Students on Masters courses within the School of Art & Design had the opportunity to exhibit their work in the #Mastered Degree Show last week. Hosted in Bonnington Gallery on the city campus of Nottingham Trent University, each exhibition demonstrated the student’s individual creative journey through their course, those courses including Fashion Management, Textiles, Visual Arts and Visual Communication. I had a chance to check out some of the work that was on display and thought I would write a little bit about the experience, to show you some of the free events that take place on campus, and what to expect from a masters degree in the School of Art & Design.
Frankly, I’m not one to usually check out events like these – museums and exhibitions generally don’t encapsulate my idea of ‘fun’, but I was pleasantly surprised. On entrance, there were free food and drink options for you to take with you as you wandered around the stands, which made the event feel really laid back and welcoming, encouraging to really spend the time to absorb the displays. That was necessary actually because as I wandered around the stands, I realised there was so much to explore. Each project not only showcased their final product but documented the journey it took to get there, with (often) comedic plaques explaining the context. This was really important in being able to understand the meaning and message of the art on display and come to really appreciate it.
What surprised me the most about the Masters exhibition was that I realised that not only was there a lot to see, but a lot of the stands offered interactive elements. Where I would usually find wandering around an art museum ‘dull”, this opportunity for physical engagement and ‘fun’ with the products was a much more stimulating way of portraying a message. Take from the example in the images below, where an interactive shopping experience was used to raise a point about how gender is seen in society. If the items you chose did not correlate to the shape of your earlobe, you were unable to proceed. Simple, but incredibly effective at provoking thoughts!
Meet Megan Kerr
I had the opportunity to talk to Megan Kerr, a 22-year-old student studying her Masters in Graphic Design student who created a project titled “Little Heroes”, a reading scheme which aims to challenge stereotypes and help fulfil the dreams and aspirations of all boys and girls.
Every school holiday, a personalised box full of fun, wonder and education is delivered straight to the door of the parent and child. Each box, including two great books and an activity workbook with equipment, is tailored to the interests of the child within a given theme reflecting the Key Stage 2 Education Curriculum. All books and activities are categorised into three abilities (trainee, junior and qualified) depending on the ability of the child. The hands-on activities and the messages told within the literature enhances the child’s learning and appreciation for learning and aspiring for the future. The Little Heroes reading scheme provides parents with all the essentials to truly help their little hero to soar.
Why did you choose to study an MA in Graphic Design?
I had previously come from a media background with interests in PR and journalism, consumer research and advertising, but found that my work had always strayed towards graphic design. My undergraduate degree provided me with all the necessary skills to research, analyse and report my findings to find a solution but I lacked the opportunity to use my design passion to solve the problems identified in my report. The prospect of completing projects that enabled me to be creative and research into something that I am really passionate about just propelled me to apply for the MA Graphic Design course at Nottingham Trent University.
What is the Little Heroes project about?
From day one, I knew I wanted to investigate the inequality and portrayal of men and women in children’s literature. The disproportionate numbers of female characters in strong, lead roles may encourage children to accept the belief that women and girls occupy a less important role in society. Unchallenged hegemonic views on male dominance and the male/female binary have marginalised women and men who do not conform, which excludes more than half of the country’s talent, experience and knowledge. My research has brought my attention to the obstacles that women still face, the need to increase opportunities available for women to use their talents and encourage their imagination to flourish in terms of what they can achieve. I wanted to promote this idea through children’s literature as a story is the most effective way of communicating messages. It is important to teach children of the importance of female empowerment and equality through story-telling as most of our moral codes originate from legends and folklore.
Most attempts to solve this problem has taken form through children’s books. Some inspiring cases include the ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo and ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World’ by Kate Pankhurst. Although these books promote the right concepts and inspire little girls to dream, my primary research showed that it is the consumer behaviour of the parents to purchase these books that focus on female empowerment. So, after many ideas, it was a subscription scheme aimed at the parents reading and taking part in the activities with their child to encourage their child to aspire to be anything that they want to be, that I fell in love with.
My first key message was the parents are the heroes that children aspire to be like, so the Little Heroes subscription scheme was born.
How did the Masters exhibition go?
The opening night of the exhibition on 17th July 2018 was fantastic. I had never been to an exhibition before and the atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone was so supportive of everyone’s work and it was great to see my peers’ final work which I had seen from the beginning stages of the projects. It was valuable to also gain some industrial insights from publishers, designers and members of the public on my work which has been a huge help in developing the Little Heroes brand further. The branding of the exhibition was excellent too. I had the great opportunity to work with a fantastic group of designers, illustrators and branding students on the BIG concept. Big Dreams and Big Ideas for Branding, Illustration and Graphic Design.
Would you recommend a Masters in Graphic Design?
I would definitely recommend MA Graphic Design. Upon graduating, I didn’t feel that I was completely finished with education and ready to step into the world of work. I always thrive on learning and developing my skills, so this course was exactly what I needed. It provided me with a better understanding of the industries that I am excited to be a part of in the future and the opportunity to investigate and create a solution that I am passionate about. The knowledge and experiences of the tutors on the Visual Communications collective are truly inspiring and give support on all projects and help you to achieve what you want to. I now feel ready to apply my creative imprint on the design world with a foot in the door.
If you want to learn more about Megan, you can find her online portfolio here.
You can also follow her on Instagram @megankerr.design