Over the past year, these graduates received feedback through airpods and cracked screens, stitched their prototypes on rented machines, and fitted the results on themselves in kitchen lighting. Where an art school education is usually nourished by beer-soaked social interaction and spontaneous discoveries, supported by technical guidance and facilities, they became entirely self-reliant, diving deep into their own worlds and down the DIY hole of YouTube tutorials. Where four years of education are traditionally concluded with competitive selection shows – the pressure to be included in the social validation mounting with every semester – they constructed entirely alternative modes of self-evaluation, finding worth and purpose outside of the institution.
The graduate show reflected that, and so did the research.
Unsupervised and without a clear endgame to work towards, these students started playing. They returned to their parental homes and explored their upbringings in a haze of psychedelic nostalgia and childlike fun. Creating became a form of therapy, even of spirituality for some, as they focused on enjoyment and pleasure, on relaxation and fun, in what seems like the first generation to grasp that stress, pressure, and emotional breakdowns don’t necessarily lead to better work.
There was talk of sustainability but through an intuitive, craft-based approach that took wholesome creation as its starting point, rather than large-scale, systematic change. Materials were repurposed, recycled, vegan, deadstock, and organically dyed. As the students had nothing but their own rooms to source from, the contents of their closets and bins and fridges to scour through, they reflected on their personal relationship to the objects around them, wanting to treasure these precious, intimate materials. When you’re not aiming to fit into a polluting and exploitative system, it’s suddenly much easier to create responsibly.
There were a handful of students who found inspiration in the political, shaping a narrative around feminicide, abortion rights, or the BLM movement through their collection, but overall the design journeys turned inwards rather than out, exploring the individual rather than the collective. In all cases, research topics were personal and intimate.
This generation had the opportunity to step outside of the institution while learning and growing under the guidance of dedicated tutors. Yes, they were disconnected from peers and industry experts, but also shielded from judgmental eyes and competitive atmospheres. Suddenly, they could recalibrate their values and priorities. They felt more authentic, more true to themselves. They could question reality and dream. Of travel, of nature, of owning a dog and being able to walk it in the park every day.
In an industry that has been struggling to keep up with its own rhythm, this is a welcome energy – in case these graduates decide to join us in the first place.
But how can we assure that these newfound values are preserved? As the graduates leave their isolation pods and slowly enter the sector (expanding on the freelance projects and Instagram commissions they started during lockdown), will they re-adapt to the current system, or will they change it? Will they remain focused on themselves and use their self-explorations as a means to self-promote, or will they invest outwards and give back to the communities around them?
The answer lies in the nature of their upcoming social connections. Rather than pleading at the doorstep of the gatekeepers, we hope these creatives will come together and build a new network.
Below, you will find a wide array of interests, specialties, and reflections, rather than a reduced selection of the most commodifiable talent. Go hit those dms!
**The article is updated as more students answer our questions!