top of page

Week 1 Perspectives 


This first week I have been asked to consider what makes a design studio and what Graphic Design means to me.  My notes to the resources we were given are detailed below. 
Analysis of Research

One of the overarching questions this week was to consider what makes a studio culture.  I thought about the definition of 'culture' according to the dictionary, which is defined as: "the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society" (Oxford English Dictionary)  Considering this in relation to studio culture, the 'people' of course are those that work in the Studio, including freelancers who breeze in and out at invited at pivotal points in projects.  The people bring with them a wide variety of experiences and perspectives that inform the studio work.  Adrian Talbot from studio Intro, explains this as "bring(ing) your own passions to every project you do"(Talbot)


The 'society' could translate as the city/country/continent that the studio resides in, although this is distorted by the fact that the physical place of work does not always correlate with the market the designers operate within, the digital age facilitating the capture of work far afield.  The impact of the 'society' that the designer resides within cannot be underestimated however.  Designers choose places to work not just for economic or practical reasons but also to provide a source of inspiration for their work.  London based Designer Sarah Boris states that her inspirations are people & the streets, her London base gives her endless opportunities to absorb the buzzing city and it's residents.  Working for many a cultural, theatrical & art institutions, London provides Boris with an abundance of these for both client and design stimuli.

Considering 'customs' in a design studio is interesting.  The processes and ways of working that the designers undertake would be their 'customs'.  Some, like Julian House and Adrian Talbot, considering themselves "traditional" (Talbot     ).  Talbot describes traditional as 2D graphic communication and printed work, Julian House adding that design means different things dependent on the discipline and reputation in forged by the design style you become known for. (House    )  Moreover the 'customs' of a design studio can be wide ranging, depending on the designers that work within them and their particular strengths and disciplines.  Furthermore, studios and freelance designers also have the option to recruit peers with particular skill sets to enhance work in a focused medium or genre.  Bookmaker & publisher Sam Winston prefers his own personal space and the silence and sanctuary that working style brings, however he admits that he does not shy away from bringing in others to work in collaboration should he feel this is needed.  Winston's 'customs' include the desire to travel, something he believes is very important for his work as he can absorb culturally rich experiences that feed his design impetus.

In terms of the 'social behaviour' of designers in a studio environment, there seems to be a split camp, those who prefer the peace and tranquillity of their own company in an isolated space and those who thrive on the buzz and hubbub of a group of creatives in one space.  Those who contract out to bigger studios perhaps having the best of both worlds and a unique perspective on the variety of studio ethos and atmospheres.  Graphic Designer Simon Manchipp founder of design studio Someone, seems to favour the broader working environment, opening studio branches in London, Sydney, Berlin and New York.  Manchipp speaks of an interesting dichotomy amongst designers today.  The surge of the digital design era has enabled digital savvy individuals to enter the creative sector.  These data driven engineers are creating business platforms that are incongruous with design aesthetics resulting in almost indistinguishable brands.  Manchipp rallies that designers must "get involved" and bring their "point of difference" perspective to the table.  One way Someone champions this idea is to move staff around every 3 months in an attempt to create a more harmonious approach between designer & engineer. 

A Shaughnessy and T Brook, in their book about studio culture, write about the need for a "sense of communal purpose" whilst also harnessing "enough space for the individual to retain his or her own voice".  This is an idea echoed by Talbot and House when they discuss how each designer handles their own clients and projects at Intro but some times collaborate - the beauty of being in the same studio is the ability to walk across the room and ask the question.  They claim their studio has an unusual approach in this regard, hailing themselves a "curious collective".  This system clearly works in this case but must require critical organisation and management to ensure each clients requirements are met effectively and on time.   


Shaughnessy and Brook warn that teams need not be any bigger than 7 people or you risk losing efficiency and effectiveness, with more meetings; a 'too many cooks' point of view.  Tom Finn and Kristoffer Soelling of Regular Practice seem to understand this concept as they work as a paired partnership.  A shared passion for expression through typography,  bonds them and they have been learning fast since graduating together in 2017.  Finn and Soelling appear to have chosen the ideal setting for their studio in Hackney, East London.  The affordability of sharing spaces with friends allows for creative freedom in the type of work they undertake, the creative 'community hub' of their location, generates what they describe as a "synergy with other designers in the area".





















Regular Practice.jpg
Sam Winston.jpg
Intro Design Studio Exterior.jpg

Workshop Challenge



Task: Produce a quadriptych (four images) to illustrate your answer to each question, Who?  Where? What? & Why?.


Who are you?

Historically a Woven Textile Designer and a secondary school teacher of Design, Technology & Food.  So many design disciplines interest me that I often wonder, if I had not been so influenced by fashion as a young women, whether I might be a graphic designer right now.  As it is, I look to move my practice from Woven Textile Design and towards the realms of image and type.  I have a strong inclination to manipulate the surface area of materials in a tangible way and am excited to find my own graphic design direction as I explore my way through the MA.   Design is a state of being for me.  I feel that the creative sense in me has been laying dormant, although my thirst for acquisition and my curiosity has not.  I feel on the cusp of a visual re-awakening or a design re-birth and this is what I will try to show in this first image.


I was born in the mid 1970’s in the vibrant seaside town of Bournemouth and now live on the outskirts of the New Forest in Hampshire.  I am so lucky to live in an area that offers glorious beaches and an abundance of national forest, but I think I take it for granted and ironically do not enjoy the beach, although I do love a sea view (just not the sand!).  I’ve always considered myself a ‘townie’.  Uncomfortable with the fast pace and enormity of a city and equally not enamoured with the laid back countryside lifestyle, I’m most at home somewhere between the two.  Some might say I’m crazy to not take full advantage of the beauty of this region, but when you have spent your entire summer holidays on the beach with sand in your lunchbox and a sunburnt back, the joy begins to fade slightly. 

My most fond memories as a young women are those of browsing the stores of Bournemouth town, admiring the window displays that changed with the seasons, touching the clothing rails to feel the weight and texture of the fabrics and admiring the street style of my fellow consumers as we moved seamlessly between one another .  I felt like a Magpie with an access all areas pass for De Beers.  In answering the question ‘Where?’ I will aim to show the cosmopolitan & Victorian vintage nature of Bournemouth’s shopping culture. (Fig 1.)


I have not been a practising designer and the closest I have been to a commercial studio in recent years is perhaps the hive of activity, creativity and processing involved in a practical design technology classroom.  At times over the last decade I have attempted to create my own home studio but sadly work and family commitments kept me estranged from my design domain.  I note that Tom Finn and Kristoffer Soelling of Regular Practice share a studio in a creative building hub.  I liken this to my time in studio at university, where students meld ideas and critiques.  I loved that atmosphere and believe it would suit me to be in a similar setting.  Conversely Sam Winston seeks the opposite to this cacophony of stimulation, preferring to find inspiration outside of the studio and then return to distil in quiet isolation, as he explains, “ideas come from the tranquillity of the space.”(Winston     )  I consider this to be quite a luxury environment, one that not all designers could afford and Winston accepts that rents in London, where he is based, are extraordinarily high.  


As I have not been a practicing designer for some years my most pivotal work will be over 10 years old.  Despite it’s age this project was my most successful when I studied at Winchester School of Art in the mid noughties and it still resonates with me now.  The project focused around the idea of using found materials that would otherwise go to landfill and using them in my woven fabrics.  I used plastic bags that I would cut in to strips and weave into the weft, mixing with naturally dyed pure cotton yarn.  Often I would heat treat the resulting fabric after removing from the loom and enjoy the happy surprises that this often created as the yarns melded with the strips.  Plastics with air pockets would distort the adjacent yarns and create unusual patterns, something I learnt to exploit as I worked. 

Re-purposing, re-cycling or re-using found materials is something I still feel is part of my aesthetic, although I am yet to see how this can be translated in the world of Graphic Design.  The question of the ‘What?’ for me may present more questions than answers!  However my plan is to create a tangible outcome for this communication.

I am fascinated and encouraged to learn how diverse the Graphic Design industry has become.  Following the interviews with existing practitioners,  I understood that each designer brings his or her own signature to their work, as Julian House and Adrian Talbot discuss their own backgrounds, skills and experiences, they mention a ‘traditional’ graphic designer as someone who works predominately with 2d graphic communication and print.  Julian also explains how he is known for his music graphics and that clients will then ‘seek you out’ for the specific service you can provide.   It would be wonderful to be known and in demand for the style of work you produce.  It must be hard to sustain that level of demand over many decades and my hat goes off to Julian and Adrian for still being on the pulse of design today.  

Graphic design seems to ‘attach’ itself to many different industry sectors and designers can become well regarded in a particular sector.  Sarah Boris talks about how her work spans editorial design and branding, however she has often worked for cultural institutions in theatre and the arts.  Sam Winston considering himself to be a “bookmaker” first and foremost, a discipline he chooses to work within and actively seeks commissions in the publishing sector.  I wonder what sector/s I could engage with in the future.

This idea is reinforced by Simon Manchipp who finds the variety of sectors to be inspiring and enjoys learning about them as he works on a brief.  He speaks about how designers are life long learners, constantly changing to move forward.  Comparing designers to artists he is quick to define the difference.  He points out that designers work from a brief and therefore must meet the needs of their client, an often difficult balance to strike when many stakeholders are involved in the decision making process.  This is not something I had considered and is described beautifully by Scher as the ‘Graph of Expectation’ - the rise and fall of the clients appreciation and critique of ones designs during creative meetings, where the line stops being the marker for success or failure to sell.  I am apprehensive about being a part of such a meeting, having never formally worked as a designer serving clients.  I hope that my communication skills are developed enough after years of interacting with teenagers and their parents! 

Selling and pricing is discussed with varying degrees of resignation and concern by the eminent case studies.  They discuss the link in budget increase or decrease in relation to the sector they find themselves working within.  Julian House noting that digital music downloads have seen a large cull to music industry budgets.  The ability to work from one’s desk, particularly in the remote working world of Covid, has opened up a wealth of access to design professionals, clients can be discerning in their choice of designer/studio, they have buying power and so dictate terms, including pricing.  As Adrian Talbot says, 
                                        “budgets have been slashed, clients want more for less”
Talbot expands this point by identifying a growing trend in freelance designers working on short term projects.  Although giving you flexibility to work when you want to, the difficulties of managing ones own finances on this basis are exasperated.  As a new Graphic Designer I will not have known any different, however it does concern me that earnings and job opportunities may be reduced even further by the impact of Covid 19.   Maybe I will need to take Sam Winston’s approach and tender my work to prospective clients, some kind of targeted sales strategy!


After listening to the case study designers, I felt affected by the statement that Adrian Talbot of ‘Intro’ makes about design, “You can’t learn design, it’s inherently in you”.  I believe this is true and have always felt that I am a designer at heart.  Design is how I see the world, through shape, form, colour and pattern.   Many of the case study designers had similar interpretations of why they design.  The designers quote terms such as ‘conceptualism’, ‘asking questions’, ‘enables insight’ & ‘listening to what people want’. Talbot also believes that you, “bring your own passions to every project you do”
Whilst it seems true that the meaning of design for each designer is unique to their perspective and discipline, there is clearly commonality in understanding that design is purposeful and intuitive once one has studied the brief and developed understanding to solve the problem.  I would like the answer to my ‘Why’ question to reflect that design is part of my make up, my matrix, my physiology.  I want to show how I view the world as a designer and how that visual interpretation explains my narrative.

I wanted to use the idea of me walking down Bournemouth high street, passing stores and shop windows.  I thought about my image being a silouette with each shop answering the questions.  I also began to look at textile artists, quilt workers in particular.  Quilts were often used to mark life events and became heirlooms steeped in the memories of each family story.  I thought I could tell my story using similar characteristics of quilt work.   Some examples that stood out during my research are detailed below.





















I like the way this artist has used rough edges, distressed  and irregular image placement in her work.  She has the traditional stitch detail that is quintessentially ‘quilt’, however she uses it in a very abstract way compared to other quilters.








This artist uses similar spacing between each colourful section, but more appealing is the way she has ‘sliced up’ sections to reveal the white background.  She has also created interest in the background with multi-directional stitching lines, all very regular in spacing and length. You can’t see the stitching thread in this work but you can see the surface movement as shadows that the stitch lines create.

I began to collate images that I could adapt and develop.  Continuing with the idea that I would be the silloutte in the foreground with a Bournemouth Victorian Villa Style shop front as the background.  Playing on my interest in consumerism and commerical design in and around my seaside home.  This was the first sketch...

















I liked the way the figures (i.e. me!) seem to have purpose in their stride.  I deliberately tried to change hair and clothing on each to communicate my changing perspective when trying to answer the key questions in the brief.  I wanted the quad to appear as one image and flow from one image to the next.  I feel like this has a nod to the famous Beatles album cover, Abbey Road.

Looking at my contemporaries on the ideas wall, I realised that exploring other layout possibilities was an important next step and so I then cut and pasted the next two ideas.


























This third layout idea is connecting well with the quilting influence I am building in to this piece. A good example shown below.  I posted this for peer feedback with some positive responses.


















I really like Alex’s idea that it could evolve in to a 3D object as it has Nett qualities about it, thanks Alex!

Considering what next...  In my notes I mention another textile artist that I discovered who is inspired by architectural layering, Haf Weighton.  An example of her work is below...


I love the energy in her work, enhanced by the erratic, imperfect paint effect and the way she uses stitch to enhance her painted surface, rythmic architectural patterns for inspiration.  I also enjoy the stitch signature in the bottom right corner!

Exploring the Who?

When communicating the ‘Who?’ I wanted to ensure I was the focus of the image and so rather than put the figure in silhouette, I decided to fill the figure with a representation of new-growth in me as a designer embarking on the MA and changing career direction.  This is the image I created for the figure fill.  Symbolising the roots, shoots and buds of new growth. 



















And the development...





I continued in a similar way with the ‘What?’ and ‘Where?’, adding some stitch lines; beginning to link the images to the quilting idea.

























Utilising waste plastics here in reference to my most successful textile design project (mentioned at the top of the page), the tonic water label ‘Green’ and stitch lines illustrating my make do and re-use aesthetic and my penchant for tactile materials. 

















I tried a pattern fill here with a road sign to indicate ‘Commercial Road’ in Bournemouth’s shopping district and the Union Jack obviously a nod to my nationality & country of residence. 





















The ‘Why?’ I decided to convert my sketch in Illustrator, trying to create a X-ray effect, what you see if you X-ray me!

Who?What?Where?Why? Quadryptic















After completing these initial designs, I began to feel that the most successful communication was the ‘Why?’ image.  My enthusiasm to utilise the Adobe programs had run away with me and resulted in some images being overworked and too busy, confusing the eye.  I decided I needed to pare down the ‘What?’, ‘Who?’ and ‘Where?’.  Unfortunately time seemed to run away with me and the resulting Quadriptych is awful.  I know that there is far too much going on in the image and that I have to simplify pattern, shape and colour. 


I have used this project as a Photoshop and Illustrator experiment and as a result I have learnt a great deal.  Part of my journey is to try and find a style of working that I find engaging and stimulating but that also meets the brief.  I recall Julian House saying that “Design means different things dependent on the discipline”.  Perhaps my head is still in a woven textile design mindset and I need to explore new medium to communicate successfully with image and type? Or perhaps I need to let go of my preconceptions about what Graphic Design 'should' be and explore more freely in a medium that feels most appropriate for me and the brief.

When I look at my inspiration for this brief, it seems to have led me to a set of images that do not  work together.  Part of this is my use of colour in each one.  I feel it would have been better for me to work on the quadriptych as one image broken in to 4 sections rather than work on each section separately and then try to bring them back together.  I am going to try to keep layers separate in order to work more fluidly with them in Adobe.  I collaged by hand but then found it hard to separate the sections in a scanned image, in order to manipulate them independently.  I also realised that the more a collaged image is photographed, printed and scanned, the more it loses the tactile qualities that the original possesses.  I decided I need to look at home, fashion and textile magazines, how they photograph fabric & yarn based work.  I am going to keep a scrap book of interesting images, type and layout for future reference. 









Shaughnessy, A. and Brook, T. (2009). Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio. London: Unit Editions.

Available from: [accessed 26 January 2021]


Price, J. Yates, D. (2015). Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries. London: Bloomsbury. [accessed 26 January 2021]

Netflix. (2020) Abstract – The Art of Design Season 1 Episode 6- Paula Scher – Graphic Design. [online video] Available from:[accessed 26 January 2021]

Youtube uploaded by camifanta (2011) Intel Visual Life - Michael Wolff [online video] Available at:

[accessed 27 January 2021]

Oxford English Dictionary [Online] Available at:

Melissa Kilbey Quadryptic.jpg
4th March 2021 - Update & Revisit 

Working in week 6 and having learnt so much in just 6 short weeks, I really wanted to revisit Week 1 Brief.  My reflection at the end of this week was not positive about my final outcome.  I have since realised, with the help of the Crit during week 4, that I must not worry that my primary instincts are to work with tactile materials in a craft based way.  During week one I tried to learn Photoshop and Illustrator processes, thinking that this was of vital importance when entering the field of Graphic Design.  My limited skills and frustrations clearly showing in my final quadriptych above. 


I decided I needed to go back to a point in the project where my interest had been peeked by the idea of quilts telling a story about who, what, where and why in relation to me.  Looking again at quilts, the quintessential elements of the stitch line making an indentation in the fabric (Fig. 5) , creating undulating shape and pattern, shadow & highlights, this became the focus point for re-creating my Quadriptych.  I also wanted to show my woven fabric history, the repeat pattern design for Commercial Road, Bournemouth, the simplicity of the word "Designer" and elements of decorative stitch and melted plastic forming my 'new growth'  as a creative person.

This is the final result, I think 100 times better than the lifeless digital version!  It has the surface movement I was looking to achieve, the shadows and highlights of quilted  stitch line, includes a hand woven textile from my past work and tells the story of me in a much subtler way.  I have learnt to listen to my inner 'fabric'!


Development of Ideas
Fig. 5 - Stitched Quilt Detail
(taken from Colours of summer by Elena Olenchenko (Fig. 3)
Who?Where?What?Why? Quadriptych Version 2
Fig. 2  - Pieces of Memories II - Katarzyna Plesniak (source:
Fig. 3 - Colours of summer - Elena Olenchenko
Fig. 4 - Textile Art - Haf Weighton (source:
bottom of page