On Sunday we set off on a trip to London to attend the 4 Designers  Conference and  a studio visit. We arrived at the Hostel around 4pm and then decided to go off to explore the area after settling in. Everyone was really excited to be able to take some pictures of London and get a feel of what it would be like to work/ live in the city.

On  Monday we attended the ‘4 Designers London’ conference in the Conway Hall, and got to see some other students from the UK. We were introduced to Patrick Baglee who gave us a brief introduction to the idea behind the conference and the individuals who were going to be sharing their experiences and advice with us.

Matthew Shannon – Group Executive, Creative Director, Group Content Director. 

The first designer was Matthew Shannon from Brash Brands. The first thing he discussed with us was the importance of having a mentor and how that helped him get to where he is today. He also told us how important it is to learn how people perceive the different brands and then to use this information to go forward with the design process. One of the most popular projects Shannon worked on was with the company ‘Skoda Auto’. When he first got the project he was slightly apprehensive as to how he would go about re branding the company as over the years it had gained a certain reputation. He told us that many jokes had been said about the car itself and he used those jokes to re-brand the company. I learnt how important it is to do research into the company and its reputation before starting on projects, as sometimes you can get your ideas from people’s opinions on the product, and use their comments to change the product’s image.


Shannon then went on to work for ‘ImageBank’ a photography agency in New York who had access to images from around the world which were used in magazines, newspapers and images used on the internet.  He told us that he was working for the agency around the time of the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Centre. He told us that the attacks had a very big effect on the business as companies started to use amateur shots of the attack and they saw a major change in photography. His advice from this was to always be agile whilst working for companies because the world is constantly changing around us and you never know when something major could happen and effect your future with that company/ client.

He then moved to work with the BP company and had the job of building its social presence. Yet again disaster struck  and The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened on the 20th of April 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. He told us that it was really hard trying to change the Company’s social presence after the disaster, so he told us that its very important to act as quickly as possible and tell the story in a different way to protect the company’s image.


Another project Shannon worked on was with Sainsbury’s on the ‘Little stories, Big difference’ project. For this they wanted to show what made Sainsburys’ unique and set it aside from other big food companies. He discovered that the company had many unique traits that made it stand out, so he decided to create a series of 30 second clips ( like shown below). He discovered that many of the workers had no idea of the uniqueness of the company, so they asked some of the team if they would be involved in the project. The effect of this was that it brought the information to them and informed us how important this is whilst promoting or re branding a company.

The next project he discussed was a social brief about Value retail. He started to work with Instagram power markets and how they communicate. He told us that it’s very important to be aware of communicating in the right way. Shannon had worked with a couple who used their Instagram to communicate their original fashion style, and how they both took images of each other. Their pictures became so successful that more people started to follow and subscribe  to them. For his last piece of advice he told us that it’s always good to have ambition,

To effect change you need to be the change.

Joanna Davies – Creator of ZAK agency

The next speaker was Joanna Davies, who wasn’t a designer but who started the ZAK agency from her bedroom on Portobello Road, London. They have now grown globally even though they like to stay local. They work with 100 of brands and it’s from this that they were able to keep their position grounded. They’re a small agency but they like to challenge themselves, one of the biggest companies is the global creative agency ‘New Balance’. They had the task of targeting football fans under the age of 17 and finding a connection between this audience and the brand.

They then had another project with New Balance where they translated the brand and started the ‘Louder than words’ project, where they communicated the craftsmanship behind the trainers, making sure that everything they created was authentic to the company. Similarly, they worked with another American company called ‘PF-FLYERS’,who communicated in an uncommon American style. The company wanted to show how unique it was through using slogans like ‘Unfollow the crowd’ and this showed me how important it is to get to know the company and know exactly what they’re asking for, otherwise you might communicate their message in the wrong way.

Top Tips:

  • Be ambitious!
  • Be confident!
  • Be authentic!
  • Be street smart!
  • Be agile and adaptive!
  • Be brave – don’t be afraid to share your crazy ideas!
  • Stay grounded!

Matt Baxter – Creative Director & Comic creator

After an hour’s break, we met our third speaker, Matt Baxter, who created the ‘Baxter&Bailey’ company in Brighton. He started by telling us the history behind how he became a Graphic Designer and what encouraged him to start working with comics. Ever since a young age he had always enjoyed re contracting companies logos and had a strong passion for quirky album covers.

  1. Know where you’re going! – OR DON’T.
  2. Say yes to everything! – OR DON’T.
  3. Fake it till you make it!- KEEP FAKING IT.
  4. GO PLACES! – sometimes STAY LOCAL.
  5. Dont do free work! – BUT SOMETIMES DO IT.

I found this advice to be very inspiring and it’s changed the way I think about my future and how to go about starting different projects at University. Baxter was working for a company when an author came to the company asking for a set of illustrations for his children’s books. This wasn’t anything to do with his job title however he had a passion for creating comical illustrations, he put a portfolio together and ended up getting the job. He then went on to teaching comic strip workshops in schools and enjoying what he does whilst doing it!

He started the Baxter & Bailey Company and they took on some free projects, they even won an award for a logo they created doing free work. He told us that it’s always good to do free work occasionally as it’s a good way to help different causes and show your commitment. I have learnt that it’s important to show my commitment and over deliver with everything I do.

The solution is always found in the not knowing.

Brian & James Webb

The last speakers of the day were  Father and Son, Brian and James Webb. I enjoyed listening to the pair discuss their commitment to what they do, but also how entertaining  and passionate they were about presenting their work. Brian started by discussing his design work in the early 60’s and how design has changed over the years. He also discussed their experience with a company using their work as their own and how it is always important to protect your identity so that your work is never taken for granted!

They told us how important it is to say ‘yes’ to different opportunities and attend  competitions to get your name out there. This is exactly what James Webb decided to do, and he signed himself up to create a set of stamps for the Daily Mail. The stamps became a success and from that he went on to create many other stamp sets, for example Christmas stamps for the Daily Mail. With this project they asked a German illustrator to create a couple of Christmas characters to go on the stamps, however the lack of communication made the project harder and the final outcome was slightly different to what they had hoped.

Always end up knowing more about the work than the client.

Another project the pair worked on together, was creating the covers for the 007 James Bond series. The project became so successful that they were asked to create an exhibition including everything they had created. They also re-created the covers for the Harry Potter books. From this they told us to always avoid the obvious as that is what makes them stand out.

After the conference we all decided to go and explore London a bit more and went to Soho for food, taking some pictures on the way! We then got the chance to speak to graduates from Cardiff  who are now working in London. We had the chance to ask some questions about their experiences of  living in London, and why they chose to move there. The two students I spoke to told me that they had never thought of moving to London, however they moved because they found that there were so many job opportunities in Graphic Design. Both of them agreed that London is a great place to work if you like working in busy, urban conditions. I really enjoyed speaking and getting to know some of the graduates and it helped me get a better understanding of what I want to do in the future. It also helped me understand how to go about working with a company and how to tackle an interview.

On the Monday we went on a studio visit to Oliver, Dare Agency. He took a different approach and decided to talk to us about Behavioural Sciences and how they were relevant when  working with an agency. Throughout the talk, he gave us  several strategical exercises to show us how we  might think whilst working within a group. One of exercises was to do a set of Maths. questions and then answer the question , “Whats the first vegetable you think of”. The answer to the question was   ‘ carrot’ and he had written the answer before hand, knowing that this would be our answer. The idea behind this exercise was that the carrot is the most recognisable vegetable and it shows how we always jump to the most recognisable things in life, so that it’s always good to get out of this habit and to think slightly more  ‘out of the box’.

After the talk we then had a brief tour around the building to see the type of studio space they offer and the different compartments in the agency. In the afternoon we then had free time to explore London and visit some of the museums.

We decided to go to the Design Museum in Holland Park. I really enjoyed looking around at the different exhibitions. My favourite was probably the Design Maker User exhibition and its wall of ‘Olivetti’ posters, created using different forms of typography and a variety of colours.

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