Inspired to aspire

On a trip to London, we went to the 4Designers conference of 2017 on Monday morning, and we had the choice of going to one of two studios for each half of the class to go to.


The chairman of the conference, Patrick Baglee, had introduced himself and the four designers and what the aim of the conference was for young people. The simple principle was to share thoughts and ideas from people and to others in the creative profession.

Matthew Shannon


The first to take the stage was Matthew Shannon, Group Executive Creative Director and Group Content Director at Brash Brands. Given the title of his job, he is required to travel to different countries to look at emerging markets. He has travelled to Sydney, the Gulf Coast, Dubai, and Beijing. To inform your work it is important to understand what is going on around the world to respond to new trends in the market and social media.

Shannon’s experience was vast, working for agency’s such as Atelier Works, Addison Group, where he was taught senior techniques, Meta Design, Getty Images, and MSL (SAS).

There were six approaches to graphic design that Shannon felt were essential for every designer to know and learn from.

These were:

  • Approach
  • Agile
  • Adapt
  • Affect
  • Alternate
  • Ambition

One of his most difficult projects was the rebrand of Skoda Auto, after the company had been taken over by the German company, Volkswagen Group. Because Skoda and its cars were produced in Prague, the car was a symbol of the people living there. Everyone had owned a Skoda. For the recreation of the brand, a new typeface was designed. This re-branding of a car represented the APPROACH to a beloved car of the city.


Shannon described to us how his team adapted so quickly to the use of film. This represented AGILITY. After 9/11 many photographers reverted back to using film on cameras as amateur photographers had been using at the sight of the attack. At this point, Shannon was working for Getty Images, which forced magazines to use images from amateur photographers at the event instead of using digital images from Getty Images. This took roughly 40% off the company’s value.

As the iPod was introduced and the Nikon Coolpix 4500 was released, digital photos were emerging again. This taught Shannon to always be aware of current trends which would benefit his work going forward.

To ADAPT to a cause in the world, Shannon presented his project with BP. They had been asked to create a series of images, charts and graphs, volumes of text, and pictures. After the oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico, it seemed as though oil companies such as BP were to blame for such a crisis and pollution to the sea. To re-emphasise how much BP cared about the crisis, a series of images were shared on social media to tell the truth to the public of what was going on behind the news footage.

Sainsbury’s had asked to create a new website. Not only did Shannon and his team have an idea for a new website, but to also emphasise the AFFECT that Sainsbury’s have made on people’s lives. The campaign was called ‘Little stories, big difference’. Sixty 20-30 second videos were created in stores around the country to communicate what the company were doing internally. Staff in stores had volunteered to act in the videos, but it was also a lesson learnt by them and not just the customers. Corporate and social responsibility was only of knowledge to the employees at the head office.

This brought Shannon onto the topic of ALTERNATING the ways in which content is created for different clients, to which he discussed how people on YouTube and social media are in most ways more influential than actors and people on tv that we see. A good example of this was Pewdiepie. By alternating content, it influences and reaches to the audience on a realistic and more accessible level. This was content that could be shared around the world.

According to AMBITION, Shannon told us that we as young people were the change that was needed in the industry. With the ambition we have, we would drive projects forward, and with our enthusiasm we were the future. He also reminded us that creativity is endless and that we should always aim to be the change power of youthful minds.

As much as I thought Shannon was influential and inspiring, he didn’t seem like a collaborative designer as such, with the way he was talking. ALTOGETHER was one other word I would have liked to have seen in his approaches to being a successful graphic designer. I thought his work was incredible otherwise.

Joanna Davies


Joanna Davies, the creator of ZAK, started up her agency independently after doing a degree in English and Media at UWE (University of the West of England). Although she had said countless times she was not a graphic designer, she had the ambition to work in a multimedia company, and even create one herself.

The aim of ZAK as an agency was to create big brand ideas that would engage influential people under the age of 30. The business, located on Leather Lane, London, consists of forty staff, all under the age of 30. In order to produce effective content for an audience under the age of 30, you have to be under 30.

ZAK’s largest re-branding was for NB Football. The brand design and produce football kits and boots for football teams at moderate prices. The goal was to build a strong connection between the audience (or user) and the brand. ZAK were tasked with producing content that would engage the audience with the brand in numerous ways. The first approach they made were to produce videos for the ‘Visaro’ and ‘Furo’ football boots that NB were launching. Although ZAK weren’t given much money for the commission, they decided to use the money effectively.

Davies named the benefits of having a small agency. It was effective being small because it is easier to fight harder all the time, it ups everyone’s game in the company, and it doesn’t encourage them to live up and beyond past expectations and achievements. Every new project will somehow aim to be better than past projects.

The next large project for the company was to work on launching a magazine that would be named ‘COOL SH*T’. The magazine was due to be launched at the end of this year.

After talking about her own experience as a CEO of a creative agency, she went on to give advice to first year graphic communication students.

  • Find your inner rockstar – what’s going to make you different, thinking about your own personal brand, and not just selling your work to the client or employer
  • Be Creative
  • Be Smart
  • Be Brave – have crazy ideas, no one is going to judge you for it. Always ask questions.
  • Be ambitious
  • Be grounded – no divas or drama in the workplace
  • Find your perfect partner – it’s important you like where and who you’re going to be working for/with
  • Take in as much work experience as you can
  • Work for the brands you want to work for, not just because of the dosh
  • Got it, keep it
  • You are constantly being assessed
  • Make a strong first impression, live the company’s values, and deliver excellence
  • Designers are agents of change – be an agent of change

Joanna Davies was truly inspirational. As a female being CEO of a business, it is rare to find. She put the minds of the youthful first and at the front of the scene with her agency which I thought was incredibly important considering we are the most unexperienced in the field. I also liked how passionately she talked about her agency and being altogether. Considering how playful, ambitious, and crazy her agency looked and felt for, I thought the way she presented it was too simple. Just reading words off the screen and not engaging the audience in her presentation. I thought this would liven it up considering her voice was quite monotone.

Matt Baxter


Matt Baxter is co founder of agency named Baxter&Bailey, based in Brighton.

Before becoming a graphic designer and illustrator, Matt Baxter was always fascinated with comics and album covers, and later found he out who exactly was designing the books and covers he loved. After finding a keen interest in comic books by David McKean and album covers from The Pixies by OliverV23, he decided he wanted to become an illustrator, or better yet, a graphic designer too. He applied for a graphic design course at Northumbria University. Throughout his time at university, he applied to competitions and made use of his contacts with fellow students to back up his advice at the end.

Along with describing his work he gave some extremely useful advice.


However, he contradicted this advice by giving further points.


Another few pieces of advice that he gave us were:

  1. Always read the words.
  2. Spell check
  3. Spell check again
  4. Keep in touch
  5. Be nice

The advice that we received from several of his contacts were:

Lynn Trickett Never talk yourself down because you’re likely to be believed. Always dare to try something you’ve never done before.

Giff Blast– Over deliver and do something unexpected. Ask the rest of the design team whether there is anything you can give them a hand with.

Brett Philips– You go where you look. Surround yourself with people who are amazing at what they do and focus on what you want; enjoy it.

Heidi Lightfoot Don’t ever worry about not knowing the answer, it will always works out in the end.

I like how Baxter engaged with the audience more than the first two. To engage with the audience he changed his tone of voice, kept his sentences short and light to digest, and to represent how easy it is to keep in contact with each other, he took a roll of garden string and threw it into the audience. He requested each of the members who caught the string to throw it to a different area of the room. The work that Baxter showed up on screen was fantastically put together, being representative of each brand, but at the same time being simple and effective. He inspired me to NOT just DO graphic design, but to pursue other interests and inspire others of all ages. He inspired me to aspire.

Brian and James Webb

Brian Webb, the co founder of Webb&Webb orignally set up Trickett&Webb in 1970 with Lynn Trickett until 2003 where they parted ways. With his son James Webb, also trained in graphic design, they established Webb&Webb as a son and father duo.

The duo have been tasked with creating several book cover designs as part of collections from the wealth of experience in designing postage stamps.

Their design was made well known after being commissioned by the Royal Mail to design stamps and a stamp booklet to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Military artist Chris Collingwood was also commissioned by Webb&Webb to paint soldiers with uniforms for the postage stamps and front images in the stamp album.

After discussing their success with postage stamps they went on to design book covers for a collection of hardback Harry Potter books for Bloomsbury publishing. After designing paperback editions of the book for the younger audience, they had asked Andrew Davidson who had designed the wood engravings for the covers of those books, to re-colour the engravings to suit the hardback editions for an older audience. Webb&Webb had also designed a bespoke woodblock typeface for the cover copy, chapter headings, and marketing material.

The final project the duo had discussed was creating a brand identity for Ian Fleming Publications. By taking the brand identity beyond the thought of Ian Fleming only being known for his creation of 007 aka James Bond, the identity needed to celebrate his wit, style, and ‘Englishness’. All the Bond books by Fleming had been written in his home in Jamaica, named ‘Goldeneye’. Webb&Webb explained further saying that Fleming was a keen bird watcher in Jamaica. By using their knowledge from their extensive research, they used the ‘Doctor Bird’, the most beautiful bird of Jamaica, to use in the branding and licensing of the publication. The very text within the logo was of course Ian Fleming’s own signature.


Through presenting all their marvellous work, the duo gave five pieces of advice:

  1. Ask the hard questions
  2. Always end up knowing more about the job than the client
  3. Always do research
  4. Search for the answer
  5. Avoid the obvious

Webb&Webb gave some great advice and made me realise how important research is to a project. At the start of the presentation they had explained that all the advice they were planning on giving to us had already been given by Matt Baxter which made their presentation seem a bit unprepared. Brian Webb has a fantastic career spanning over many years which gives the duo the experience that guides them forward.

The conference was a fantastic insight into what the most successful of graphic designers have learnt based on their past. Although all the advice we were given were similar to each other, it’s good to get everyone’s opinion and as much as possible. They applied the advice they gave to their own work which was extremely useful.

The House of MinaLima

After attending the 4Designers conference, me and four other students decided to go to The House of MinaLima. MinaLima is a design duo have been made well-known for their graphic design props for the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film series. They met in 2001 though chatting, sharing work, and finding similarities in ideas for the graphic props of Harry Potter. The graphic props throughout the films range from the Marauders Map, packaging design for magical contents, newspaper designs, and also book cover designs.

The tour guide explained each of the most significant pieces of ephemera created. For the Marauders map, the drawing of Hogwarts Castle was created by Miraphora Mina tracing over blueprints of the model of the castle. The handwriting was Mina’s. Luckily an agent of hers had advised her to license her handwriting for the design, otherwise the rights of the text would have been owned by Warner Bros. Studio, therefore not giving Mina the right to use her own handwriting for her own pieces of writing or designs.

After visiting the exhibition we went to the shop which was on the ground floor. I had bought a Peter Pan book which was redesigned and illustrated by MinaLima studios.



Tuesday morning, each half of the class went to visit a design studio; either DARE or MovingBrands. I chose to visit MovingBrands, located in Shoreditch, London. Although Shoreditch wasn’t exactly the most extravagant of places to visit in London, it was certainly bustling with life, inspiration, and innovation. One of the senior designers at the agency, Jed, and the manager of marketing for the agency in the UK and Europe, guided us around the studio. Jed gave a presentation at the end telling us about projects that he has been part of while being a designer at MovingBrands.

The first project that was shown to us was the new design for the BBC iPlayer Kids app. The objective was to give as much freedom to the adult-free zone, while still giving kids the safety they would need.

In order to fulfill the freedom that kids would have, the design team created eight different characters to act as an avatar, guiding users around the app. I loved how free, simple, yet how playful the typography, animations, characters, and overall design of the app was to successfully engage with young users.

The next project presented was about setting an identity for the Grossmünster Church in Zurich. MovingBrands were approached by the Grossmünster board to create a distinct identity, not just for attracting international tourists for its destination and culture, but also for religious people as a haven.

The first step the designers took in creating an identity for Grossmünster was looking at its history and the influences related to the church. The leader of the Swiss Reformation, Huldrych Zwingli, said ‘For God’s sake do something brave!’, which acted as a ‘creative springboard’ for the design team. By taking the overall structure of the two tower structure and outline, this acted as a replicator to the ‘Ü’ in ‘Grossmünster’. The colour palette of the identity created reflected the colours found in the famous stained glass windows inside the church.

Our visit to the MovingBrands studio was a fantastic insight into what goes on in a professional working studio on a weekday. It was incredibly inspiring to see some of the most spectacular graphic work in the world being shown, and even seeing behind the scenes of how they are made. I loved the studio space they had with all white walls, floors, ceilings, it gave the space for designers, employees, and clients to breathe and think openly. I was especially jealous of their book collection.

A Quick Visit to the V&A

After visiting the studio, we split up into groups. I went with six others to the V&A Museum in Knightsbridge. We were all hoping to see the ‘You want a revolution?’ exhibition, however due to the excessive price and length of the queue to get in I decided to buy a book on the exhibition for myself. It would provide much more in depth information, featuring in it wonderfully vibrant prints and gorgeously designed layouts.

The Design Museum

After a quick visit to the V&A Museum, we decided to split up as a group due to different choices. Me and one other walked to The Design Museum in Kensington. The Design Museum was established in 1989 by Sir Terence Conran. Up until 24 November 2016, the museum was located on the south of the River Thames in Shad Thames. A replacement was built in what was previously the Commonwealth Institute, on Kensington High Street, which brought it closer to the V&A, Royal College of Art, Science Museum, and Natural History Museum. The architect for the new museum was John Pawson. No matter what perspective you were looking at in the design museum, the architecture always reflected on the abstract shapes, simplicity, and open-mindedness.

Within the museum, the most innovative designs, both graphic and product, were shown giving information about how they were made, how and why they influenced others, and what effect of change they had on the world. It was incredibly mesmerizing.

This trip to London has made me realise how important my practice as a graphic designer is. With all the advice I have been given it will most definitely make me want to aim as high as those who had spoken to us at the 4Designers conference and the people at MovingBrands, encouraging me to always perform my best no matter what design stage I am at, working for any project I will be given or will eventually wish to take on in my future and now. Just as I am doing so myself, I hope to inspire to aspire.


Author: jennifertaylorgraphics

First year student studying Graphic Communication at the Cardiff School of Art and Design

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