Pen, paper and creative brains at the ready! TICE Graphics mentor, Mark Pattinson, had the pleasure of visiting two schools in the North-East region for this year’s Insight StageHebburn Comprehensive School and John Spence Community High School. The morning kicked-off with Mark easing them in, explaining what the TICE experience will entail and the array of topics which will be covered…the students were already filled with anticipation for the day ahead.

As the class settled and grew more comfortable, Mark introduced himself properly and talked about his vast knowledge and expertise in the industry – now working as Senior Graphic Designer at Tommee Tippee and working closely with international companies. I know, the dream job! He moved this onto the question, what does a graphic designer do? Referring to Mark’s journey in becoming a graphic designer, discussions began to flourish, and a foundation of understanding was built. Mark enthusiastically presented his portfolio of work including logo design, packaging, magazine designs and some of the world’s largest global brands he had worked on. Throughout his delivery, students were encouraged to ask questions, discussing his creative thought process from start to finish. Students eventually began to question with intrigue and fascination – many astounded by the big wide world of graphic design.

Then it was time for their pen and papers to come to use! Mark set them on a creative warm-up task. With 15 minutes to complete, students were given a sheet of A3 with 6 everyday objects printed. Students had to ‘make something simple, great’ by drawing onto these objects and creating a final piece of artwork, with a few examples of existing artwork to inspire them. To make things interesting, Mark joined in on the task and he would then reveal his designs at the end. Once complete, students were asked to do a walkabout and see how other people had challenged the task – to be able to peer-mentor and support one another is a key aspect of idea generation in graphic design which Mark wanted them to be aware of. Mark then presented his own designs and encouraged students to give feedback on his ideas. On a general note, students were equally complimentary and critical. Although hesitant at first, they realised that finding that balance in opinion and being openly honest in fact benefits the designer for their future endeavours.

Once the students were warmed-up…it was time for the main task! Students were presented with a project brief which a professional graphic designer would most likely receive. To follow the Christmas theme, they were challenged to create a poster design for ‘Cadburys Snow Bites’. Students were encouraged to really take their time with this process. This meant in-depth research and brainstorming which could then influence the initial concept designs. The doodles were presented to Mark and teachers for feedback. Once a design concept was discussed and approved, students had to re-create that concept giving more consideration to colour, layout, messaging and font styling. Mark and teachers were supporting them throughout the task, overlooking and asking students to explain their thought process and challenging students on creative decisions.

To finish off the main task, students displayed their final designs and students were once again encouraged to walk about and see how other peers approached the task. The rooms were filled with chat and enthusiasm regarding the designs, many of the students finishing the day feeling accomplished and motivated.

For the final half-an-hour, Mark briefly introduced and presented the industry standard software, ‘Photoshop’. This was essentially a taster session – the skill sets needed and what would be in store if the students were to progress to the next stage. Mark designed a front cover for a fashion magazine which showcased skills that had been discussed. Students engaged immediately and were encouraged to ask questions and give suggestions on how to make the design look better. It seemed that both John Spence and Hebburn School were eager and more than ready to take their design skills further – we’ll see you on the Explore Stage!