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Fresh ideas, polished skills and a shared interest in contrasts from the School of Simulation and Visualisation

5 June 2020

From documentaries to voice work, music videos to experimental soundscapes and 360-degree audio-visual experiences, the 2020 Sound for the Moving Image graduates present an impressively broad range of polished skills and fresh, exciting ideas. Many of these pieces, as diverse as they are in form and content, share an interest in contrasts: between the buzz of urban environments versus the hush of Scotland’s wildernesses, between industrial and organic matter, between tension and release, and – as in one work – even the difference between your left ear and your right one.


Ryan Al-Shybani’s Tranquility and Disruption, Bonni Black’s Peace and Quiet and Gavin Clark’s Closed In are three such works. Each creates a vast, varied soundscape with powerful storytelling capabilities. Al-Shybani uses glitching, fractured portraits of city skylines to interrupt extended, beautifully framed shots of sweeping hills, but his use of field recordings provide an interesting challenge for the listener: the heavy rush of wind that opens the piece could just as easily be the sound of distant traffic.


Black’s work feels like a walking tour, guiding the listener through the sounds of city life from cheerful buskers to epic, foreboding organs, finishing in a place of welcome quiet. Clark’s Closed In, like his longer film NINE, explores skate culture in Edinburgh and Glasgow: this audio piece sidesteps any hint of cliché around the subculture to offer a vivid, dynamic insight into the rhythm, click and clatter of feet on boards on pavement.


Kirstin McLellan’s work also explores the tension found in contrasts. Her skilful radio drama Dust uses binaural sound to distinguish between intimate confessions and the voices of armed authority. Video piece My Brain and Me uses 360-degree camera work to invite the viewer into the artist’s lived experiences of dyspraxia: the initial impact is powerful, but the placement of the camera on the dashboard of the car creates a fly-on-the-wall perspective rather than a sense of embodiment. Roberto Facchini’s work is similarly interested in perspective: his soundtrack for proto point-and-shoot video game Cube is a perfect period piece, with all the plasticky sounds and echoing footsteps of the era. Then in Meta, inspired by the opening moments of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, he creates a nuanced, disorientating journey out of raindrops and drones, aided by eerily insect-like, tunnel-vision visuals.


Several of the graduates have presented film documentaries, with subject matter ranging from places of natural beauty to the Dadaist movement. Although some of these pieces lack the narrative flair of their artists’ audio work, Sean De Franchesco’s Bosco Regina, a documentary about his father’s impeccably trained hunting dogs, captures the athleticism and patience of those animals to stunning effect. Clearly focused on the moving image element of this programme, De Franchesco’s accomplished filmmaking is vivid and crisp.


Nicole Gallacher’s film Experimental, Situational, Phenomenal is an engaging, creative exploration of the Sound and Light art movement, transforming archival materials and still images into a dynamic presentation. Her voice-over work is professional and versatile, too, as demonstrated by her showreel. Likewise, Black’s Cymatics, a short film about soundwaves and movement, uses seemingly archival footage and an original soundtrack to create a documentary with a real sense of wonder.


There is a similar magic in Al-Shybani’s Tanker Voyage. An audio piece recorded in the belly of a disused oil tanker, it captures the sensation of vast, empty space with uncanny results: a powerful celebration of the transformative power of sound.


Katie Hawthorne is an award-winning freelance arts journalist based in Edinburgh. She writes about music and culture for The Guardian, Q, Crack Magazine, The Skinny, The Stage and many more publications, and has a particular interest in innovative, unusual sounds. Katie is also in the final stages of completing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in digital technologies and experiences of ‘live’ performance. 


Image: Not To Need You (still) – Sean De Francesco, Sound for the Moving Image


Words: Katie Hawthorne


Consumerism, collage, chaos and gender politics in the School of Fine Art

5 June 2020

At this time of the year, in non-Covid times, a small but doughty band of art critics can be found weaving their way in and around our art school’s annual degree shows. We tend to slip in unnoticed before the shows’ glitzy opening nights. In my case, I blunder about with a slightly stricken look which represents something akin to visual overload, exasperation and exhilaration in equal measure.


Undergraduate degree shows are important for many reasons, not least because they present a new generation of artists and makers to the world. They are also a touchstone for taking the current temperature of contemporary art while holding up an occasionally cracked yet unflinching mirror up to society.


The Glasgow School of Art’s School of Fine Art degree show has long been a focus for art lovers, gallerists and curators alike. Painters like Alison Watt and Jenny Saville are just two of the artists whose degree shows are still talked about in revered tones by people who were lucky enough to buy work from them at the start of their careers.


This year, of course, physical degree shows are simply not happening. It’s a bitter pill for students and staff alike to swallow, but the world of art education, like every walk of life, has had to revaluate, reassess and come up with make-do-and-mend solutions.


No-one would claim an online platform is the perfect way to view graduating art students’ work, but good on GSA – first out of the virtual starting blocks with its online Graduate Showcase  – for getting this out there in record time. It’s the art school equivalent of the NHS turning whole hospitals around in a matter of days when normally it would take years of planning.


This sprawling platform features work by over 600 graduating students, including the School of Fine Art, which is reviewed here. The showcase will remain in the ether until the end of 2021, providing students with a global presence with a reach much further than the customary week-long physical show. As in an actual degree show, work is for sale (with prices varying from the quietly realistic to the ridiculous.)


Other online versions of degree shows will follow in the coming weeks from Edinburgh College of Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee and Gray’s College of Art in Aberdeen.


GSA has not had its troubles to seek in recent years. It suffered two fires at its showpiece Mackintosh Building in 2014 and in 2018, but even when the first fire struck just weeks before the degree show was due to begin, a version of the show still went ahead.


Last year, the GSA’s School of Fine Art, including its prestigious Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme, moved into the old Stow College building in Garnethill and the collective sigh of relief was palpable.


The announcement in March that GSA had introduced virtual learning for art students was met with dismay by students. Many claimed it was impossible for them to make work outside a studio setting. A Pause or Pay campaign was initiated, with a section of students demanding a refund of the entire course fees (up to £20,000 per annum) or deferral until such time as a physical degree show could take place.


This showcase is peppered with statements from students stating: “Under the current conditions, I refuse to showcase either finished pieces or work in progress as I have not had access to my studio or facilities.” Only two artists of the 18 studying on its MFA programme have presented work.


Elsewhere, other students state support for Pause or Pay while still offering digital version of their degree show. At the time of lockdown, many students were still in the midst of making work. Some had completed work, many hadn’t. It’s worth bearing this in mind while viewing.


Some students have reacted by viewing lockdown as a creative opportunity while others were, to use a good Scots word, scunnered. One Painting and Printmaking student, Ben Hall, was in the former camp. He had already been working on a simulated virtual tour of 135 students’ degree shows that would have been in the old Stow College building. The idea originally stemmed from the fact his disabled gran would not be able to attend in person. “We were always going to do it,” he says. “But with the degree show’s cancellation, it’s taken on a sadder and more potent importance.”


Hall’s DS2020 Simulator was created with fellow students and friends and is not part of his degree show submission. I urge you to visit to tour the show that never was though. He is clearly a talent to watch.


Jay Darlington, credited as one of the 3d modellers on Hall’s DS2020 Simulator is another talent in this area borrowing heavily on the aesthetic of video game culture and turning it into fine art. “I believe the virtual has found its home in us, and us within it,” he states.


Poignantly, Clem Routledge hit the nail on the head with his films, one of which has the title, An Exhibition You Just Missed. His latest work, Featurette, made specifically for the degree show simulator is also part of the Showcase.


Annie Graham had been working on wood carvings from wood found in skips, also decided to look on the bright side, transforming her small one-bedroom flat into a live-in studio, going to bed with woodchips and splinters in the sheets.


Graham’s sculptures, particularly a spider-infested head and a foot with an attached chain, both carved during lockdown, are mesmerising.


On the front page of the Showcase, Painting and Printmaking’s Sam Harley features in a short film she made in her flat, taking solace from her balcony view; painting her portable barbecue  and investigating hanging systems which won’t invoke the ire of her landlord. “Not being in the studio has forced me to look at other ways – cheaper ways I can make art,” she says. The resulting work is lo-fi and brims over with brio.


There are always concepts which rise to the surface of any degree show.This online showcase is no different. My notes – neater than usual because I was desk bound and staring at a smalll laptop – are peppered with underlined words like; community, consumerism, collage, isolation, environment, chaos and gender politics.


Collaging the virtual and the actual is a Thing this year. I LOVED the excerpt from Luca Guarino‘s film featuring a wee bird plucked from a page and placed in a virtual landscape.


In the consumerism camp, Alex Warner, aka Koolkatwarner, has been influenced by zine culture. Imbuing the every day with bold primary colours, his oil pastel and Crayola crayon drawing of Vinny Jones, THE CRAZIEST GANG MEMBER #4 is a memorable mash-up of childhood panini and sticker books dating back to the time he played for Wimbledon.


Joe O’Brien has gone back to nature, like many in lockdown. His short meditative black and white film, Do You Remember, made last month, consists of stills set against birdsong, taking the viewer on a people-less walk through quiet country roads.


Silke Zapp Sermon has also created quietly meditative films and stills by seeking out outdoor spaces as alternative places to play and explore.


Taking her cue from nature in an exploration of mourning, Marita Pappa has altered essayist Joan Didion’s maxim, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live, to read We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Survive. Pappa placed eight white cement blocks each engraved with one of these words on the foreshore of Troon beach earlier this year. It’s a moving and beautiful on many levels.


Many people come to physical degree shows to buy work and if you are looking to pick up affordable wall-based work, I can recommend the work of; Alistair Bamforth who was inspired to create a series of prints and paintings based on sketches he made at Scottish Ballet’s 2019 production of The Crucible. An allegory for our times…


Likewise, the figurative paintings of Antonina Kulmasova pulse with life. Chloe Duncan‘s melding of digital and traditional media makes for eery dystopian imagery. Boy, she can draw. Christian Kerr isn’t reinventing any wheels but I loved the simplicity of his imagery. Shades of Howson in some of his darker work, but his oil pastel painting Chemical Dissociation is a face-on cracker.


Painter Gabriel Phipps has been looking at what people do in off-guard moments and the result is a joy. I almost whooped when I saw his paintings in plasticine, which I wish could view in the flesh.


Hannah Barker stumbled on a method of painting on stretched mesh by spilling glue on embroidery. The glue blocked out sections and left sections missing like deleted pixels in a picture file. Her paintings, harking back to an early childhood in sun-drenched Australia, are a delight.


Flora Robson‘s simple and unaffected botanical etchings are a treat. Likewise Maxine Keenan‘s drawings on sugar paper of distilled domesticity are simple, unadorned and poignant.


I’d like to see more of Rapha Taylor‘s intriguing collages. I particularly liked a patchwork ‘painting’ with a photo of a home fire at the centre.


Dogs in art always do it for me and I cheered when I saw Robert McCormack‘s charcoal drawings made using charcoal cast in the image of a dog’s leg. Both original and funny, yet making a broader point about domesticated dogs.


Joel Davidson has also entered into the realms of the playfully serious with his Hand-Bag (it is what it says on the tin) and a series of Pastry Works inspired by Greggs’ finest fare.


Gender politics is played out in the work of many artists in this show. In this area, look out for Ratty Nye Davies whose Ratty Byebye character is larger-than-life and well delineated.  Sojourner Mayer focuses on sex work, specifically stripping and lap dancing.


At this point, dear reader, brace yourself, as you will be introduced to the concept of “click to toggle blur”. I wasn’t expected hand knits to make an entrance in this artist’s show, but her final work is a photograph of three jaunty jumpers on a washing line. Stripper Knits, produced during lockdown while Mayer was in lockdown with her family, made me laugh. Pole dancers on zingy hand knits? I want one.


Also worth a mention in this vein is Zoe Kirkland‘s neon-saturated film mocking the excesses of consumerism.


Finally, a warning… if you are viewing this showcase, beware graduating artists’ statements. There be verbal dragons, dear reader. For years, I have silently raged on reading gibberish at a degree show. This show is no different. There are countless examples of pseudish art-speak at work on the virtual page.


My advice for anyone designing an online show or viewing one is to look at the work first and then – if you have a mind – read the statement. Just a simple 100 word bio would suffice with links to the artist’s personal online presence. At the end of the day, the clue is in the title. Ars gratia artis. Art for art’s sake. In other words, show not tell.


Jan Patience is one of Scotland’s most well-known and respected arts journalists. As well as writing a regular visual arts column for The Herald, for the last decade, she is a regular arts expert on television and radio programmes. Listeners to and viewers of BBC Radio Four’s ‘Front Row,’ BBC Radio Scotland, the new BBC Scotland channel and Scottish TV are all familiar with Jan’s considered analysis. She is also a social media influencer in the arts sphere and has a strong and varied presence. She is co-author of a biography of the internationally-acclaimed Scottish artist, George Wyllie, called Arrivals & Sailings: The Making of George Wyllie (Polygon Books).


Image: Stripper Knits – Sojourner Mayer, Sculpture & Environmental Art


Words: Jan Patience


School of Design students in Glasgow and Singapore resolutely focus on global issues with creativity and imagination

4 June 2020

The School of Design at the GSA comprises the departments of Communication Design, Fashion Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Product Design Engineering, Silversmithing & Jewellery and Textile Design. Its annual degree show is a highlight in Glasgow’s cultural calendar, but this year, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the graduates’ work is first being made available for anyone to view online in the form of a self-curated and constantly evolving Digital Graduate Showcase.


Despite the disruption to their final year of study caused by Covid-19, the graduating designers have delivered projects that are exciting, provocative and timely responses to key political, societal, environmental and technological concerns. The Graduate Showcase does a superb job of presenting the outcomes of the graduates’ main projects, as well as providing a platform for some of their personal thoughts and insights into their processes, which the designers can add to as they begin the next stage of their professional development.


As Patrick Macklin, Head of Department for Interior Design, explains: “The Graduate Showcase is dynamic, its contributors have the opportunity to nurture their presence in it over a sustained period of time. As we move forwards it will persist during our transitions beyond the limitations of lockdown.”


The online format has other benefits, too, as it can be viewed globally and unifies all of the content created by the GSA’s graduates across various Schools and Programmes in one place. “This raises awareness of the location of the myriad subject fields in relation to each other,” Macklin adds, “setting up opportunities for visitors to make fresh connections between things, in both artefact and discipline.”


As part of its introduction to the Showcase, the GSA reached out to members of its creative network and invited them to comment on their favourite works. Dr Catriona McAra, University Curator at Leeds Arts University, picked out Eilidh Munro from Silversmithing & Jewellery, who created an intricate music box containing two detachable rings that replace the main tumbler in the mechanism. From the same programme, Yitong Zhang is presenting a series of playful works that encourage viewers to reconsider their relationships with everyday objects. Her work is highlighted by curator Amanda Game, who says: “Given that most of us have been more in our domestic spaces in recent months, these works really stood out for me.” By recreating artefacts such as plastic drinking straws or yoghurt pot lids in precious metals and giving them new functions, Zhang attempts to raise awareness of otherwise subconscious habits and behaviours.


Dr McAra also mentions the work of Scottish-Mongolian fashion designer Melody Uyanga Ramsay, whose work focuses on the intersection between fashion, heritage, ethics and sustainability. Her graduate collection explores themes of British identity and Americana, with references to post-Soviet aesthetics. The work is presented using carefully considered scenography, casting and graphical techniques to accentuate its unusual narrative.


The GSA’s Design School offers a unique environment for students of Fashion Design and Textile Design, as both programmes are delivered in the same studio. This proximity provides opportunities for collaboration, such as the partnership between Textile Design graduate Ella Fletcher and womenswear designer, Zoë Ward. Their Smock project saw them work together to develop a knitted garment with a smocked texture that stretches and bounces as the wearer moves. Fletcher is displaying a range of sculptural knitted fabrics as part of her individual showcase, while Ward’s work explores innovative uses for traditional crafts such as hand smocking and appliqué. Her collection uses secondhand, up-cycled and found materials to imbue the clothes with a richer story and more sustainable credentials.


Key issues that will affect all of our futures inevitably feature prominently in the work of the School of Design’s graduating students. Sustainability, health, wealth, inequality and technology are all examined in projects that embody deeply held beliefs and concerns. Graduates from the Communication Design BA(Hons) and MDes programmes are particularly well placed to raise awareness of some of these issues, and the work presented on the Digital Showcase demonstrates their ability to do so using a variety of media and methods.


One of the most powerful examples is Leda Bartolucci’s project documenting a year of climate strikes and protests in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Italy. Bartolucci’s reportage photography transports the viewer into the midst of these events, with her accompanying narration describing the scenes in captivating detail. During her two years studying on the MDes programme, Bartolucci managed to combine her multidisciplinary practice with activism, volunteering as a graphic designer and uniting with youth strikers to support their environmental campaigns.


Throughout their studies, the Communication Design students explore how traditional skills such as drawing, printmaking and photography can be supplemented by video, sound, animation and other multimedia techniques, providing them with a broad range of skills that they can apply to the specialisms of Graphic Design, Illustration or Photography. Eimear Coyle, who hails from Derry City, uses various unusual media to tell a very personal story about her experiences of growing up gay in conservative Northern Ireland. She created a film using phonotropes – a technique consisting of images attached to a vinyl record that become animated as it spins on a record player – which combine with music to capture her feelings in an inventive and deeply personal way.


Communication Design is also one of the programmes taught at GSA’s Singapore campus, where this year the graduates are presenting their final projects alongside their peers in Glasgow as part of the Showcase. Looking at the work produced by these graduates, it is clear that the same universal issues are aggravating young designers around the world. For example, designer Dharrshiyni Panirselvam has tackled social and environmental issues including veganism, animal rights and excessive waste in her provocative projects. Her #Wouldyousaveme campaign confronts viewers with uncomfortable imagery and asks if we would treat our pets the same way we treat livestock, while a poster drawing attention to the issue of animal contamination depicts a human mutating into the creatures they consume.


The traditional art of typography remains an important area of focus for Communication Design graduates, as evidenced by the work of Swedish designer Bianca Winberg, who created an Arts & Crafts-inspired typeface that references Glasgow’s history of carpet production. Winberg’s other projects also showcase bold uses of typography, including designs for the department’s Work-in-Progress exhibition, held in February 2020.


The MDes Communication Design class offers up further examples of creative type design, particularly from Alessandro Prepi Sot and Apolline de Luca, who have teamed up to launch their own type foundry. Their first collaboration is a display font called Diaspora that references Italian immigration to Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The font’s design emphasises traditional and iconic characteristics of lettering from both countries.


Our increasing reliance on computer software and the way in which our relationship with machines will evolve in the coming years informed the work of several graduates from the Interaction Design class of 2020. In her self-initiated project, French-Australian designer Valentine Scherer critiques ideas of making, production and consumption in the networked digital society. Beyond Flatpack Culture: Towards a New Ecology of Modularity uses machine-learning algorithms to create new hybrid furniture designs based on standardised graphics taken from Ikea instruction manuals. These auto-generated, semi-functional artefacts ridicule the way flat-pack furniture is made and valued in modern society.


Zach Mason’s work also uses algorithms and machine learning to explore questions including ‘What does digital materiality look like?’, and ‘How do we collaborate with machines?’ He uses computer code to interpret real-world objects, including images of people, which are reproduced repeatedly between physical and digital space, resulting in bizarre but still vaguely recognisable 3D-printed mashups.


Graduates from the Product Design Engineering programme have also tackled pertinent global problems in projects that examine how developing technologies can improve our quality of life. Morven Graham chose to design for death, creating a more sustainable alternative to traditional practices of burial or cremation that involves composting the body inside a futuristic-looking chamber. Sustainability also inspired Jay Van Den Hoven’s Post-Fossil Toolkit, which comprises demountable energy generation modules that provide the public with renewable energy, while Ignacio Amui presents a portable solar charger that utilises dye-sensitised solar cells to create a lightweight, foldable power generator.


Lastly, interior designers are also looking for innovative ways to use precious space in increasingly populated urban centres, and are reimagining existing environments in response to shifting societal needs. In Glasgow, Heather Davie outlined how a derelict 19th-century mission hall could be used as a space to facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into their new community. Her proposal accommodates a range of important functions along with social spaces intended to provide a comfortable and convivial atmosphere.


At the GSA’s Singapore campus, interior design graduate Samantha Sam also focused on the importance of community, creating a concept for affordable rental flats in high-density buildings. Interaction between residents is central to both the configuration of the building and the design of the apartments. Enclosed corridors and communal gardens provide spaces for socialising, while limited views into the living areas are permitted so occupants can keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours.


This brief overview of selected works from the Graduate Showcase affirms that this year’s graduates have overcome exceptional circumstances to deliver some truly innovative and important ideas. Their creativity and imagination remain unwavering and it is great to see that they are resolutely focused on the global issues that will determine the future direction of our fragile species and of our planet.


Alyn Griffiths specialises in architecture and design journalism. He is a contributor to leading print and online publications, including CNN, Style, Wallpaper, ICON, Blueprint, Dezeen, Dwell and Interior Design.


Image: 2019: A Year of Climate Strikes – Leda Bartolucci, MDes Communication Design 2020


Words: Alyn Griffiths


Projects by Innovation School students tackle challenges of the present and future

4 June 2020

The Innovation School is the GSA’s centre for design innovation and future thinking. Its students learn to address complex problems through new design practices and examine design’s role as a catalyst for positive change. The distressing and disruptive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is precisely the kind of issue these designers would typically deal with in their speculative projects. This year, they were confronted with the very real problems it posed to their final year of study and their ability to present work to the public.


A quick browse through the Digital Graduate Showcase that is currently deputising for the School’s annual Degree Show offers a glimpse of how graduates from the BDes and MEDes (Master of European Design) Product Design programmes have approached the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, along with many other significant societal issues, from sustainable development and health anxiety, to ocean plastic, dementia and data use.


The cohort of graduates from the B.Des Product Design programme began their final year by examining the topic of sustainable development, which will become increasingly important in the post-coronavirus world. For the annual Future Experiences project, they worked alongside partners from the University of Glasgow and the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network to explore how development might be delivered more effectively and collaboratively in the year 2030.


Regular interactions with international development experts, academics and inhabitants of African cities helped the graduates identify issues related to domains including Societal Structures, Economies, Education, Mobility and Health, which informed their individual projects. For example, graduate Piér Stevens-Rosa developed a proposal for a new economy centred around affordable technology products made from electronic waste that is exported to the Global South and would otherwise rot in landfill.


Callum Ferguson’s Plastibank project proposes a new material-based stock market that rewards users for depositing plastic waste, while Holly Zambonini adopts a more critical approach by focusing on people in the Global South who have lost their jobs to automation, and who could be driven to sell their genetic information to buyers in the Global North.


The BDes graduates spent the second half of the academic year working on self-initiated projects that aim to make the world a safer, cleaner, healthier and more equitable place in what will no doubt be a very uncertain future. Helena MacDonald’s Interventions for the Worried Well deals with the pertinent issue of health anxiety. She designed a group of deliberately “annoying but well-intentioned objects” to interrupt negative thought cycles surrounding health. The objects recognise behaviours associated with anxiety and trigger responses such as noises, smells or movement to distract the user from their concerns and refocus their attention on their physical senses.


Euan Robertson developed an app to help those with food allergies feel more confident about eating out or dining with friends. The app shows users which allergens may be present in a dish they are being offered and allows them to save restaurants or takeaways in their ‘safe places’ list, as well as clearly pointing out allergens on menus as they browse. Robertson worked alongside food allergy sufferers to identify opportunities to ease their inevitable anxieties and help them feel more comfortable about participating in social events.


Rhona Brown visited the community on the island of Eigg to find ways of dealing with ocean waste that washes up on their shoreline. Her Plastic Community project suggests potential uses for the marine waste, such as building polytunnels for improving crop yields or filling potholes in damaged roads. Struan Stewart’s Scentimental project looks at how smell could help to slow the onset of dementia by enabling users to create a portfolio of scents based on personal memories that would be distilled into essential oils and diffused within the home.


The final year MEDes students partnered with Glasgow City Council for their annual Collaborative Futures project, which sees the Innovation School team up with a private or public sector organisation to identify alternative ways of thinking and operating in the years ahead. The project titled Glasgow’s Future Citizens explored what a well-governed city might look like in ten years’ time, through the lens of “data experiences and experiencing data”.


The graduates used collaborative methodologies to gather insight from stakeholders including members of the Centre for Civic Innovation within Glasgow City Council. This research informed futuristic proposals for how the use of citizens’ data could be made more transparent, and how citizens might be encouraged to participate in public decision making. The outcomes take the form of three speculative Future Worlds – Choiceton, Localtoun and Efficiencity – that demonstrate how different approaches would impact citizens’ everyday lives, making them feel more secure, engaged and knowledgable about how their data is being applied.


The two graduating students from this year’s MEDes programme each also completed self-initiated projects that focus on important contemporary issues. Iona Geddes looks at the effect of rising sea levels on the city of Glasgow, and how people might need to adapt to local climate change by producing their own food or adopting nature-based flooding solutions. Bethany Cheyne worked alongside public and private sector stakeholders in Aberdeen to co-create a positive vision for how the city might shift away from its reliance on oil and gas towards a different economic model.


Each of the Innovation School’s 2020 graduates has been challenged throughout their education to deal with uncertainty, possibility, discovery and experimentation. They are taught to envision and help create a better future, but could never have imagined that they would emerge from their studies into a world turned upended by an unprecedented global health crisis. This makes the work presented here even more impressive and, as we look to build the new post-coronavirus world, we can be reassured that this group of young designers are ready to play their part in making the ‘new normal’ even better than the one we had before.


As Gordon Hush, Head of the Innovation School, puts it in his introduction to the Digital Showcase: “Who better to interrogate habit, to transform behaviour and re-invent experiences than designers trained in creating products, services and interactions? The graduates of 2020 may just be the most valuable resource our shaken society has – smart young minds possessed of fresh eyes and new ideas.”


Alyn Griffiths specialises in architecture and design journalism. He is a contributor to leading print and online publications, including CNN, Style, Wallpaper, ICON, Blueprint, Dezeen, Dwell and Interior Design.


Image: Hydro-City Stories: Glasgow – Iona Geddes, MEDes Product Design 2020


Words: Alyn Griffiths