Design School students collaborate with OPX to create new climate conscious microsite
As creatives, we’re empowered with the skills to imagine better futures and develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. With the Climate Crisis continuing to impact global communities on an increasingly profound scale, embedding sustainability into our practice is vital to ensuring we make, innovate and ideate responsibly.
One of the ways in which London College of Communication (LCC) is integrating greater sustainability into its activities is through the development of a new exhibitions microsite that emphasises the importance of climate conscious and accessible design.
Without Form Space provides students with the opportunity to showcase their work to a global audience while educating users about the impact of their browsing decisions, prompting them to build more mindful habits. Key features include the limited appearance of high-resolution images, visual reminders of energy consumption, and compatibility with keyboard and speech recognition software.
Its inaugural exhibition, Climate Conscious Creativity, will launch in Summer 2022, and will focus on highlighting creative responses to the ecological emergency. Featured projects demonstrate the work of students from across the College, proposing alternative futures and positive action across areas ranging from carbon emissions and ecological solutions to critiques of the systemic issues affecting our environment.
Created in collaboration with developers Mallard & Claret and OPX, a leading design agency dedicated to triggering long-term transformation by ‘inventing with purpose’, the project has provided an opportunity to unite both the College’s past and future. OPX was founded by alumni of LCC's precursor, London College of Printing, and their team worked with current students and recent graduates within the Design School to conceptualise the microsite throughout the development process – bringing together established industry experience with vital insights from emerging practitioners.
We caught up with 2 of the students involved in the project, recent BA (Hons) Information and Interface Design graduates Christine Zhang and Matt Richmond, to discuss how the industry collaboration enabled them to grow as designers, along with highlights from their time at LCC.
Tell us about your creative practice.
Christine: My practice has always been multi-disciplinary. It involves many different forms that encapsulate my earlier explorations of Fine Art to now, where I specialise in digital design.
On top of that, my practice isn’t solely focused in visual design, but also in conceptual thinking and deep research.
Matt: My creative practice is based across the disciplines of interface design and creative technology.
Does your work tend to focus on a particular theme, format or process?
Christine: Over the years, my practice has been dictated by my understanding that design isn't the job of a single person, but is instead a creative process that involves designers as well as the users it’s made for. As a result, co-creation has become a common theme within my projects, and a valuable process that I bring into all my work.
Matt: My work addresses inequities of power in the digital landscape. I particularly focus on developing tools and experiences that educate and empower users to navigate the pitfalls of digital life.
How did you find out about the exhibitions microsite project, and why did you decide to get involved?
Christine: Having just graduated from university, I felt like it was a really valuable project and also a great opportunity to work with an amazing studio like OPX.
I'd previously worked with the LCC Exhibitions and Events Team on other projects during my time at the College, so this was also an exciting opportunity to create an end product that spoke directly to my own experience as both an LCC student and as a young designer.
Matt: One of my tutors told me about the project and suggested that I apply. I decided to go for it because it seemed like a great opportunity to work on a challenging, high-end design project alongside a really cool studio.
What were your highlights of the collaboration?
Christine: A massive highlight was being able to collaborate closely with the OPX team from start to finish: to work in an environment where our opinions and ideas were met with care, passion and respect was so valuable in helping to mould me into a confident young designer.
Additionally, the brief echoed with my own values of sustainability and accessibility, which was great. The overall experience taught me that projects based in design can have other goals than visual pleasure by existing as a tool to educate audiences while changing the practices of our industry.
Matt: The team at OPX were really friendly and great to work with. It was nice to get to know them and to follow their design process along with some of my classmates.
Everyone was able to bring their own ideas along, and watching the project evolve through collaboration was really interesting.
What did you most enjoy about working with OPX?
Christine: The OPX team were brilliant. Working with them so closely taught me valuable lessons in understanding how to act as a creative team - supporting and adapting to one another fluidly. The support and guidance that each team member gave me shaped me into the designer I am today.
In their eyes, we weren’t just students working on a brief, but vital voices in the overall project.
Matt: I think it was great how much they valued our input. They made a lot of space for us to research and experiment with design concepts, and took a lot of those ideas on board.
That environment enabled us to explore some really interesting concepts, and led to the creation of a really cool and unique response to the brief.
How has this project helped you to develop your skills and explore potential career paths?
Christine: The time spent on this project gave me the confidence and skills in design that I was only just coming into tune with as a newly graduated student.
The horizontal hierarchy at OPX meant that I learned how to confidently use my voice alongside experienced designers. Now working at Stink Studios, I'm able to better understand the value of everyone’s opinions and ideas thanks to my experience of working on the microsite, and I'm able to appreciate the insights of everyone ranging from recent graduates to creative directors.
Without Form Space has proven to be an incredible achievement that I will cherish as one of the first official projects of my career.
Matt: Up until this point, I’d been working either on my own projects or in small groups as a student. Seeing a project through from start to finish with a professional studio gave me a lot of insight into how larger scale projects are managed, as well as how to work effectively and collaborate with a larger team.
What were the highlights of your time at LCC?
Christine: My time at LCC on the BA (Hons) Information and Interface Design Course (now User Experience Design) was an absolute joy.
My amazing tutors - Gareth, Oliver, Christine and Eva - all guided me through my formative years as a designer, and I’ll cherish their support throughout my career. Each of them taught me the importance of believing in the work that you make and the significance in finding a strong voice within your projects.
My Final Major Project was based within my personal experience as a transcultural individual, and the attentiveness, care and love each tutor showed towards my process in voicing those experiences allowed for a wonderful project to bloom. My time at LCC was really a hats-off moment to the relationships I built with these individuals and my peers.
Matt: I really enjoyed a lot of things about studying at LCC. Our tutors were amazing and taught us so much - most importantly, I think, how to think critically about problems and research thoroughly to understand the context behind anything we set out to make.
My course introduced me to so many possibilities, and really helped me to define and develop my own practice.
What advice would you give to prospective students who might be interested in applying to your course?
Christine: The advice I’d give to students who are looking to apply to my course would be to always push your perspective. Over the past few years, I not only found out who I wanted to be as a designer, but also how I could weave my personal experiences and values into my practice.
Also, be open to both the conceptual and contextual aspects of your project as well as the technical. A project is never just about how beautiful you make something visually, but also its message and its place in the world.
Finally, always be brave enough to speak from your personal experiences as they create projects that are genuine, layered and meaningful.
Matt: I would say don’t go in thinking that this course (or any course) is just about learning the tools of the trade.
Your experience will be really dynamic, and will introduce you to a lot of ideas, practices, and people, so it’s important to remain open and learn as much as you can.
Climate Conscious Creativity will be live on Without Form Space throughout Summer 2022.