Published 24.03.2024  •  2 min read

Rethinking Graduate Showcases

Éadaoinn Headshot Éadaoin

It’s that time of year again — students in design programmes across the country are preparing to showcase the culmination of their undergraduate degree. Graduate exhibitions, or ‘grad shows’, are a wonderful celebration of the design work produced by the graduating class, their dynamic as a group of people and their shared transition into the design industry (and the wider, sometimes scary, working world).

Back in 2020, we wrote a brief that asked students at the TUS Limerick School of Art and Design to ‘rethink the degree show’. The brief asked them to think about why a graduate show is important, what the challenges and opportunities are, who they benefit and why, and where innovation could take them. Then, they could use these key findings to imagine how a graphic design communication graduate show could deliver more benefit and value to students, visitors and the wider design community.

Following the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, many graduate showcases took place online, being forced out of the traditional exhibition space. For many, their work was being showcased in a digital space for the first time. The pandemic demonstrated the need for broader, innovative strategic thinking when it comes to graduate showcases. We asked students to consider the full spectrum of what a grad show could be under the headings of experience, content, audience, engagement and resources.

This year, we collaborated again with the graduating students of Graphic Design Communication at the TUS Limerick School of Art and Design to tackle this brief. The talented group gave us plenty of food for thought around the future of graduate exhibitions. Their concepts — unique, considered, mature and meaningful, were underpinned by some key insights and values:

Many concepts focused on communicating the importance of design to the wider public, explored the designer’s role in society or ‘the real world’, and the depth of knowledge and skill demonstrated by designers that is often overlooked.The group valued each other and placed great importance on showcasing their work as individuals, but also as a group of people that have undertaken four years of study as friends, colleagues and team-mates. They were proud of their positive dynamic, and wanted to convey that they make great work, but more importantly they are great people to work with.

Many concepts conveyed the power and importance of research, design thinking and process, and elevate these alongside finished graphic design outputs. There was great emphasis on not just the work the students had done, but how and why they did it.

The group looked beyond the exhibition space and demonstrated how the grad show could have a strong presence online, in the real world and engage a wider range of people, with interesting ways of getting their work seen, heard, and understood. The group explored how their audiences could participate in the grad show through interactive displays, feedback and playful brand assets in physical and digital spaces.

 

This year, their graduate exhibition design approach will include audience participation, provoking statements on the importance of design and a playful spin on the visual language of the tools and processes designers use on a daily basis. Congratulations to the class of 2023, we wish them every success in their careers.

We think there’s a lot of value for design courses to take the time and opportunity to rethink their degree shows to help create more meaningful interactions with their fellow students, families and industry.

How do you think graduate exhibitions could evolve? Download our brief here, add to it and run the project!