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Studying Graphic Design at University and getting recognised by the International Society of Typographic Designers

I am studying BA (Hons) Graphic and Communication Design at the University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College and recently I have been commended by the International Society of Typographic Designers for my entry into a competition; so I thought I would share how I found the experience for anyone who is thinking of entering. ISTD is highly respected across the Design industry and so when I saw the opportunity of entering my work, I took it! It’s a great opportunity for exposure and to add something to your CV that a lot of other people won’t have and my tutor really encouraged and supported me in going for it which was great.

The competition had 5 different themes to choose from to inspire the design of a book, I chose to explore the theme of Lost. I looked into the loss of mind and life through serial killers. I thought by choosing a rather dysfunctional topic it would really allow me to be rather manipulative and experimental with type and the design of the pages for my book. The ISTD competition focuses mainly on experimentation with typography and therefore, even though you can use imagery and shapes for the designs of the pages, it is the use and importance of typography within your design that is marked the most. I would recommend choosing a subject or topic that you know you would translate well into typography and that you can be creative with.

For example, I chose the serial killer ‘The Zodiac Killer’ as his murders were notorious but also because he would write to the police and torment victims’ families with handwritten letters. I thought this handwritten aspect would make really interesting pages in my book and allow me to include a lot of type throughout.

 Not only is designing the book an obvious priority but as is the background work which is also submitted, this needs to be written thoroughly throughout the project. The competition is marked on many factors such as Strategy, Research, Concept and design, Typographic skills, Specifications and Presentation. These all appear in the brief and are told in detail so you know what is expected and what to include.

I loved creating the book and to make my book stand out above the hundreds of other books they would be marking, I created my book cover out of Perspex and hinges and then bound it together with bolts and screws. This really made the book look as unusual and almost restrained which really went well with my serial killer topic. Going above and beyond such as doing screen printing, laser cutting, stitching or any handcrafted ideas really adds to the book content which is more likely to score you marks when ISTD mark your work. However, doing these things for the sake of purely getting more marks doesn’t make them as effective. Be influenced by your theme and try some different techniques (such as the stitching, printing, different materials, inks etc) that link and flow well to your topic as this makes them far more successful as they have purpose and reason behind them.

After completing and sending off my work, the awaited results came in and I was so pleased that I was commended for the entry I submitted. The hours and hours of designing, research and creating really paid off. I was surprised more than anything as the competition is so harshly marked but also this was the first time anyone from University of Suffolk had entered the competition, therefore I wasn’t really sure if I was doing everything right!

After grading, you receive a report on your project where they tell you how successful your work is but also how you can improve it, which is useful to have a professional opinion and overview.

I would really recommend entering the competition as it’s a great opportunity to create something that you can get commended on, that will make you stand out in front of other candidates for jobs but also it is great exposure for the University too. I won’t lie, it is a lot of work but if you are willing to put the work in, it’s very beneficial. 

The support from my tutor was amazing throughout and she really did encourage me and also praised me for the professional standard of the work I produced; it made the process even more enjoyable knowing you have the full backing of your tutor.

I look forward to continuing on my course, taking up more opportunities, entering more competitions and a future in design. I would recommend the Graphic and Communication Design degree course to anyone – look at the amazing opportunity it has given me! Good luck to any future ISTD entrants!

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