Meet UCA Students Using Design to Solve Real-World Problems


From mental health to confinement to the climate crisis, UCA 2021 graduates hope to offer a new perspective on the world.

At a time when the future and funding of creative arts education is threatened, it is more important than ever to showcase the talents cultivated in UK arts institutions. And in a difficult year, graduate students at the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) sought to solve real-world problems, tackle wrongs, and change perspectives through their work.

After exploring both their personal and creative potential at UCA, students demonstrate an impressive range – seeking to help people and places in crisis or to address the emotional and physical challenges of individuals and society at large. This selection of works shows the innovation, energy and vision of graduates as they are ready to enrich the creative sector with a mindset for positive economic and social change.

You can see the full Alumni Showcase on the UCA website.

Thoughts on the pandemic

Betty Onion’s illustration work

University students have taken on the challenges of the past year. At times when the world seemed to be turning in on itself, they did the opposite – focusing on using their creative talents to make a difference. They explored the effects of the pandemic on themselves and the world around them, using that inspiration to create thoughtful, provocative and sometimes even fun work.

Illustration student Betty Onion captures the unique moment in the story through illustrations and words, focusing on continuity and change. Graphic design student Joshua Wijsveld has created, a platform for artists from across the country to come together and collaborate during the pandemic. In her video comprising over 300 images, fine arts student Rose Sambrook reflects on the lockdown and endless feeling it evoked.

Identity and reinventing stereotypes

Ebony Barrett’s Sweet Shop Six

The work of the 2021 graduates explores students’ own identities and challenges preconceptions and stereotypes that surround them. This exploration strengthens them not only as individuals but also as creatives. Here are some examples of the directions they took and their discoveries.

Animation student Izzy Argent explores body positivity, feminism and taboo subjects in a mix of mixed media and animation. Beyond the Binary Wave, by hand embroidery student Millie Whitehead is a collection that combines both traditionally male and female elements, influenced by gender, fluidity and movement. Sweet Shop Six focuses on uplifting the black female community and recognizing the modern black storytelling created by fashion promotion and imagery student Ebony Barrett. Somali-born Nadiya Sharif (fashion designer) reflected on her own journey and experience as an immigrant for this collection.

Sustainability and the climate crisis

Lucy Green’s project

The urgency of the climate crisis and challenges is clear in the work of the students, as is the responsibility to take positive action and bring a new creative perspective to these issues. They are committed to treating and preventing damage to the planet.

Illustration student Lucy Munt has created a book to show the impact humans have on the world’s coral reefs and their importance to our planet. The ocean is also at the center of the concerns of Charlotte Keiller, a student at the foundation, whose Think Outside the Sink project presents jewelry made from recycled materials. Lucy Green (BA glass, ceramics, jewelry, ironwork) works with “unloved and prefabricated” ceramics and glazes to create “orchestrated canvases”. Fine arts student Caitlan Walker explores the idea of ​​what she calls a “contemporary dystopia” by examining the impact of the pandemic alongside issues such as climate change and plastic pollution.

New perspectives on mental health and disability

Superhuman, by Anna Lis

The pandemic has brought health concerns to light for the past 18 months, with many facing physical and mental challenges that have been made worse by self-isolation – with higher education students facing more. of difficulties than most. Determined to use their talents to make a difference, UCA students dug deep to find courage, resilience and flexibility, while raising awareness of specific issues.

Raising Awareness for Inner Ear Disorders is Spinning into Silence by Illustration and Animation Student Emily Larkin, a hand-drawn 2D animation that draws on Emily’s own experience with a vestibular disorder. Anna Lis, a product design student, has already had her work recognized by a spinal cord injury charity. His shoe and Superhuman orthosis were designed to help those with foot drop. Through sculpture, tapestry, painting and more, the practice of fine arts student Zara Gabriel explores the experience of disability and mental illness with a mixture of media and techniques. Product design student Nathan Spiers was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 11. His memories of sensory overload in elementary school prompted him to design furniture that would help better control the varieties of stimuli affecting young children on the autism spectrum.

Innovations for a better world

Nellie Ogbonna’s project

Architecture and design thinking can make radical and much-needed changes to very specific local issues. These architecture students have identified issues in the world that can benefit from a creative contribution, using their skills and experience to facilitate change and offering solutions through sympathetic interventions that respect geography, culture , the environment, the community and the individual.

Vivina Joseph Selphy, a master’s student in architecture, has designed a terminal for the Indian Kerala hot tub industry that helps manage the impact of this tourism on the local environment. The cultural center project of another Master of Architecture student, Nellie Ogbonna, in Abuja, Nigeria, is designed to help revive the leather and textile industries to support local people and the local economy and national. The annual Lepa Regatta in Sabah, Malaysia was a key consideration in the building designed by Xzen Hung Lee (MA Architecture) which offers a range of social amenities for the local community as well as for welcoming tourists. Debris is still littered with Beirut after the massive explosion last August. Master of Architecture student Hanna Makhoul’s project proposes to take this broken glass to create fiberglass panels that can help rebuild the city. His designs include a factory, workshops, commercial and residential areas.


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