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The summer months are fantastic for discovering new design talent, as a fresh crop of graduates are unleashed at exhibitions across the UK. This year our London office took part in judging at D&AD New Blood Festival and explored New Designers.

Webb deVlam really got stuck into this year’s New Blood, with Senior Designer Ben Dolman invited to don his judging cap and join industry greats in selecting the best stand-out work and the most exciting new designers to watch. We caught up with Ben following the festival to hear about his experience as a judge.

So Ben, can you tell us a bit more about the judges and the category you were judging? 

My fellow judges came from a mixture of creative backgrounds, including creative directors, journalists and independent designers and illustrators, who were broken down into groups to judge different categories.

My judging group were tasked with selecting three students who we thought were the “ones to watch” for the future. This year the judging took place during the open exhibition so we had the chance to really engage with the students themselves during the process.

How did the judging process work? 

After quick introductions, (and much needed coffee), our groups dispersed amongst the exhibition with just a few hours to identify three students each. We based our choices on the work displayed, with each student passionately explaining their pieces in more detail. We then compared notes and once finalised we submitted our choices to the organisers and waited for the announcements.

What challenges did judging bring and how did you overcome them? 

The hardest challenge was only being able to pick three students out of a mass of incredible work! However judging in a group means you have the benefit of other perspectives, which helps to open your eyes and inform a final decision. I suppose hiding my jealousy of the student’s work quality was pretty challenging too!

Were there any noticeable themes or trends across the festival that students picked up on? 

Generic trends were evident across the exhibition, for which you can thank the multiple design blogs and the dominance of Instagram which have surely been the central influence for most of these students. There was a plethora of work that looked like it could be any hipster artisan coffee shop and plenty of posters that consisted of sparse bold san-serif typography laid over pastel tone images. This work looked lovely, and was well executed, but we were looking for the students that pushed the boundaries. Work that made us think or have an emotional connection, and thankfully there was plenty of that on offer at this year’s festival.

Finally, is there any advice you’d like to pass on to this year’s design graduates? 

The truth is we are all new designers, no matter how far into our careers we are. We are always learning and adapting, which is what makes this industry special; the desire to improve and solve creative challenges. I could give a long list of advice but instead I thought I’d share this sketch (above left) that I saw on twitter from a designer called Brendan Dawes. This sums up for me perfectly what I do everyday and have done in over 10 years as a design professional. For me, every day is about doing things to reduce the gap.

To find out more about Ben, take a look at his D&AD profile here. Next up we visited New Designers…


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