Editorial project by Designer Shona Speres

Gradwatch 2020: Designer Shona Speres, Falmouth University

Designer and photographer Shona Speres is one of ten creatives we’ve selected to feature in our annual Gradwatch showcase, where we put the spotlight on the art and design grads who we feel are producing outstanding creative work

Despite having only just graduated from the graphic design course at Falmouth University, Shona Speres has already proven herself to be a multihyphenate in the making. Her visual storytelling takes various forms, whether using sculpture to inform brand visuals, bringing her personal photography and graphics to life through editorial design, or creating short films to enhance her projects.

There is a tenderness throughout much of Speres’ work, as seen in her epistolary publication Hi Babe Hi Babe featuring letters exchanged between her parents, and her zine Virgin, which explores how 25 people lost their virginity through essays and abstract photographs. Her short film of the same name follows an egg as it trickles along a piece of silk, serving as a “visual metaphor for the exploratory, sensual and fragile nature of losing your virginity”.

“I’ve always been encouraged to play within my design,” she tells us, adding that having the freedom to explore different mediums helps her to express concepts to their fullest. “Openness of direction allows me to connect to various subjects which I think allows for a deeper understanding of a project and broader exploration of a concept.”

Speres’ wide-reaching creative practice allows her to take ideas in unexpected directions, and she sees every project as an opportunity to learn and grow. “I think it’s important to be diverse and multi-disciplinary and to work under someone like that would be refreshing,” she explains. “I always aspire to work on projects that are surprising to their audience.”

Editorial project by Designer Shona Speres

The words that most continue to inspire and shape her work come from artist and Gucci collaborator Coco Capitán’s book, If You’ve Seen It All, Close Your Eyes. “The title of this book has always stuck in my mind and resonates with me in more of a literal respect to not follow trends and to explore themes independently,” Speres says.

Alongside her studies, Speres was shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize 2020, and has interned at agencies including Pentagram and creative studio Foxall. While at Pentagram, she had the opportunity to work with Marina Willer’s team on the editorial and spatial design for sound designer and Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki’s Sound of Mind exhibition at the Design Museum. “This experience gave me a real life understanding of the process of implementing a design project within an exhibition space, alongside experience working with a client,” she says.

Zine by Designer Shona Speres
Hi Babe Hi Babe, a publication capturing an unedited written dialogue between Speres’ parents

While she enjoyed her course – “it was a great platform for me to meet likeminded individuals and develop my fundamental skills as a designer,” she says – the coronavirus pandemic brought her studies to an anti-climactic end.

“The entirety of recent graduates faced having their final year show cancelled, which hit me hard as I felt the grad exhibition would be more of a celebration of the end of the three years of hard work, so it does feel like there wasn’t a concise end,” she says. “However, having time out of university has allowed me to develop more skills within my practice and experiment more with different mediums whilst creating projects more personal to myself and my own experiences.”

Beyond her degree show, the pandemic has disrupted next steps for graduates around the world. Speres says one of her main challenges ahead is finding employment in the midst of a global pandemic, as well as “exploring design and learning from individuals without face to face contact”. For now, she is currently working on an editorial project exploring “the expression and madness within reality”.

Looking ahead, she plans to continue learning and producing work that she’s passionate about, and one day hopes to become an art director or run her own studio.

Hi Babe Hi Babe installation
Zine by Designer Shona Speres
Hi Babe Hi Babe publication
Zine by Designer Shona Speres
Virgin zine

Head here to see all our Gradwatch picks ; shonasperes.com; @shonasperes