GSA Degree Show 2016: Design

From class and cultural identity to pressing humanitarian concerns, there's a wealth of ideas on display in the ever-diverse field of Design

Article by Adam Benmakhlouf | 15 Jun 2016
  • Communication Design – Tomas Palmer

Having started aged 17 and finishing at 21, future student president and Communication Design student Laura Glennie wonders, “How can you visually mark the end of 4 pivotal years? [At the start] I just wanted to be on a ‘scene’ somewhere like Enid Coleslaw in Ghost World or Jordana Bevan in Submarine. Suddenly, when shit gets real and deadlines are looming, having to define who it is that you are and not just what your influences are, you realise that you have somehow created your own scene through the people right in front of you.”

“For my degree show”, Glennie goes on, “I conclude that artists probably never ‘come of age’, and continue to have realisations and changes which will spur on a lifetime of ‘becoming.’  I have created a distilled video diary to tell the story of a teenage bedroom dreamer who finds a fantasy of her own.”

Moving onto Fashion, Ashleigh Miller looks to the “perception and stigma relating to people from impoverished backgrounds.” Taking different elements of “scally culture and fetish”, she’s careful not to drily reflect on social stratification. With “a certain humour”, she’s worked with “security tags, a kimble gun, and excerpts from The Digger [a controversial, crime-focussed gossip rag based in Glasgow].” Taking inelegant workarounds like gaffa tape mending, these features are deliberately “enhanced by becoming part of the fabric.”

She also identifies branding – “the bolder the better” – as an integral style feature to her concept, and has developed a text-based “house check” that she screenprints onto fabric as embellishment along with additions like swing tags. There’s the same attention to finer details of “silhouette and cut … influenced by collaging with a mix of pre-existing tailored and sportswear garments.” Finishing her description of the collection, and as “a functional yet thought-provoking addition”, Miller gives a special shout out to the “specifically shaped shoplifting pockets.”

The influence of communities

For textile student Daniel Tulloch, there is a strong social, emotional and historical investment to his practice.” 12 years ago, he visited South Africa where he “developed a deep interest in the history of apartheid and ideas of cultural identity.” Ten years later, he decided to document his experience photographically, and since then he has witnessed “the nomadic lives of members of the Basotho Tribe” as well as people more generally from across South Africa and Lesotho.

He alludes briefly to “a very personal and at once heartbreaking story,” which he finds he can best acknowledge “sculpturally and conceptually with fabric.” So it is that his work takes inspiration from “the transient living conditions of a nomadic life and the visible patina of age,” and his collection spans a history that goes back to the 1950s.

Somewhat closer to home, Product Design student Harriet de Wet’s self-initiated project considers “the asylum seeking community in Glasgow… host to one of the largest communities in the UK.” Volunteering for the Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seeking Men, she has “befriended many of those hoping to one day receive refugee status,” and who experience “the harsh restrictions from Central Government – such as preventing asylum seekers from working, and forcing many into destitution.”

Speaking frankly, she describes them as “an invisible people to most Glaswegians.” For this reason, she proposes “a digital service platform that focuses on areas that are common friction points for asylum seekers in Glasgow. The service is designed to bring stability and peace of mind to the everyday life of an asylum seekers, as well as increased social mobility, independence and choice.”

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More from our 2016 degree show reviews:

ECA graphic design: Rachel Millar ECA: Graphic Design and Illustration

ECA Product Design: David Mahoney ECA: Design, Film and TV & Animation


At a slight remove from these kinds of intense personal, cultural and historical contexts, Interaction Design (FKA Digital Culture) students describe their fundamental concern with technology. As a group, they promise “a large range of final outcomes will be on show, from computer-generated tiles and 3D-printed islands, to perception of imagery in a visually mediated society, as well as the complexities of social media and the online world.” Stating their overall ethic: “Our degree show centres on user engagement and creative coding, providing an innovative take on the fast paced digital culture that we live in.”

Over in Product Design Engineering, there’s a move from the virtual to the physical, as Faidon Filipsson looks to raise awareness of “the global decline of the honey bee population.” More specifically, he’s anxious to encourage recognition “that a part of the problem lies in the ‘fashion’ of keeping bees with little or no prior knowledge of beekeeping.” Not just pointing the finger, he’s come up with a design solution that allows for “a more responsible beekeeping”. Reducing the amount of lifting and interaction with the bees, he’s conceived a more ergonomic update on the top bar beehive and added a visual indication when the hive is ready to be harvested. In this way, the bees aren’t disturbed so often and the beekeeping process becomes “more intuitive and accessible for a wide range of users”.

Thinking more broadly in her concept Fiona Smith takes the idea of the “freak” as her main thematic interest. “The meaning of this word is ever changing,” she argues. “Modern day use of the word 'freak', in terms of fashion, can be something that people are beginning to embrace, and the fashion industry is one of acceptance of all walks of life.” Smith looks particularly at “going against the grain of the ‘usual’ silhouette for womenswear.” This gesture is combined with “a carefully selected mix of mediums, ranging from tailored suiting to overtly feminine embellishments, optical illusions and unexpected proportions.”

Controversial fashion continues in one of the proposals of Interior Design’s Danielle van Rhijn. Across the entire final year, the Interior Design students create three conceptual projects within existing buildings in Glasgow – Van Rhijn has designed an exhibition space in an abandoned garage in the West End for “the famous and rather controversial fashion designer” Pam Hogg. Also as part of her presentation, Van Rhijn designed Box Set, a fast food restaurant-cum-cinema where friends come together to watch Netflix and chill out. Keeping the mood mellow, her third design locates mindfulness drop-in centres in public toilets.

People and performance

For silversmith Naomi Scott, a background in textiles has informed her attempts “to bring a parallel and tactile element to the silver.” She’s set herself the ambition of incorporating “drapery fold and liquid movements” into “free-flowing objects and tableware” made from metal. These kinds of forms are intended to give “elegance and a softness” to the material, achieved via “working and adapting tools in order to refine new techniques and making processes of morphing the metal” and allowing “forms to move freely” during the making process.

Making sure to maintain a sense of intrigue, Communication Design student Tomas Palmer describes his current interests as “searching, satellite navigation systems, invisibility and matadors.” His presentation will see “all the above colliding – forming a performance – leaving people with the sense they have witnessed some sort of unique individual quest into the unknown.”

More concretely, he describes his interest in “designing and controlling atmospheres and moods which are collectively experienced by a gathering of people.” Previously, Palmer arranged an immersive experience with “gentle clubbing” in collaboration with colleague Caitlin O’Connell, where intense organ music accompanied the raising of a thick curtain around a carpeted space. It was deliberately transcendental and affecting. Speaking more about this kind of work, he goes on: “I have a keen interest in designing and controlling atmospheres and moods which are collectively experienced by a gathering of people; my work often takes the shape of an immersive installation, performance or club night.” Most recent reports see Palmer negotiating the installation of a giant curtain pole in the Reid Building.


GSA 2016: Product Design - Will Brown
Product Design – Will Brown

Want to know more about this year’s GSA degree shows? Read our guide: