Graphic design is back

Looking around this year's New Blood exhibition last night, it's gratifying to see that the best work is largely good ol' ink on paper. While there were some outstanding individual pieces of motion and interactive work, the overall standard wasn't as good as previous years -- but this was more than made up for by a wide variety of cracking old-school designs.

It's been a difficult time for graphic design over the last year. It began with tabloid outrage over the badly-conceived Olympics 2012 logo - which is already dated now, though to everyone's surprise it will be trendily retro come the time of the Games. In the past month, we've seen no Black or Yellow Pencils given in the graphic design categories at this year's D&AD Awards.

The overall prize for best stand was split between Glasgow School of Art and the University of Gloucestershire. The former was awarded on the strength of the work on show – three of its students were given Best in Show awards, a feat matched only by the University of Plymouth, and the overall standard was outstanding. The latter's work wasn't in the same league, but did feature an innovative, great-looking stand design based around different Pantone colours for each student and easily accessible slanting trays for each portfolio.

Glasgow School of Art has a well-deserved reputation for producing top-notch students, and this year didn't disappoint. Jonathan Naismith's posters for the Royal Opera House and a workshop by Jonathan Ellery (below) were instant attention grabbers, with the latter's use of both Jonathans' signatures playing on the idea that one could learn from copying the other.

Collaborators Silje Eirin Aure and Victoria Kastenbauer picked up a Best in Show award for some wonderful hand-drawn illustrations, with the third award going to one of the few truly great motion pieces on display – James Houston's audiovisual remix of Radiohead's Nude (pictured below) using sounds gleaned from pieces of elderly technology including dot-matrix printers, old hard-drives and a ZX Spectrum. Chances are you've seen this already, as it's been blogged to death over the past week, but it's still an outstanding piece of work.

For me though, the best piece of work overall came from the less prestigious Hastings College. Mathew Cartright's work (below) on the awareness campaign about OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) was simple but exceptionally powerful, seemingly humorous until you saw its core message and became aware of just how restricting the condition can be.

Another great take on that brief saw Paul Frost from the University of Northhampton pick up a Best in Show for his Routine vs Ritual poster - which again kept things simple, using uncomplicated iconography to convey its message.

Graphic design is often treated like an outdated tradition by practitioners of 'bleeding edge' interactive and motion mediums, but the work of this year's crop of graduates shows that it's still as vibrant as it ever was.

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