Insights and interpretation: CSM Degree Show 2

Hearts Melted at CSM's Degree Show 2 - Image: Ningyi Jiang

Hearts Melted at CSM’s Degree Show 2 – Image: Ningyi Jiang

The dust has settled and the 2013 Central Saint Martins Degree Shows are over. With work ranging from fashion to architecture in Show 2 the sheer amount of projects presented was enough to make any visitor experience sensory overload. To fully appreciate each space the show was best explored in stages, but when taken in as a whole overarching themes began to emerge. These themes could change depending on ones interests, but for me the focus on memory and a sense of nostalgia was strong. As technology becomes more and more pervasive in our lives, this preoccupation with understanding and preserving memory and the craft of yesteryear can be seen as the design graduates response to this growing phenomenon. While the rate at which technology evolves becomes more rapid, molding and shaping the way we interact with each other and the products and services we use, design will play a crucial role in allowing us to adapt.

Seeing is believing? by Percy Lau - BA Jewellery Design - Image: Lu "Leo" Qin, worn by Laura Lutz

Seeing is believing? by Percy Lau – BA Jewellery Design – Image: Lu “Leo” Qin, worn by Laura Lutz

With extremes ranging from the interpretation of future technological possibilities to contemporary approaches to established craft practices, each student has shown a unique response to the role technology does or does not play in their work. The clearest response to not only technological and societal shifts but also economical and political ones came from the MA Industrial Design show titled ‘Soft Power Tools’. As explained by the graduates, their attention was drawn to design’s soft ware: “the vast immaterial field of meaning surrounding things”. Through their research they developed what they deem ‘soft skills’, a crucial set of design tools for responding to increasingly complex situations and problems.


We believe that envisaging designed things as soft power tools implies questioning the political and ethical duty of our discipline.

– MAID class of 2013


In terms of technology and craft, the response to these ‘implied questions’ were addressed in projects focused on the increasing role technology plays in our everyday life and interpersonal relationships, the future of 3D printing and the preservation of craftsmen’s skills and tacit knowledge. Cecilia (Si) Chen’s project ‘Weighing the Smartphone Paradox’ playfully explored the role our phones have in our lives. The object she designed was a balance holding both a smartphone and a plate on either side forcing each diner to depend on the other if they want to use their phone. If one is unable to resist using their device the piece causes a physical illustration of our obsession and dependence on our phones.

Cecilia (Si) Chen

Weighing up the Smartphone Paradox by Cecilia (Si) Chen – MA Industrial Design – Image: Designers Own

The increased interest and use of 3D printers could be seen on several courses in degree show 2 – most notably for me was Beth Lewis-Williams project for MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery, who used 3D printing technology to create her Lights, Lithopanes and Landscapes lamps.

Beth Lewis-Williams

Lights, Lithopanes & Landscapes by Beth Lewis-Williams – MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery – Image: Designers Own

MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery - Photo: Litian Lin

MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery – Image: Litian Lin

MAID was no exception to the 3D printing phenomenon, with Pierre Papet looking to marry the role of making with the increased adoption 3D printing technologies will have on the design practice. An open source design, his Gather3d is both a manual system and mechanical machine that focuses on the process of making and craft as opposed to the final result. Also responding to the endangered future of craft, Ian Thomas created The Crafted Network, to bring both physically and professionally unconnected craftsmen together in the hopes of organising collaborative projects with mixed skill sets that would produce products more successfully relatable to urban consumers. Orchestrating a project between a blacksmith, a willow weaver and a carpenter Ian has shown that craft is able to adapt to new socio-cultural shifts, producing a set of temporary furniture, headphones and a carabiner in response to the current “working from home” trend.

Gather3d by Pierre Paper - MA Industrial Design - Image: Designers Own

Gather3d by Pierre Paper – MA Industrial Design – Image: Designers Own

Gather3d by Pierre Papet - MA Industrial Design - Image: Designers Own

Gather3d by Pierre Papet – MA Industrial Design – Image: Designers Own

With a focus on visitor experience in cultural exhibitions, it should be no surprise that the MA Narrative Environments space titled  ‘A Forest of Stories’ was a memorable one. Beautifully incorporating nature and modern aesthetics, the students took advantage of their large, prominent position in the college by creating a ‘forest’ of trees that visitors walked through to take in the projects that were divided into three types of environments: commercial, community and cultural. A community environment project, Shu Ting Yang’s ‘Memory Garden’ played with themes of both memory and nostalgia, which aimed at blurring the boundaries between the phases of adult and childhood through play. Targeting parents in Bethnal Green, the project’s ‘Exploration Kit’ allows them to recall what it felt like to play as a child allowing a deeper connection with their children.

MA Narrative Environments - Image: Lu "Leo" Qin

MA Narrative Environments – Image: Lu “Leo” Qin

A BA Graphic Design project mentioned previously on the Digital Present blog was Soo Kyung Lim’s response to her experience in the CSM Letterpress Workshop, which led her to design a typeface with the finality of printing with letterpress. Her ‘Locho Sans’ type face and accompanying letterpress blocks were a fresh perspective on the digital/material relationship in graphic design. In contrast to Soo, Tom Williams posted the following note in his space located just behind hers:

Tom Williams - BA Graphic Design - Image: Ana Laya

Tom Williams – BA Graphic Design – Image: Ana Laya

Interested in interaction, Tom has rejected print as a medium and hopes to explore the role games will play in creating meaningful conversations in the future. With a computer in his sparsely adorned plinth open to the page, Tom has designed a website and game with fellow student Tom Bates which intends to stoke a friendly creative competition and look into different applications of interaction and digital design through play.

Locho Sans by Soo Kyung Kim - BA Graphic Design - Image: Lu "Leo" Qin

Locho Sans by Soo Kyung Kim – BA Graphic Design – Image: Lu “Leo” Qin

In addition to presenting the projects they developed over the course of the year, graduates of MA Innovation Management and MA Future Textiles also organised a conference and a series of ‘lunch time’ talks respectively to further explore their key themes. The MA:IM IGNITE Conference invited speakers who are engaging in innovation with a luxury, digital, social and collaborative focus to share their experiences. The insights garnered from their talks were then used to ‘ignite’ conversations and debates with graduates about their topics in the second half of the evening. The MA Future Textiles talks were held over the course of three days, with guests invited to speak on the diverse topics covered in the graduates show. Both formats allowed visitors to engage in the work in a deeper way, with participants taking away a small sense of what it was like for the students to develop their projects this year.

IGNITE Conference by MA Innovation Management - Image: Joon-Mo Lee

IGNITE Conference hosted by MA Innovation Management – Image: Joon-Mo Lee

IGNITE Conference hosted by MA Innovation Management - Image: Joon-Mo Lee

IGNITE Conference hosted by MA Innovation Management – Image: Joon-Mo Lee

Perhaps the themes of memory and nostalgia were prominent to me not because of a perceived response to digital technology but because of the symbolism the show holds as a culmination of each students experience at this institution. Regardless of these reflections, the 2013 Degree Show undeniably stood as a testament to the effort, ambition, and evolution of each individual graduate. The energy at the show was palpable, and above all I took away a sense that important things will be done by these graduates.


Congratulations to the class of 2013 and to the tutors, mentors and supporters that helped steer them on their way.


2013 Degree Show 2:

Courses Mentioned

BA Graphic Design (Degree Show Website):

BA Jewellery Design:

MA Industrial Design:

MA Narrative Environments:

MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery (Degree Show Website):

MA Innovation Management:

MA Textile Futures: