Here at Shillington, we encourage our students and graduates to get involved in their local design and creative community. So when PechaKucha Manchester approached Shillington to get graduates involved to design their events programme, it was an easy yes.
Haven’t heard of PechaKucha? It’s an international community that brings together artists, designers, campaigners and community champions to talk about their work and projects. At PechaKucha events, creatives from all walks of life and disciplines come together to present on topics that they’re passionate about using the 20×20 format: each speaker has to use 20 images with only 20 seconds per image before it changes to the next one. In total, a speaker will present for 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
For PechaKucha Manchester Vol.27—themed ‘Community’, bringing together the cities of Manchester and Liverpool, the team put out a challenge to our #Shillumni Network to create the events programme. The brief was open in respect of the design, size and shape, and the best news of all? The sponsor, G.F. Smith, supplied the paper. Limitless opportunities for designers with a love of print!
Many students sending in their folios and ideas to express interest, and recent Shillington Manchester graduate Veronica Humphris. We love her brochure so we just had to find out more about it! We chatted with her about working with PechaKucha, her time at Shillington and what she’s been up to since.
How did your collaboration with PechaKucha Manchester come about?
I saw a shout out on the Shillumni Facebook Group to design the brochure for the upcoming event, and jumped at the chance. PechaKucha had been highlighted as a great industry event by our Shillington tutors and I tried (and failed), not realising how popular it was, to get a ticket for the evening back in November 2018—tickets usually sell out online within about 30 minutes!
I thought designing the event brochure would be a good way to challenge myself by putting my design skills into practise and to create a piece of physical print to present at the end of it. I was incredibly thrilled to be selected to design the brochure for the June event.
What was your brief? And what did you make of it?
The PechaKucha organisers set the brief to be ‘COMMUNITY’ incorporating the city of Liverpool, as the event would host 10 creatives from Liverpool to share their knowledge and stories in Manchester. It was a subject very close to my heart, as I grew up on the Wirral (just across the Mersey from Liverpool) and spent my teenage years there.
Stereotypically there exists a huge rivalry between the two cities, but I wanted demonstrate something beyond that and reflect on the idea of community through a cross-cultural exchange.
For this I explored the concept of two groups joining together the generate something new. I experimented with using warm, human tones: with two colours of paper (candy pink and natural), two typefaces, a two-colour riso-print process, and mapping the City of Liverpool boundary in orange, with the Greater Manchester boundary overlapping in fluorescent pink.
How did you go about tackling the brief? Was there any challenges?
In the ideation stage, I had to fight hard to get away from all those cliches of community—strings of people holding hands, for instance.
An early idea I had suggested was a birds and bees theme (the Liverbirds as a symbol of Liverpool, and the workers bees for Manchester) but again it was felt it might be too frequently referenced. However, I did manage to work this idea back into the final design via a tiny egg and honeycomb pattern, which worked effectively as it was more subtle.
The main challenge personally was not being daunted by the task of designing a piece of print for a room full of creatives that I wanted to impress! The best help for this was having a designer on the PechaKucha team who was assigned to mentor me through the process (Thanks Charlotte!)—she was great at calming me down and putting it all in perspective!
The other challenges were the practical considerations that always take longer than you think: I had never tried a risograph technique for printing before, so I had to consider how to submit the artwork which became a technical challenge; especially with the gradient mapping effect I’d used on the photos. And folding—there was a tremendous amount of precision folding, because I’d designed the brochure to fold in on itself in order to hold the workshop materials and echo the idea of an inclusive community. I had to rope in my husband in on the process who I realised is much more patient than I am!! He did a great job (Thanks Matt!).
Your brochure looked amazing! You worked with some great partners, could you tell us about them? We’ve also heard something about stickers?!
Thank you! PechaKucha are sponsored by G.F. Smith, so I was chuffed to get my very own copy of their huge sample book of papers to choose from. We’d had a visit from Jane Crowther, G.F. Smith’s Sales Executive, when we were studying at Shillington, and I remembered her being really excited about the sticker stock they had. I thought it might be a really great way of engaging the PechaKucha audience, because who doesn’t love a sticker?
I was trying to think of a way to incorporate it into the brief, when I met Karen Edwards from Red Button Press at the Manchester Print Fair. She’s from Liverpool, and I asked whether she would consider doing a workshop at the PechaKucha event. We worked together to design a letterpress printing block that would be able to print ‘instigating messages’ onto the stickers, which would encourage people at the event to network. It worked really well and the letterpress workshop was really popular on the night.
The second workshop on the night was with Found Fiction, who brought along their Tall Tales tree. I included a leaf on a string within the programme, which was an invitation to write your favourite thing about Liverpool or Manchester and attach it to Found Fiction’s Tall Tales tree, which created a community artwork over the course of the evening.
How was the night? Was it cool to see your work being interacted with?
The night was brilliant. I had worked so hard on the brochure, and it was so exciting to see people admiring it, and being able to say “I did that!”. I had a lot of positive feedback from creatives that I admire, and it gave me the rare opportunity to show off my work in an informal setting.
I was really pleased that the letterpress workshop and collaborative tree were so popular.
I loved watching people use the materials I’d designed to express themselves and start conversations with others.
I met so many new people too—some who I’m working with now, and I’m thrilled to have been asked to join the PechaKucha team on a permanent basis.
What were you up to before Shillington and why did you decide to study design?
My previous career was as a theatre producer in London. I loved managing a theatre building, putting together theatre, art and dance productions, but I wanted a change. It was important to me to explore my creativity, and take a break from the pace of London. In 2017, my partner and I got married, and decided to take a career gap year to travel round the world. We travelled through India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the West Coast of America. We also lived for 2 months on Crete, which was a dream we’d had for the last ten years.
When we came back to the UK last year, Manchester seemed like a great place to study. I’d been to a Shillington Info Session before, and we felt it was a great way to continue our adventure. Now that I have the design skills, I feel like I could become a digital nomad and work anywhere!
What have you been up to since graduating?
After graduating, I started working freelance, mainly on branding projects for theatre and film companies whose contacts I’d made when I was in London. I love working with other creative people on their brand identity, and especially when you can get them really excited about the possibilities of their business through mood boards, colour palettes and tone of voice.
I was offered three weeks work experience with award-winning design agency Vivid, where I learnt a huge amount and was lucky enough to attend a design team training course for AfterEffects and Premiere.
In March, I was accepted on a programme called Creative Comeback, that was a crash course for women returning to the creative industries after a career gap. The highlight for me was pitching our group’s creative concept for Guinness to Diageo and the top 4 agencies in Manchester: TWBA, Momentum, McCann and BBC Creative.
I’ve also been overwhelmed by the variety of brilliant creative events that are happening all over Manchester: Ladies Wine & Design Manchester, Breakfast Club Manchester, Craft, Motion North, and of course, PechaKucha. I’m looking forward to going to my first “Ladies that UX” breakfast next week!
You now work for Mapway—who develop travel apps for cities all over the world. What do you do there?
I’m part of the in-house design team, and we do a lot of varied work around all aspects of UX and UI design. We use Sketch for a lot of projects, so that was great to have in my toolkit from Shillington, and helps when I have to tackle tasks using similar software like Framer X for animating transitions, which I’m learning to do at the moment.
The most specialist part of my job is learning the skills of digital cartography: making interactive schematic maps of transport networks. It’s very precise work, and has really sharpened my Illustrator skills: it’s very important that the designs I export are pixel perfect, and strike the right balance between aesthetics and function. I’m currently working on an interactive map of Toronto which will be released in the next few months. I’ll also make all the screenshots and app icon assets for the App Store and Play Store, which I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to a future project we’ve got coming up where I’ll be creating an icon set to be used throughout all of the new apps.
We work collaboratively with the app developers using a ‘Scrum’ framework, which is an agile way of managing software development projects. We do design ‘sprints’ which break our work up into two week chunks of time, and keeps us motivated. It’s fascinating being part of an integrated designer-developer team, working collaboratively to develop useful, beautiful products. I feel my creative decisions are valued, supported and encouraged by the whole team, and I get to use my travel experience too—I really look forward to going to work every day!
What inspires your creativity?
During my studies at Shillington, I really enjoyed the emphasis towards discovering what inspires you: assembling visual diaries and searching for weekly submissions for I Love These Guys.
I’ve tried to keep this up by collecting favourite images and flyers from events, art galleries and print fairs, and creating a gallery on my pin-board at home that’s above my desk. I post my #corkboardgallery every month on Instagram, and tag all the creatives to credit them for their amazing work.
The other thing that I find really inspires me is learning as much as I can about different ways of working, new analog and digital techniques. I’ve just started an AfterEffects course to help me develop my animation skills and its making me think about the possibilities of movement in my work in a completely different way.
Can you give any tips or advice to our fresh graduates?
Yes—I’ve got three top tips:
Be as open to all opportunities as you dare.
I was worried when I graduated that I didn’t have a niche, but actually if I’d specialised too early it might have held me back. I thought I’d only be happy working in an agency, but I’m so glad that I was open to working for a company in-house, because it means that I’m continuing to hone my design skills in a new way. It’s a direction I couldn’t have foreseen, but I’m so grateful that I stayed open to the possibilities.
Network your socks off. My current job came about because I met a designer who worked at Mapway at a design event, and he told me about a vacancy they were looking to fill. It can be both scary and tiring to attend a lot of events but it really helps to find others who you can share with. Luckily, I’ve found the Manchester creative scene is very friendly, supportive and eager to be collaborative.
Relax. (This is the one I’m am currently trying to implement more!) I found that in the first few weeks after graduating from Shillington I found it really difficult to be suddenly out of the strict daily routine. I got stressed looking for opportunities and I was worried that I would never get a design job! Make sure you give yourself time to relax and consolidate your skills. Allow time to be inspired by art, seeing friends, gardening or whatever gets your creativity flowing!
Massive thanks to Veronica for sharing the story of her PechaKucha brochure with us! Make sure to check out her website and follow both her designer and personal Instagram—those #corkboardgalleries are always full of gorgeous inspiration!
Curious about attending a PechaKucha event in your local city? Find out more!