New talent 2017: Best graduates outside London

We’ve already brought you our favourite graduates from two corners of the UK: Edinburgh and Falmouth. Now discover the rest of our picks of the very best graphic design, illustration and animation graduates outside of London.

Whether you’re looking for new creative talent for your studio or collaborative opportunities, the talented graduates here boast exceptional final year projects that excel in both concept and execution – and are worth keeping an eye on. 

And don't forget to head over to D&AD New Blood at London’s Old Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, from 5-6 July to get a closer look at the work from the class of 2017 and meet the graduates in person.

Want to search by university instead of scrolling through? Just hit the drop-down menu below to skip to: Manchester School of Art, Arts University Bournemouth, Glasgow School of Art, Sheffield Institute of Arts or Leeds College of Art. 

First up, Plymouth College of Art...

Jake Williams 

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Illustration
  • Project: Resilient Reptiles

Plymouth-based illustrator, designer and occasional animator Jake Williams produced a fully illustrated 26-page non-fiction children’s book for his final major piece. Focusing on the unique ways that reptiles of the world have adapted to survive, the publication showcases Williams’ shape-based vector style and considered use of bold, vibrant colours.

“This was a challenging project because I’d never created a book before, but an enjoyable one,” says Williams, who will be showing his work at New Designers 2017. 

“I created Resilient Reptiles alongside a range of conceptual editorial images about a range of topical and political issues. At university I spent some time at a placement with Creative Hub, working on illustrations for Cornwall Today magazine. It was great experience and has helped me to hone my style for editorial work.”

Josh Fathers 

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Graphic Design
  • Project: Social Fabric

Cornwall-based graduate Josh Fathers created a tactile journal to document the “quirks of how people talk in the real world” for his final year project. “I live in a little seaside village and my community is very important to me. Essentially, Social Fabric is about the ways that people communicate when talking to other people is a choice and not a necessity.”

As well as being part of the team that designed the ‘Breaking Through’ concept behind Plymouth College of Art’s 2017 graduate shows, Fathers is also communications director of a community interest company in Cornwall. 

He travelled far and wide to record anonymous conversations for the project, putting himself in situations he wouldn’t ordinarily have found himself in. “I hope that the end result is a testament to the varied skills I’ve developed during my time at the college, but also gives an idea of what community means to me.”

Penny Chan

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Fashion Media & Marketing
  • Project: Girlhood

Penny Chan combined her love of graphic design with her magazine-house experience to create the zine GIRLHOOD. “The concept behind the zine is ‘disrupt the system’; inspired by the punk movement and in protest against the highly polished photography and film in the fashion industry,” explains Chan, who’s currently working as a freelance fashion assistant for GQ Style, and has interned at Dazed & Confused as a junior designer. 

She’s helped style, plan and assist two major international Topman campaigns; worked on a Dr. Martens Spring/Summer '18 campaign and a few British GQ and GQ Style editorials; and assisted on Take That's latest UK Arena tour, helping to dress the band.

“I'm currently taking time out from work at GQ Style to focus on my final major project but I'll be back in a few weeks to help style a few London Fashion Week Men's shows,” she says.

Sarah Damo 

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Game Arts
  • Project: Wonder Seekers

Italian game artist and illustrator Sarah Damo specialises in concept art. For her final major project, she created Wonder Seekers – a game concept set in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world. The story revolves around a girl who runs a robot repair shop and travels on adventures with her best friend, a mutated parrot that has grown too big to fly. Together the pair collect materials that they use to fix robots, working to find a clean energy source that can make the planet habitable by humans again. 

Damo created concepts for the environments, assets and characters, including 3D models for the characters and machinery within the game. “My personal style is greatly influenced by Renaissance art – in the use of composition, colours and imagery – and impressionism, in the use of light and different types of brush stroke,” she says.

“For Wonder Seekers, I combined these influences and tried to add more vibrant tonality to the colours, alongside restrictive palettes for certain environments. I hope that the end result communicates a strong story and mood with the viewer.”

Damo wants to work as concept or character artist in the gaming industry, "creating adventures that people can connect with and jump into” – and she looks set to achieve her aim. 

“Sarah Damo’s work is truly unique,” says Martial Bugliolo, programme leader BA (Hons) Game Arts. “The way that she merges traditional and digital illustration styles with 3D and VR mark her out as somebody with a bright career in the games industry ahead of her.” 

Greg Johnson

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Game Arts
  • Project: Game environment and characters

Greg Johnson has a background in sculpture, but has spent the last three years specialising in game arts, honing his skills in VR, digital sculpting and modelling, and becoming proficient in software including 3ds Max, ZBrush, Substance Painter and Unreal Engine 4. 

For his final major project, Johnson produced an environment and characters for a game in which global warming has created a permanent layer of greenhouse gas, which has wiped out most of the life on the planet. With this dystopian world crumbling into a junkyard, the machines have evolved to hunt down the remaining humans on the planet. All of the assets have been modelled and textured for an Unreal 4 Environment.

Johnson drew inspiration from the work of Tim Burton and Shane Acker’s movie 9. "I used real-world objects, combining them to create my machines,” he says. “The way the machines move and are constructed takes influence from animals – for example, the way a raptor moves was used to animate a creature made from wind turbines, cranes and CCTV cameras.”

“I’ve always liked MMOs, historical games, and strategy games. Total War is my favourite game series to date, and I also really enjoy League of Legends, and the Fallout series has been a big influence on me.”

“The dream is to one day work for Creative Assembly as a 3D artist,” he says. “Character art and asset creation are the areas I’m most interested in.”

Jessica Mehler

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Animation
  • Project: BabaY

A graduate of the European Film College in Denmark, Jessica Mehler specialised in traditional 2D and 3D printed models with stop motion animation at Plymouth College of Art. Her final project animation film is based on the Slavic folktale of Baba Yaga, an old witch who lives in a house which can walk around on chicken legs. To produce this piece she created an intricate miniature set in her studio.

“Adam Elliot’s film Mary and Max is one of the films that made me want to be an animator, along with Yuriy Norshteyn’s Hedgehog in the fog,” says Mehler, who represented Plymouth College of Art at the Creative Europe programme Euranim in Belgium. “I feel very inspired by comic books, particularly the work of Moebius and Enki bilal, but I am also a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes.”

Briony Difford 

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Illustration
  • Project: Asian Folktales

Graduate Briony Difford uses a combination of traditional ink painting and digital colouring in her illustrations, focusing on themes of the natural world. Often working with narrative-driven projects, Difford creates Japanese-inspired linework and composition, striving for detail and elegance in her illustrations.

For Asian Folktales, her final major project, she depicted her chosen stories in a way that respects traditional Asian artwork, while also bringing them into a contemporary setting and to a new audience. 

“I wanted to capture the distinct charm that has always interested me in these folk tales,” she says. “After graduating I plan to work more in publishing, creating illustrations for magazines and books as well as making and selling my work at exhibitions and events. I always want to be open to new projects and different experiences.” 

Warren Curry

  • University: Plymouth College of Art
  • Course: BA (Hons) Illustration
  • Projects: An Illustrator’s Guide To Surviving The Internet; and The Millennial Man

Working in a range of different styles during his third year at the college, Warren Curry illustrated two graphic novels: one a non-fiction title, focusing on the pros and cons of illustrators having an online presence; the other a collaboration with writer James Trotter. 

“It was a real challenge to create a complete body of sequential artwork that did justice to a story written by a collaborator, and a great learning experience,” says Curry, who will be exhibiting his work at New Designers. 

“My plans for the next year are to look for in-house illustration jobs, ideally around the Bristol-Cheltenham area,” he adds. “I’m also open to agency offers or freelance work.”

Next page: Our pick of the graduates from Manchester School of Art

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.