Pushing and challenging design education is something we've been passionate about since founding the studio so when invited to judge the Masters Diploma work at Ecole de Communication Visuelle Graphisme in Aix en Provence, France we embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly.
As Masters Diploma jury members our role involved 22 hours of presentations, countless hours of discussion, meeting, listening to and grading 22 students, 22 portfolios and 22 personal projects over 3 days. With such a diverse range of subjects, approaches and often deep levels of research it was a challenge we were honoured and thankful to do.
The jury was composed of notable international leaders from the design industry across Europe and split in two halves; one half assessed student's personal projects – an expansive communication-focused project in an area of personal interest. The other half assessed their professional portfolio, their stepping stone into professional life.
The Personal Project is a self-led project which could take any form around any subject so long as it was communication-focused. Some included a concept, strategy and identity for an environmentally sound cafe in Paris, a platform empowering women in hip-hop, an extensive documentary of the local town Aix, a strategy for uniting people of different cultures and a series of tools to help aid those with mental health difficulties and trauma. The jury for the personal project included Warriors’ creative director James Gilchrist, established Paris-based photographer Ronan Guillou and Irina Shapiro, the founder and director of forward-thinking Rotterdam-based summer school Open Set.
The Professional Portfolio is a complete presentation the students best work throughout their 5 years of studying in both a printed book format and online website, the stepping stone between student life and the professional world. The jury for the professional portfolio included Warriors’ Project Manager Beth Wilson, senior designer Merijn Van Velsen of famed Dutch design agency Studio Dumbar and Emmanuel Rey, co-founder and director of innovative type foundry Swiss Typefaces.
As members of the jury for the Masters Diploma, it was important that each student was offered positive, constructive criticism and feedback on their work (both personal and professional) and graded equally. Assigning a grade and number to something so personal and to projects which are each so different is always difficult but understandable necessary. The marks from the jury composed a percentage of each student's overall grade for their diploma.
One student is crowned Valedvictorian at ECV each year, an academic title of success for the student who achieves the highest accumulative grades across the board. This year’s was Mathilde. A unanimous decision from both juries led to Mathilde receiving the highest mark for both Personal project and her Professional Portfolio.
Her modesty, passion for design and packaging, care for her craft and honest belief in magic was touching and shone through in her work and presentations.
For her personal project Mathilde introduced the jury through a mysterious moody short film to a fictional shop selling various ingredients for spells which was only accessible once per week and at different co-ordinates around the world. Luckily for us, the shop had appeared right before our eyes in Aix this week and we were invited to step through the “portal” into the store.
After stepping through the portal we were greeted by a mystical retail space; showcasing a meticulously developed range of products, beautifully packaged, labelled with hilarious detailed descriptions and instructions. The product range, packaging and physical space had a strong brand identity – which was both sophisticated and refined but magical.
Products included a 3kmph draught, captured and sealed in a foil vacuum package, tear drops of rain (invisible in the packaging until removed with a silver ladel), silent tinkling (a bell without a ringer), 100% dry water (a perceptively empty glass vial), odour of sanctity (an ornate crystal container containing a scent of holiness) and a change of perception (a pair of visually kaleidoscopic glasses).
The ideas behind each product and her modest but deadly serious presentation of each brought us to laughter and tears. Mathidle set herself apart from all other students with humour, an advance sensibility of what graphic design can do or be and by making design fun.
Her desire to be a packaging designer was demonstrated in her intricate design of each box, container, labelling and attention to the detail of every single product and label system in the store – all brought together in her unconventional portfolio; a deck of cards each showcasing a piece of packaging on one side and a description of the purpose, concept and thinking on the back. Brilliant work.
Another student which caught our eye Was Adrien; the founder of a family-run brewery named Fanleme. Brewing a range of 3 beers with his father, Adrian and created an ever-expanding fictional world of characters, stories, languages and drinks. Each of the 3 beers was released as a character, designed by Adrien to embody the characteristics of the beer. Working with his brother who wrote the plots, he designed and illustrated 3 narrative-led comic books which could be sold with the launch of each beer in a gift box – designed and crafted by Adrian.
Alongside the depth of the project and the ever-growing list of skills, outputs and practical knowledge, the quality of Adrien\s work was impressive. Adrian had an original, appealing illustrative style, his characters were engaging, interesting and worked beautifully with the beers. Creating an ever-growing world which expands with the release of products and drinks demonstrated a real commercial intelligence and a creative hunger to grow and expand his imagination and abilities. We were so impressed by Adrian and his work, we invited him to join us for Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2018 and offered him a complimentary full festival pass.
It was a real honour for us to be involved, so we owe a huge thank you to the great and welcoming team at ECV; Meike, Marie, Laurence, Nathalie, Amelie.