EN meets the organiser of New Designers, a 33 year-old show connecting the brands of today with the talent of tomorrow.
New Designers, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a very striking show. When EN pops over to the BDC to check out the event, the white walls of the stands are covered in splashes of colour, textiles and innovative new products from more than 3,000 talented designers.
The exhibitors themselves are graduates from across the length and breadth of the UK at the end of their university careers and ready for the world of work, which is lucky because many of the visitors to the show are on the prowl for new recruits.
“The quality of visitor was really phenomenal this year,” says event director Chris Hall of Upper Street Events, a member of the 2017 EN 30 Under Thirty. “We had people getting jobs at Bentley onsite. There are numerous opportunities for exhibitors.
“Visitors are from the design industry, people who are head of design in different departments, design teams, creative teams etc. They’re looking to headhunt and recruit the best new design talent into their teams. Lots of them come along to offer internships, work experience and other opportunities like commissions for bespoke projects.”
The show is split into two weeks – each featuring two different strands of the design world – and takes up the entirety of the BDC. Hall divides it roughly into ‘makers’, which comprises the more physical side of design with crafts, ceramics, textiles, jewellery etc. and ‘innovators’, which includes graphic design, illustration, animation and product design for industrial and automotive sectors.
“We are very proud to host New Designers, which is considered a key event in the design calendar, showcasing the next generation of creative minds in the industry,” Kate Simpson, marketing director at the BDC, tells EN. “It’s also important for us as a company to support the success of the exhibition each year, by sponsoring the New Designer of the Year Award which recognises a stand out graduate in both weeks of the show.”
Universities will book a variety of stands and tutors secure them for specific courses, covering subjects such as textiles, fashion or ceramics. For many of the graduate exhibitors, it marks the end of university and entry into the world of work.
“It’s where education meets industry,” says Hall. “That demographic would most likely never have done a professional event before so we hold two ‘Prepare Days’. We hire out space in the BDC twice before the show, invite exhibitors to come along and we hold talks and lectures about how to exhibit on a professional platform.
“It’s a chance to come together and offer them tips and advice on stand design, how to present themselves. It’s about having that confidence, talking to people as well and creating a personal brand. It’s also about reminding them to talk to visitors and be really welcoming and proactive.”
“We also talk about your online presence, particularly after university you have to be aware of what you’re putting on the internet. If you want to make a business and a brand for yourself you have to be aware of what you’re posting. We have an online portfolio partner they can work with before the show.”
When it comes to finding a job after graduating, it’s often hard to secure face-to-face time with potential employers in a fiercely competitive field. New Designers gives the exhibiting graduates a chance to do just that.
“The great thing about the show is that lots of big international brands do competitions in order for graduates to enter, but it’s very much a 2D process; they don’t get to meet you,” agrees Hall. “The fantastic thing about the show and about exhibitions in general is that people have that face-to-face interaction. They’re investing in you as a person and they’ve seen something in you and your creative thinking.”
Because the designers at the show are students, and students are famously not the wealthiest of individuals, it’s important for Hall and his team to make sure exhibiting at the show doesn’t break the bank.
“We provide the whitewashed walls, a lighting package and electric socket,” he explains. “It’s quite a reasonable package; £99 per sqm to exhibit. Compared to some other big design trade shows it’s very accessible for the graduates. Lots of it is subsidised through the sponsors we work with.”
The show is not only supported by big name brands like Porsche, John Lewis, Virgin Atlantic and Lego (to name but a few), it’s also supported by a brand from the exhibition world, namely full service provider GES, which supports the award ceremonies that run concurrent with the two weeks of the show.
“We were delighted to partner with New Designers to provide an awards prize.” Mark Sykes, executive creative director at GES, tells EN. “Our industry is in the middle of a design industrial revolution, a world beset with buzzwords such as ‘disruptive, ‘agile’, ‘innovative’, ‘collaborative and ‘digital’ to name but a few, concepts which are already engrained into the psyche of creative graduates.
“As a business we need embrace these new ideas, to adopt and evolve to this rapidly changing environment. Graduates bring a contagious passion and enthusiasm to any creative studio, as well as a fresh entrepreneurial perspective that we could all learn from.”
As an exhibition New Designers has a unique relationship with its exhibitors, who are often inexperienced and will rarely, if ever, return for a second year. Upper Street’s approach to the show provides a supportive structure and chances for individual recognition and achievement, and provides the future of UK design with a fantastic introduction to the world of exhibitions.