10 glorious years and counting

Graphic Design course celebrates milestone as it looks to continued success

Date posted

6 September 2017


Last updated

19 March 2020

The year 2007 will always be known in popular culture circles as the year the iPhone was first unveiled to the world.

The design for the device revolutionised the mobile phone industry and propelled Apple and its founder Steve Jobs into the technological limelight.

Closer to home, Edinburgh Napier University was quietly preparing to give birth to its own design-related baby: a dedicated graphic design course.

The University itself has had a long association with the design world and modules in graphics had been taught across other courses including photography for a number of years.

However, it was not until 2007 that the University first offered its specialist graphic design course; and it has not looked back since.

Spearheaded by programme leader Myrna MacLeod, the course recently celebrated its sixth degree show in May, with its 130th graduate exiting through the doors of Merchiston campus to make their way into the design world.
Alongside its teaching and facilities, the course’s links with the industry have been at the heart of its success over the last 10 years.

Its connections with many of not just Edinburgh’s but the UK’s top design agencies has helped its graduates develop into employable designers that are ready to go once University draws to a close.

Edinburgh-based StudioLR sponsors a best in show prize at the University’s degree show, with the winner not only getting recognition on the night but the chance to go and work with the agency for a month. The company also employs three Edinburgh Napier graduates, including design director Dave King.

Lucy Richards, founder and creative director of StudioLR, said: “We’re delighted to have fostered close links with the graphic design course and students at Edinburgh Napier. We run an annual project with third year where they visit us for briefing and reviews, and we sponsor the graduate prize which leads to at least one student working with us for a few weeks in the studio. Our design team enjoys the students’ fresh and free thinking, while the students are exposed to the challenges of the commercial world of design. Both of these are really beneficial and long may this supportive relationship continue!”

Local agencies such as Whitespace, Contagious and Wolffe Design also offer mentoring and placements throughout the year.

The course also has strong links with heavyweight agency Design Bridge in London, which is reflected in the fact that the company has employed a total of six graduates from the course since 2012.

We enjoy the students’ fresh and free thinking, while they are exposed to the challenges of the commercial world of design - long may this supportive relationship continue!

Lucy Richards

Found and creative director of StudioLR

The benefits of this industry support is so strong that programme leader Myrna MacLeod believes that without it, the course simply could not exist.

She said: “Right from the off, we’ve always tried to position the graphic design course closely with industry. Our links with those working in the design world very much act as a liaison panel on how to teach in the 21st century. We have always been keen that that course, first and foremost, be about people coming to study to be a graphic designer. However, it is an incredibly commercial world that we live in and our graduates need to be able to hit the ground running when it comes to taking on their first job in the industry.

“The support we’ve had from agencies and individuals, both on a local and national level, has been nothing short of fantastic and we are looking forward to continuing to foster these in the months and years ahead. On top of our teaching, our students benefit so much from mentoring and guidance from those who are there, in the now, using their graphic design skills to earn a living. This sort of experience at such an early stage in their development is invaluable.”

Edinburgh Napier wins big at two prestigious design award shows

Students past and present recognised at Creative Conscience Awards and D&AD New Blood Awards in London.

Despite being commercially savvy, the course also follows the First Things First manifesto; published in 1964 by Ken Garland and a group of creatives, the manifesto aims to focus efforts of design on education and public service tasks that promote the betterment of society.

Projects that show impact and have the potential to make a difference to someone’s life have always been a key theme throughout the course, and perhaps, there is no stronger recognition for this approach than the amount of awards students from graphic design have won across the last 10 years.

Around 30 awards have been scooped at various design shows throughout the UK and overseas, with many praised for the impact that the work could have to better society in general.

The course has had three best in stand wins in three years at D&AD New Blood – the leading showcase of tomorrow’s young creative superstars – along with a number of coveted pencil prizes. It has also seen a plethora of Creative Conscience award wins over the years for a variety of projects including fair food initiatives and a spotlight on living with alopecia.

And recently, student Leanne Young won a national competition to design an illustration for Scotland’s first Baby Box – an initiative that will see every newborn gifted a box of essential items such as clothes, nappies and books, to help ensure they get the best start in life.

Myrna added: “First to third year really concentrates on learning skills, but throughout fourth year, we want students to apply this thinking. We always strive to place an emphasis on asking if what they are doing is ethical – it’s important to get a balance of working to earn a living and working to make a difference to the world - and good design can really do both.

“Our students never fail to amaze us with their creativeness and passion to use design to help change aspects of life for the greater good – here’s to another 10 years of that approach.”

Study design at Edinburgh Napier