‘Good design costs no more than bad design’, said Penguin founder Sir Allen Lane. Readers of this blog will know how proud we are of our design heritage and we’re therefore glowing today, as last night we presented the prizes and commendations to a talented group of students in the second annual Penguin Design Award. When we set up the Prize last year, we were prepared for it to take a good few years to become properly established. It hasn’t. Tora and team have spent a chunk of the year buried beneath a tottering heap of portfolios and packages (I know – I sit next to her) and we all feel incredibly proud at both the quantity and quality of this year’s response (you can view some of the work and read about the winners here.
We changed a few things this year. The resident judges were joined by Nick Hornby, designer Jon Gray and artist Harland Miller; and the range of briefs to choose from was broadened. But for me the most marked change remains in the students themselves. When I was at art college in the early nineties, we were also facing recession and also distantly hoping to become rich and famous (preferably overnight) from image-making. But I really don’t remember any of us being as focussed on our careers or aware of potential markets for our work as the bright young things I’ve met through the Penguin Design Award. It’s competitive
‘out there’ (wherever that is), I know – and the graduating class of ’95’s contest to see who could be first to
sign on after our final show doesn’t quite chime with the spirit of the times in the way that it appeared to then, but it seems to me that something in the way visual communication courses are structured and delivered has fundamentally changed. Of course, we’re seeing a certain type of student (and of course, I’m getting perilously close to that dewy-eyed age) but the art students I come across in a variety of contexts these days seem hungrier, shrewder and far more professional than my vintage.
Perhaps, like our award, the art student has come of age. I’m nevertheless recommending Goncharov’s Oblomov as one of the options on next year’s brief – another kind of hero for a different kind of student.