LCC graduate James Gilpin headed up the design for our Summer Shows identity. Graduating in 2008, James studied BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design specialising in Interaction and Moving Image, and went on to study at the RCA. He has worked as a creative director and interaction designer for brands such as Nike, Gap, UAL and Arsenal football club. He now runs a production company specialising in design and build services for exhibitions, retail environments and artist commissions. We caught up with James to find out a bit more about his work and his time working with LCC.
Tell us a little bit about the thinking behind the Summer Show’s identity and how you approached the project?
LCC has a unique set of facilities rare amongst other colleges and institutions; photographic and television studios, darkrooms, gallery spaces, broadcast and printing studios, newsrooms and 3D workshops. It was important that our designs work across the breadth of the courses available, equally representing both the School of Media and the School of Design.
The signage needed to play to the scale of LCC, have gravitas and impact. Our job was to create intrigue and draw the public into the Summer Shows. The biggest challenge we faced was to frame a diverse range of student work within a system that is well crafted and carries the LCC persona, but does not take away from the student work.
I collaborated with fellow alumni Shaz Madani, a great designer whose work I had admired for a long time and had not found the opportunity to work with. She brought a great deal to the table and working together we carried the physical aspects of the project across the printed materials.
We knew that the design must be bold, instant and impactful. We had lots of leaning boards at the workshop which I have always loved sculpturally and when Shaz found a visual reference of some big film flats leaning against a country house it all clicked together and with a few prototypes and iterations we arrived at a signage system that was simple, beautiful and scalable.
We began with the very large 6m high panels in the exterior signage and then began to reduce the scale as you moved through the exhibition. Our printed material at the other end of the scale still maintained the significance of the material properties combining different stocks and sizes.
Why is sustainability so important to you, and how do you integrate sustainability into your work?
We often work with institutions that already have sustainability high on their agenda and this was no different with LCC. There can often be a temporary nature to our work and so again I feel it is very important to be considered when choosing materials and working out how to push the lifespan of a material giving them a second life where possible.
All the timber used for the show build has been sustainably sourced. Actually the larger poplar timbers used as the feet to the external boards were cut down by the council just a few miles down the road from the College. They were then machined at a mill around the corner from our workshop and finished by us. We also consider our impact when doing the making; at the workshop we also have a furnace which is able to safely burn all of our waste material which in turn keeps us all warm through the winter months.
We plan to give the materials used here a second life during green week at LCC where we will run workshops with students to extend their making abilities and hopefully leave the school with a few nice bits of furniture.
What are some of your favourite materials to work with?
My Dad trained as a cabinet maker so I guess for a long time I avoided wood and would rather be turning a nice lump of aluminium on the lathe. These days, though, wood is a big part of my practice and I love turning freshly cut oak or ash. I am experimenting a lot at the moment with pieces of furniture which will combine steel and ash together. There is something very satisfying about the clean meeting point between the two materials.
What was your favourite part of working on this project?
Getting to bring graphic design back into my work. Working with Shaz and another UAL graduate, Jasper van den Bosch, was great fun. It was a very physical design process where we could test designs on a daily basis constantly making prototypes and testing finishes alongside designing the printed materials.
How does it feel to have received such a positive response to your work on this project?
I always think that things need to be well crafted in order to demand more than a passing glance and so if people have stopped for long enough to assess and comment on the work then I think we have done something right and I can take allot of satisfaction in that.