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In conversation with: Connor Edwards, BA Graphic Design alumni

Connor Edwards is a graphic designer based in Norwich and graduated from our BA (Hons) Graphic Design course in 2012. Since graduating, Connor has worked in various design roles, from marketing agency and traditional publishing to designing bespoke wine, beer and spirit packaging. In this interview, we discuss Connor’s graphic design career and where he gets his creative inspiration.

Connor Edwards

Why did you choose to study Graphic Design at NUA?

I grew up in Norfolk, so I already knew of NUA’s great reputation and had friends studying there.

Initially I chose study Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam University. At the end of the first year, I realised the course wasn’t for me, so I decided to return home to Norwich. It was a difficult decision, but Norwich had its hooks in me!

After visiting an Open Day at NUA, I was thoroughly impressed by the level of quality of the students’ work and loved the focus on getting to the ’emotional heart’ of problem-solving – this sold the course to me.

Tell us about your graphic design career since leaving NUA.

I have been fortunate enough to work on projects for many global and regional clients. Shortly after graduating I joined a small marketing agency. I worked on infographics, ebooks, display ads. I even worked on the design and illustration for web-based games, one of which involved chopping vegetables (it was the early days of internet SEO!).

After a couple of years I moved into publishing, working on newspapers, glossy magazines, client ads, branding – it was varied. 

Now, I’m a Digital Designer at Virgin Wines. I have worked here for almost three years, and I am developing my best work to date. It’s great to see how I have progressed as a designer during my time here so far. I’m looking forward to developing my skills into new areas.

Connor Edwards

What does a typical week look like in your current job?

My role involves a variety of design disciplines, such as printed brochures, digital assets for web and email CRM campaigns as well as creating label concepts for our growing range of wines, beers and spirits.

There’s lots of diversity in the role. I even got to work on a 9ft roller banner featuring cricket legend Philp Tufnell and his range of wines! 

What’s been your favourite project of your career so far?

My favourite project so far has to be my Carina Rum label range. The brief contained just one word – Carina – so it was open to interpretation.

I loved the imagery involved in the constellation ‘Carina’. During my initial research, I came across a cool instrument called an astrolabe, which is used to measure the distances between stars. My idea grew from there.

I loved the whole process of choosing paper stock and product finishes that complemented the design, such as gold foiling. Seeing the end product felt amazing. There’s really no better feeling than seeing a large project through from its initial conception, to seeing it completed and fully realised in your hands.

“At NUA I was taught that everything begins with ‘the idea’ – a strong concept at the heart of each design. This advice has stayed with me, and I have refined it over the years.”

Who/what inspires you creatively?

Album artwork has always been a big inspiration for me. I loved looking through the vinyl covers in the family hi-fi unit as a kid; bands like Pink Floyd, Rush and Led Zeppelin were standouts for me.

Stanley Donwood’s Radiohead artwork was a massive inspiration for me growing up. I remember pouring through the CD booklets for OK Computer and Kid A as a teenager and just being amazed at his talent. I tried to emulate his work at college.

More recently, I admire what fellow alumni Samuel Burgess Johnson has done with The 1975‘s brand, his use of space and type is spot on. All their brand material are works of art.

I would love to work on something like this one day – all requests are welcome!

Connor Edwards

How has your creative practise evolved since graduating?

At NUA I was taught that everything begins with ‘the idea’ – a strong concept at the heart of each design. This advice has stayed with me, and I have refined it over the years.

For example, the Cold Side beer range is so-called after the cold temperature processes that the beer mash experiences. I knew I had to get a ºC degree symbol into the label design. It’s such a small detail, but things like that help build a brand and bring the whole concept to life.

Connor Edwards

Why should people study graphics? Or, why does the world need graphic designers?

The world needs graphic designers because design is a necessary communication form to share information and ideas quickly. It helps us understand the world around us, providing practical solutions to complex problems. 

“Good” design strives to make our lives easier and can create fun, beautiful, clever and inspirational pieces of work. Knowing that I get paid to design is a great feeling and one I’ll never get tired of! 

What advice would you give to a current graphics student?

Don’t be afraid to go big and make use of as many of the resources at your disposal. Collect things that inspire you and try to understand why they do, what makes them work? What about them do you find so interesting?

Push yourself and challenge conventions, but most of all, have fun with it. Design should be a playful thing, and if you’re enjoying what you do, others will too.

You can explore more of Connor’s creative work on his website.

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