I realised last year that I was wondering if I really wanted to do graphic design,” says recent Ravensbourne graphic design graduate Eilin Bergum. “I find it hard to know precisely what graphic design is.” This lack of clarity whilst still at college is hardly surprising, and considering life in a professional work environment nine-to-five is always going to be a bit of a culture shock after three years at college. “Sitting in front of a computer every day and doing things on screen doesn’t really seem right for me,” she continues. “I’m very hands-on, I like to draw and to do craft-based stuff. The course at Ravensbourne has a tendency to introduce us to Swiss typography and information design and I’ve found myself moving away from that. I guess I’ve started to do the kind of graphic design I want to do.”
Bergum’s display stand at her degree show stood out a mile precisely because of her markedly different approach to her fellow graduates. A large flouro pink poster bearing the word ‘craft’ in black type was attention grabbing and on closer inspection the poster turned out to be felt and the black type sewn on. Also on display were a range of projects, all continuing a distinctly tactile theme – a T-shirt screenprinted with one of Bergum’s illustrations; brightly coloured, screen-printed felt business cards; and a journal entitled Touch Issue 1, which had a punch cut black card cover.
“The project is designed to work for both the seeing and the completely blind, as well as visually impaired people,” explains Bergum of Touch. “When I was doing research I went to some resource centres and all their books and the graphics produced for them are really dull and boring. Not all visually impaired people are completely blind so I thought it would be good to make something that you could navigate through touch yet also be intrigued by what you could see.”
Touch, which also comes with a CD full of audio content, is full of clever and unusual uses of different stocks and print processes that combine to make Touch an interesting proposition for the blind or partially sighted.
“Using and applying techniques that they already use in the education of the blind and visually impaired, like swell paper, screen- printing, normal braille punching – as well as art and craft supplies like puff paint – with the support of braille and audio I have created products that can stimulate all sorts of creatives, seeing or blind.”
Two placements, one at johnson banks and another at Draft Associates has given Bergum a taste of life in professional design studios – and a three-month placement at Volcom – a surf, skate and snowboard brand at whose London store Bergum has been working – beckons later this year.
“There’s no way I could work in a normal studio every day,” maintains Bergum. “I want to do my own thing, working on lots of different projects, but for myself, on my terms. I want to do hands-on stuff, screen-printing and working with different materials, to keep going with tactile projects and with my illustration. In terms of a personal manifesto, really it’s simple – I want to be able to have fun with what I’m doing. And print won’t die as long as I’m alive, I’m making sure of that.”