The graphic design course blog for
HND Visual Communication at Edinburgh College

Talking Design Education

21 February 2017

A recent interview with Judson Cowan, Lead Designer at Skyscanner, who discusses design education and the company's internship and placement programmes, which our current and past students have benefited from.

Visiting Edenspiekermann

7 February 2017

As part of our Berlin trip this year, we were really excited and very fortunate to visit Edenspiekermann.  For many designers, Edenspiekermann is best known for its work with Monotype's FontShop. The agency motto is 'Design is in our DNA'.

Based in Potsdamer Strasse in central Berlin, the agency specialises in digital products, branding and service design, and is the result of a merger in 2009 between Spiekermann Partners (founded by the typographer Erik Spiekermann), and Dutch design agency Eden.

Martin Stadler

Director of Brand Consulting Martin Stadler kicked off the afternoon with a great talk to our 32 students. His presentation focussed on a recent project - HIAG Data - which featured a new brand identity, bespoke typeface design, and an innovative web design for a Swiss-based data hosting company.

Martin Stadler talking about the brand experience.

Martin explained Edenspiekermann's approach to branding as having four key elements - storytelling, brand experience, design & identity, and development.  He discussed how the agency worked with HIAG during the research phase, and the way that this led to the development of a 'visual language' for the brand which the client could be directly involved in.

As well as going into great detail about the art direction and storytelling concept behind the project, Martin showed the students how the design ideas developed and were improved or rejected, including many iterations of the typeface and the screen designs which didn't make it into the final product.

"We see failure as something that's necessary because it drives you to the right solution." -  Martin Stadler

Bastian Boss

Martin's colleague Bastian Boss was up next, to talk about his area of expertise, Service Design.  He gave some great examples of how research is key to this emerging area of design. and how Edenspiekermann use the technique of 'cultural probes' to collect the key insights into how users experience a given service or product. A big part of process was analysing the design impact that the work had upon the end users.

"Things are changing fast in Service Design, so for sure, we are continually adapting our tools and methods." -  Bastian Boss

Bastian presented a case study for NS Pro Rail (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch national railway) which tackled the signage and experience issues we all associate with waiting for, and boarding, trains.  You can read more about Bastian's approach to Service Design in a great article he wrote about it here.

Bastian explaining his approach to Service Design.


There was also an added bonus with the introduction of Julian Thiel, a design student, who talked about his experiences on a three-month internship at the agency. Julian explained that although a high level of work was demanded of him, the ability to fit into a team and to be able to tackle a wide range of different design challenges, were really important. In return for this level of commitment, Edenspiekermann generously pays its interns at double the standard rate in Berlin.

"One of the main things I've learned here is to argue for your design decisions." - Julian Thiel

After the talks our hosts held a great Q&A and covered everything from applying for an internship, customising your portfolio,  to the continuous skills development necessary these days in design, to the benefits of working in collaborative multi-disciplined (and often multi-cultural) teams.  This was a fantastic experience for the students and a great example of how industry can support and help develop design education.

The Edenspiekermann Berlin Kitchen Experience!

Martin offers up some words of wisdom after the talk.

Design Tutors Alex Gunn (l) and Chris Hughes (r) with Martin Stadler.

HIAG Data case study
NS Pro Rail case study

#berlin 17 Transmediale

5 February 2017

Transmediale is Europe’s premiere festival of digital arts, culture and technology. Each year the programme features cutting-edge films, installations, performances, workshops, and other events at the impressive Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in central Berlin.

This year Transmediale celebrates its 30th anniversary, and we attended the opening night on Thursday where more than 1000 students, artists, technologists, educators and designers gathered from all over the globe to celebrate digital culture and creative collaboration.

All the workshops, exhibits and activities centred on theme of 'ever elusive' - the geopolitical turbulence in the modern world, the redundancy of data, and and our reactions to it through audio-visual media.

Highlights of the opening night included a performance by Black Quantum Futurist Collective, a DJ set by James Ferrano, a stand showing a selection of Transmediale's published work since 1987 - magazines, programmes, manifestos and catalogues - and some stunning and original installations as part of the 'alien matter' exhibition.

Transmediale 30 years of printed matter.

Joep Van Liefland 'Video Palace #44' - This exhibit deals with plastic waste and the redundancy of complex data, and consists of a huge sculpture - an enclosed  wall - made entirely of some 20,000 VHS videotapes.

Addie Wagenkecht - - a sculpture consisting of five circuit boards and hundreds of flashing green lights connected by a series of Ethernet cables. The circuit boards tap into data streams on nearby Wi-Fi spots and analyse them, resulting in a continuous blinking pattern of the lights - every blink indicating the process at work.  This looked particularly striking in the exhibition environment - pitch darkness.

Transmediale also runs in conjunction with the CTM Festival of experimental sound, with events held at world-famous clubs such as Berghain and Tresor.

Transmediale website
CTM Festival website

We Love Firestarters

29 January 2017

Teviot, one of our partner design agencies, has launched 'Firestarter' – a year long paid internship for a creative student from our Visual Communication HND course. The successful student will join the company after they've finished the course in July, and then spend a year under the watchful eye of the creative team at Teviot, working on all sorts of projects and gaining valuable industry experience.

The initiative was started by senior designer at Teviot, Kirsten Murray, a former graduate of the course, who has been involved in the mentoring programme since 2010. As well as the internship, some our HND students will also get the opportunity to develop the brand identity for the Firestarter programme ahead of its launch in the Spring.

Kirsten (centre)  and her colleagues Kat Summers (right) and Ed Vickers, came into the college just before Christmas and surprised the class with the announcement about Firestarter.

Kirsten says: “Mentoring is a powerful tool in career development – whether you’re a student or the creative director. So we’ve launched Firestarter to build on our close ties with Edinburgh College - the opportunity is being exclusively to their students - helping to assist the next generation of talented designers to stay in Scotland and boost the industry here.”

You can follow progress on the Firestarter initiative on Teviot's website. and read the official press release as published in the Glasgow Herald.

Talking Shop

22 January 2017

We had a very busy few days of guest speakers in the studio last week.  With the final year class finishing of their D&AD projects and getting their portfolios ready for their placements, its a very busy time but there is always room for employer engagement, and hearing it from the horses mouth on life outside college in the Creative Industries.

First up, on Wednesday, we had Gemma Rundell, who graduated from the HND course in 2009 and is now a designer at Teviot.  Gemma is a former YCN winner, and she talked to the final year students about placements. This is perfect timing because the students go out on work experience from the first week in February. This year we've managed to secure every student at least one placement at a broad range of studios and agencies across Edinburgh.  Gemma provided some awesome inspiration and plenty of words of wisdom.

On Thursday the HNC class got treated to a talk by Ian Greenhill and Jordan Laird - the very talented guys at Something Something.  Both used to work at the Leith Agency and have a reputation for being ideas machines - you can check out their work on their website at

At the end of the week, former student Craigh Robertson came in and delivered a talk to both HND Graphics and HND Interactive Design on his experiences since graduating in 2015.

Craigh worked at Stuff and then at Hookson, before setting up his own business, Hawk, towards the end of 2016. Amongst other things, Craigh discussed how he devised a business plan, sources of support and funding, the development of his brand identity, and pricing work for clients.

Our final year graphics students start placements on Jan 30th, and we'll post up a list of the agencies involved soon.

Highland Park Retrospective

15 January 2017

A short film featuring feedback interviews with some of our HNC and HND students reflecting on their experiences working on the Highland Park One Week project in Nov 2016.