A Design Revolution: Nine Minutes with Chris Hall, Event Director, New Designers

New Designers gathers more than 3,000 of the brightest and most radical new creative minds under one roof to launch the next generation of thinkers, makers and disruptors onto the UK design scene.

The exhibition is a two-week celebration of visionary design that sees students of 200+ creative courses unveiling never-before-seen work to thousands of industry professionals and design lovers.

We spent Nine Minutes with Chris Hall, Event Director, to get the lowdown on this exciting event.

How did you first get involved with New Designers and what does your role involve?

With a background in advertising and marketing, I have worked in and around events for over twelve years, with the past three as Event Director of New Designers. Being at the helm of the show and surrounded by a motivated and engaged team has inspired me to the important position New Designers plays within its community. I’m really pleased that we as a team are able to nurture design education in the UK and provide a vital connection for designers to meet their future.

What does New Designers offer both its exhibitors and its audience that other fairs don’t?

New Designers is a celebration of creation and connectivity. The event is a vital platform for the design of tomorrow – ensuring the industry is constantly revitalised with fresh ideas and creative energy.  Whilst the design industry and the design-savvy public can go to an ever-growing number of events, festivals and exhibitions, New Designers is entirely unique –presenting 3,000 brand new designers, never seen before. You never know what you’re going to find, who’s going to be there – it’s your chance to see it first and catch a glimpse into our creative future.

For our exhibitors, we host preparation days, webinars and give guidance and advice to ensure the emerging designers are ready to present their work to the industry, press and public. As the designers have never done anything on this scale before, we take the time to give them the best chance possible to be ready for the show.

Have the disciplines shown changed at all in recent years?

Design education and more broadly, society’s needs are continuously changing and adapting, and every year New Designer’s responds to and anticipates this shifting landscape. Recent times have shown a huge growth in the second week of the exhibition through the emerging digital courses such as graphic design, illustration and animation – which is reflected in the market needs of an ever-evolving industry. However, we are passionate about continuing to champion the more traditional makers for example specialising in ceramics, textiles and woodwork. Design education has amalgamated and discontinued many of these courses, but at ND we’re proud to strongly support this shrinking sector to nurture its longevity and recognise its importance to creativity, individuality, and society.
Are there any ND success stories you’re particularly proud of?

Past designers have gone on to great things, with Vicky Cowin winning an Elle Decoration Award, Katie Gillies receiving commission from Larson & Jennings and Dezeen Watch Shop, Jackie Lennie working for Warner Brothers and Charles Deadman receiving a design guild mark (to name a small few).

How are the exhibiting graduates selected?

Each University is different, and many tutors and course leaders select the graduates they feel most closely represent their University and style of teaching – ensuring the very best examples arebrought to the show. Some students also fundraise to exhibit, to give themselves the best chance to meet key industry contacts and show their work. Above all, graduates are selected to bring the best new ideas, and new thinking to the show – representing unique craftsmanship and innovative design.

Do you think now is a good time for graduates to start careers in the design industry?

Design is so integral to all aspects of life – every product, every technology and every trend happening has been the inspiration, thought and design of someone. With the show moving into its 33rd year, the show still leads the way for graduates to kick-start their careers and is the place to network and meet like-minded individuals. Now, more than ever gives industry and graduates the chance to connect, and despite turbulent economic times, the foundations of design are always the start of the future.
What sort of challenges do they face today?

Current graduates face an unprecedented situation – with the rise in tuition fees, the unsettling cloud of Brexit and a reluctant market still offering unpaid jobs to graduates looking for experience. However, it’s amazing how graduates not only withstand the tough times, but actually use the challenges they face as an opportunity to dig deep for ingenuity and resourcefulness as well as voice their concerns to campaign against unpaid internships, positively impacting the work landscape in the UK into the future . The newly branded One Year In (formerly One Year On), welcomes new creative businesses and with this year receiving a record number of applications, despite the challenging economic backdrop.

How big a part do the awards play in New Designers’ mission?
Winning an industry recognised New Designers Award really does change peoples lives. The show is proud to have many industry supported Awards, with over 50 up for grabs every year. The Awards offers critical recognition, provide opportunities and create connections which can ultimately shape futures and open the doors into the new designers careers. The brands and industry supporters including Hallmark, Sainsbury’s Home, John Lewis, Kingfisher and The Goldsmiths’ Company (to name but a few) all recognise  ND as a vital platform to champion and support emerging designers. The graduates offer the brands an essential source of fresh thinking for their business, to inspire, challenge and ensure their ongoing relevance – they encompass what the show is all about.
Are there any design trends you are especially hoping or expecting to see in evidence at the 2018 show?
Each year we are always amazed at the dedication and sheer imagination of the graduates. Trends we can see involve the use of materials, and in particular  sustainable materials that look to support environmental concerns. Designers also look at society and the way technology can help resolve issues in healthcare and social care. We never know what we’re going to get, which makes the show unmissable – you can spot trends, and see the way these designers will shape the future.
What do you personally find most inspiring about the fair?

For me, I emphasise to the graduates that although they may not meet their ideal industry figure at the show, or be picked up by their dream brand – the overall experience is invaluable; presenting and promoting themselves and their work in that level of environment, meeting other designers with the potential for collaboration, and networking with brands, agencies and future supporters. The graduates’ proactiveness and professionalism always astounds me – assuring me that the future of design is in good hands. More recently, the graduates are increasingly exploring ways of working together joining  disciplines and ideas.

 What advice would you give a would-be exhibitor on how to make the most of their time at the show?

Be organised, be confident and be proactive.  New Designers opens a world of opportunity, and we have a loyal following of visitors that come through the doors every year looking to discover the latest emerging designers so remember, this year, they’re coming to see you.

IMAGE: Sophie Melissa, the Philosophy Clock is by Studio Atypical. Photography by Yeshen Venema.