Words by Kelly Thomas
In the latest instalment of our New Course Discourse blog series exploring LCC’s exciting new undergraduate and postgraduate courses, we speak to Valerie Mace, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces.
She discusses what’s special about this course, what students will learn, the industry’s appetite for brand experience designers and portfolio tips for applicants!
Tell us about the course, how did it develop and what makes it different?
The new BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces course was inspired by our success teaching the Branded Spaces pathway as part of previous course at LCC. The pathway was very popular and in the last few years, we’ve worked with students to explore the design of branded spaces and brand experiences, and transferred this vision into the course.
Technological advances in the last 10 years have changed the branded spaces landscape and the way designers work. Clients and design practices now require graduates who understand the relationship between physical and digital environments, and who are able to embrace rapid change, keep an open mind, work in 3D spatial contexts and create brand experiences.
The course offers an innovative approach that enables students to integrate practices across disciplines. Students will design immersive, interactive and multi-sensory experiences that reimagine brands for the digital era, in a spatial context.
Experimentation, creativity, imagination and the ability to tell a story through the design of a space are key to design processes on the course.
Using speculative creative techniques (such as design fiction), students will anticipate future needs and explore the role of designers and opportunities technologies offer. They’ll work on live and experimental briefs in collaboration with high profile spatial, experience and interaction design organisations, and experts in design and communication for branded spaces and digital technology applications.
The course opens up opportunities for collaboration with a wide range of students from other art, design, screen and media-based disciplines at LCC, other colleges at UAL and beyond. Students should think about the course as the beginning of their journey as design practitioners and thinkers.
What is the advantage of studying BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces at LCC?
Technical expertise and workshops enable our students to create, test and experiment with designs when working on projects. They have access to making and prototyping facilities, computer drawing and modelling, and professional photography equipment and studios. LCC has an ethos of encouraging practice-based investigations that engage with and solve real-world problems. In this context, students on the course will be able to provide solutions to key challenges affecting the future of branded spaces across a range of commercial, retail, workplace, cultural and community environments.
Our central London location allows us to capitalise on what the city has to offer. London is renowned for the strength of its creative industries, with many opportunities on our doorstep. We’re able to go out on visits and study trips, expanding learning opportunities beyond our teaching studio.
We set up visits to trade shows, design events and recently organised a drawing workshop at the Southbank Centre, a visit to the Fear and Love exhibition at the Design Museum, and a workshop within Carnaby Street’s famous retail landscape – it’s a lively and fun way to learn.
We’re also never very far from our many industry connections. Professionals come to LCC to deliver specialist talks, workshops or provide feedback on student projects. Recent guests include Peter Higgins from Land Design Studio, Studio Weave and Eclective. We also have connections to organisations who are keen to work with students on live projects and competitions; last year, students won a competition to design an installation at the Royal Academy of Arts and also worked with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB). Students were invited to redesign the identity and public areas surrounding the RNIB headquarters in London to create an inspired space that represented its ethos, with accessibility for people of all seeing and sensing abilities.
LCC offers a dynamic and friendly environment where students come from all over the world. The mix of different cultures here enriches creative potential. We’re able to engage with branded spaces on a global scale and explore international opportunities through established partnerships with other universities. We explore design in a global context, referencing international designers such as Wonderwall Inc., a retail design practice located in Japan. In final year, students will work on a self-selected brief where they are encouraged to integrate their knowledge, experiences and culture into their work, and locate their project in relation to their desired progression.
Could you tell us about the relationship between spaces, technology and people, and how this is explored on the course?
Technologies have become an increasingly important part of our lives. We all carry technologies with us and we’re able to connect and engage remotely with brands, organisations and each other. We also see technologies permeating experiential design and changing the way we experience products, spaces and even people.
We teach students to understand the potential applications of technologies in a spatial and branding context. We are not expecting our students to make the technologies, but to explore innovative and intelligent ways to use them. The course integrates technologies as a way to mediate people’s experiences of branded spaces. The focus is on design, how people interact with the branded spaces, and technologies are used to enhance experiences.
What skills/interests do you look for from applying students?
We’re looking for students who want to design branded spaces and are interested in branding across spatial applications, 3D dynamic environments, interdisciplinary practices and technologies. We encourage our students to be curious about things around them and to have fun experimenting with new ideas. In portfolios we’re keen to see development work alongside final outcomes and finished presentation pieces.
We also like to see sketches and experiments that show how applicants generate and explore ideas, and drawings that communicate design thinking. Alongside spatial design, applicants may also include work from other disciplines such as graphics, photography or products.
Where could this course lead graduates in terms of employment/future projects?
The course offers a wide range of progression opportunities, with some students continuing their studies at postgraduate level, others applying for positions in industries or setting up businesses in collaboration with other designers. Design employment opportunities across sector include: commercial environments (retail, pop up, installations, bars, restaurants, hotels), leisure and cultural environments (exhibition, tourist destinations, art centres, events), workplace (office, trade shows, showrooms) and public and community spaces (interiors, installations, events, urban spaces).
This is a design course, but we understand that students also need to develop their professional and entrepreneurial skills, so students are immersed in a proactive professional context.
On completing this course, graduates will understand how their designs provide unique solutions to strategic and tactical business objectives, and how to use design to demonstrate ingenious and sophisticated approaches to problem solving. They understand how to collaborate with others and how to develop entrepreneurial skills in order to promote themselves and their work effectively.
We empower students and graduates to develop the qualities, experiences and behaviours that prepare them for rewarding professional lives in the UK and internationally.