Degree Shows 2012 RCA Visual Communication

Last year I left the Royal College of Art show feeling disappointed: this year the Visual Communications element of the show felt similarly underwhelming, not because of the work, but because of the way it was shown…

Last year I left the Royal College of Art show feeling disappointed: this year the Visual Communications element of the show felt similarly underwhelming, not because of the work, but because of the way it was shown…

There is plenty to enjoy from the graduates of the RCA’s Visual Communcations course this year, but the way the work is displayed doesn’t aid accessibility or engagement. Graphic, illustrative, and animated work is all mixed up in different rooms of the college’s Stevens Building, meaning there is a little bit of everything in each room, rather than clear areas that display work of a particular type.

I can see the logic in emphasising the idea that visual communicators work across disciplines these days but the result of jumbling up all the work like this in the show means that it is hard to settle into the exhibition and engage with the work. That quibble aside, there are some great projects on display so without further ado, here’s a selection of work I enjoyed.

Minjae Huh created a display typeface plus a whole campaign to highlight the government’s recent announcement of the closure of the Tier 1 Post Study Work (PSW) visa which allows non-EU international students to work in the UK for two years.

The development means all international graduates (including Huh) will have to leave the UK within two months of graduating their course. Postcards, all addressed to Damian Green, Minister of Home Office, badges, and posters formed the bulk of the campaign, while a website ( hosted various short interviews with students registering their reaction to the news, plus further reading about the issues.

See more of Minjae Huh’s work at


Susanne Stahl‘s MeteoPoem project looked to devise a graphic display system that can express not only statistics concerning weather conditions, but that can also illicit an emotional response to the data. Whether or not it’s an effective system is hard to say but I enjoyed looking through the booklet.

I perused the pages of the booklet on this accompanying plinth:

See more of Stahl’s work at


Blanche de Lasa and Stina Gromark collaborated on a project that looked to explore ways of allowing typed communication to better reflect handwritten and spoken language. The pair created fonts of their hand writing to see if sending messages digitally in their own hand made a difference to people’s response.

They also created new versions of Arial in an attempt to give the typeface more expressive qualities. One method they tried was to use varying point size and boldness, and another was to experiment with differing levels of transparancy.

They also created a website (grabs shown below) documenting their research and ideas:

See more at at


Above, Stuart White‘s iProcrastinate sees the silhouette of an iPad created using a fingerprinting method.

Thomas Dowse‘s Night Glare book (cover shown above, spreads below) was created in tandem with a series of recordings by his band, Sans Pareil. “The book essentially accompanies our recently recorded ten track album, embellishing the mood and atmosphere of the music and exploring deeper the narrative threads hinted at in the lyrics,” Dowse tells us. “The album is provided alongside the comic via download code,” he adds.

See more of Dowse’s work at

Above, one of illustrator Robert Fresson‘s images, as displayed at the show. His website showcases his work rather better:

See more of Fresson’s work at

This display area by textile print designer Ying Wu caught my eye. Wu’s work is predominantly illustrative and brightly coloured and works brilliantly as prints on silk scarves:

See more at


Animation work isn’t all in one place, at is has been in every other RCA show I’ve been to in the last ten years, but rather displayed in various rooms alongside the graphic work. The RCA owns the rights to the animations created by its students which ultimately means that they can’t host their work on their own Vimeo pages which is a strange situation. It also means I can’t embed the films I’d love to share with our readers here. Instead I will simply tell you that the animators whose work really stood out for me were Mak Ying Ping (still from his film, shown above), Jing Li whose site does actually show the opening of her film The Other Side:

THE OTHER SIDE – the opening from Jing Li on Vimeo.

I also really enjoyed Eamonn O’Neill’s film, Left, which kept me engaged for its full 12 minutes. Again, the film isn’t on his site, but the following film (which is) gives an idea of his talent:

I’M FINE THANKS – trailer from eamonn o neill on Vimeo.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m not sure that the way the Visual Communication work is displayed at this year’s RCA show has done any of the exhibitors any favours but if visitors take the time to also check out the sites of the graduates, a better picture of their talents can be gleaned.

The RCA show runs until July 1 at the RCA in Kensington Gore and also at the Dyson Building in Battersea. Full details at

  • Rob

    I think this just about tops the student work so far. Some great stuff on display.

  • laura venables

    Eamonn O Neill…what a talent.

  • Past few years Ireland’s been producing some real good animation talent. What’s their secret.

  • Ellie

    The Royal College has joint copyright over all the animation films but the students are allowed to do whatever they want with them. The only reason they don’t put them on Vimeo is because film festivals like to have exclusivity!

  • Mike

    Good ideas and everything, but this european “un-designed” aesthetic is getting a bit old isn’t it? I mean for a while it was cool to make things look self-consciously a bit wrong, but it doesn’t actually look that good..

  • The content of the course appears to be suffering an identity crisis and I’m concerned that the graduates will face an uphill struggle to establish themselves as practitioners of visual communication in the commercial realm. It appears to want to straddle fine Art and Narrative environments which leaves it out on a limb without a string core identity. There was little evidence displayed of excellent graphic design, illustration, animation that is ready to go bar the very few exceptions shown in this post.

    Nothing really gave that ‘wow’ feeling you expect from a college of this calibre, there was no real marvel at the processes and techniques used either. There was plenty of that elsewhere in the RCA show, but came away from the Building feeling very disappointed and I question how pleased the students are with the outcome.