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How it started vs. How it’s going: Ben Sanderson, BA Graphic Communication

Have you ever looked at an artist’s work and thought that they must have always been that good and sure of what they’re doing? It’s easy to look at a piece of creative and not understand the development that leads up to the finished product. How it started vs. How it’s going aims to highlight what goes on in the background of each creative project, as well as comparing the artist’s personal growth over time. In this episode we speak to BA (Hons) Graphic Communication student Ben Sanderson, and compare his practice from Year One to Year Three. Ben tells us all about how cereal boxes got him into graphics, and using design for the “greater good”. 

How it started: Ben’s work in Year One

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What got you into graphic design?

‘There are people who design the fronts of cereal boxes for a living,’ my Year 6 teacher once said to us. We had a rather weird lesson that day, designing food packaging with 3D nets. There was something about it that struck a chord with me.

Eleven years down the line, here I am. Funnily enough, I really hate making packaging.

How would you describe your style of design, then and now?

From the first unit of GCSE Art, to the last unit of my degree, I have always been a fan of simple and clean graphics. It makes sense: as designers, clarity and clear communication should always be on our minds.

Although this thinking hasn’t changed, I have learnt that classic minimalism isn’t the epitome of all things design! Every brief and subject matter already has its own visual language that should be experimented with.

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Where do you get your inspiration?

Although it can be tempting to get on Pinterest or have a nosey at what the big studios are doing, it really helps to research your subject matter.

When we approach a brief, facts are such a crucial piece of information. One insight about your audience, one staggering statistic, or one weird academic study can hold the entire idea.

Once you have that edge, build your entire project upon it with pride.

To quote the best design advice I’ve ever been given: if it’s true, nobody can argue with it.

What do you love the most about graphic design?

How we can use it for the “greater good”. It’s so important that we try and step out of the commercialised aspect of our practice where possible.

If you have a genuinely authentic opportunity to break a taboo, amplify a voice or raise awareness, then do it.

Brands and advertisements have too much power as it is, but we can use their visual platforms to educate people on what matters most.

How it’s going: Ben’s work now

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How has studying Graphic Communication at NUA helped develop your practice?

As challenging as it was to start with, we are often encouraged to use motion design where possible. My work mostly exists in online spaces now, with a digital-first approach, to keep up with the demands of technology.

Nothing exists in a single dimension either – your ideas should be able to live on a range of formats, from logos to lanyards. We’re taught that a truly good piece of graphic design is stretchy; it can exist anywhere.

Visual practice aside, being surrounded by a creative community has helped me so much. I think it is easily overlooked, but the courses at NUA really thrive in their intimacy. We talk to each other, jump between projects together, and try out new styles through group tasks.

What have you found out about yourself as a designer since studying here?

How much I enjoy words and how little I valued them before. Copywriting was something that never even occurred to me before coming to NUA, but it is in everything we do – from brand names to campaign slogans.

It’s common to let the design do all the talking, but I’ve learnt to naturally let the words do the talking too. Plus, language can be a pretty powerful starting point if you’re stuck!

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What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about your practice while at NUA?

For anyone who has heard anything about our Graphics courses here, you’ll be pretty familiar with one particular word: ideas.

Everything we create has to have one. Even if your designs are the most beautiful thing to look at, there’s no life in them if they don’t have an idea or message behind it.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing a creative subject?

Accept that no piece of work you create is ever going to be finished! You will always look back and think of new ways of doing it. Instead, take what you have learnt and apply it to the next project.

Discover BA (Hons) Graphic Communication