 30 second animation, and one required After Effects. I had no previous experience with animation or this software, and I had to learn during lockdown with no physical access to LCC’s Digital Space. Our tutors were exceptional in teaching us how to use After Effects, and I received ample support to create 2 animations that I was proud of. The whole experience taught me to be resilient and self-motivated.

For one of my second-year projects, I had to present my work on a regular basis. This meant showing my raw ideas and development, which isn’t something I’d normally do. However, working this way has made my documentation process clearer.

Lastly, the best experience so far has been taking part in a study exchange at Universität der Künste Berlin. This opportunity has been amazing for me. To experience new teaching styles has been challenging but so rewarding.

What are your creative career goals, and how has your time at LCC helped you to think more about what you'd like to do in the future?

My creative career goal is be to be a full-time, self-employed designer. I’d like to work with clients for a long period of time and to build personal relationships with them, which means that, whatever their business is, it would have to be something of personal interest to me also.

Whilst I’m still studying, I’m trying to build connections in the creative sector, and my goal is to do a few internships in different places that can offer me more insight. Having the opportunity to undertake the Diploma in Professional Studies at LCC has meant that I’m able to further explore career options, and with that, the chance to be involved in the processes of design has given me a keen interest in pursuing certain design paths.

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