School of Design Review by Dr. Stacey Hunter

Flourish – Jack Albert Batchelor and Ellie Bainbridge, Communication Design


The 2021 graduates of The Glasgow School of Art’s design departments have delivered a dynamic and highly sophisticated showcase that highlights the significant role that design is taking in the complex cultural, economic and social issues that shape our world. Local Heroes is a curatorial studio that is always looking for emerging design that’s fresh, exciting and arresting or that’s moving, intellectually curious and sometimes both. This year it has been thrilling to see designers taking risks in terms of how they wish to communicate and be seen and understood. The way that designers art-direct and photograph their work also allows us an insight into their process; this year the energy and dedication that has gone into every presentation has made 2021 one of the most enjoyable to date.

In Communication Design we see a cohort who have the confidence to work at the intersections of individual specialisms and to interpret and articulate briefs in their own highly distinctive and creative ways. Inez de Rijke stands out with a diversity of work in her graduate collection that is endlessly inventive, flawlessly presented and points to a bright future. Her series of fabric drapes titled A Chair Is, are a Droogishly1 irreverent take on the cultural capital and the use of design classics as status symbols. Her ‘live collages’ of Spanish landscapes superimposed onto Scottish mountainsides are a delight.


A Chair Is – Inez de Rijke, Communication Design 


Jack Albert Batchelor and Ellie Bainbridge collaboratively designed a typeface titled Flourish for the promotion of the novel Shuggie Bain (by Douglas Stuart). They took a structured ‘masculine’ typeface ubiquitous to the era depicted in the novel (Compacta) and paired it with a description of the “happy confident loops” of the protagonist’s mothers’ signature. The results were writ large on a 9m by 18m mural by Cobalt Collective, commissioned by publisher Picador to mark the novel’s publication in paperback.

Georgina StevensFrom A to B is a fun take on how we are increasingly abstracted from the act of orienting ourselves in cities due to technological advances. Her graphic exploration takes her own research as its starting point and gently asserts the significance of landmarks in our built environment. An intelligent homage to seminal publications such as Kevin Lynch’s The Image of The City and a thoughtful reflection on contemporary city theory.

In Fashion, Poppy Brooks takes us on a journey where her nostalgic interest in clothing trends of the past are juxtaposed with contemporary themes from lockdown living. Her collection Television, Snacks and Tiaras is sumptuous and sensory as well as sustainable. It utilises silks and other deadstock and end of roll fabrics from British heritage manufacturers. Brooks’ creates truly romantic and defiantly luxurious looks that sing to our collective dreams of future conviviality. Her work explores ideas of comfort and frivolity, juxtaposing oversized clothing and generous silhouettes. Her eye for colour and texture are similarly revealed in her sketches – take a look, they are as much of a visual feast as The French Fancy Dress and Smoking Jacket. An accomplished debut from a confident and expressive designer.

Television Snacks and Tiaras – Poppy Brooks, Fashion Design


It has been an exceptional year for Textiles with an abundance of experimental ideas in evidence from both Jessica Hay and Sophie Anne Campbell who both utilise complex technical structures in completely different and highly original ways. The former creating a restrained but innovative collection; the latter an exuberant, fashion-led showstopper.

Holly Smith and Sophie Downes have fearlessly pushed the boundaries of textiles to create collections that crossover into jewellery with big, bold material moves and clever compositions.

Industry experts know how challenging it is to achieve the nuance and restraint that characterises Izzie Castle and Yoko Hara’s minimalist yet painterly use of colour. In contrast, Kathryn Halliday’s patterns and palettes almost bounce off the screen, crackling with energy and optimism.


Pink Kawaii – Yoko Hara, Textile Design


In Silversmithing & Jewellery, Sally Shepherd’s Skirfare collection evokes some of the most hard-to-capture aesthetic qualities of nature with a highly sensitive approach to making that transforms fine copper and brass mesh into sunlight on water. Hammering of different intensities affects the distribution and alteration of light on metals, flooding small areas with brightness while others remain in the shadows. A highly wearable and collectible debut with an attention to detail on the reverse side of jewellery pieces that we have come to expect from GSA’s jewellery graduates.

Cara Zoë Smith explores biomimicry – innovation inspired by nature, through emulation. These jewellery pieces heighten the presence of nature’s relationship to the human body, through texture, form, repetition, transformation and movement. Inspired by Caddisfly Larva which use materials found around them to make intricate adorning cocoons Smith employs the same ethos in giving new life to discarded plastic milk bottles transforming them into beautiful, ethereal and translucent pieces.

Alexis Mitchell-Taylor presents Aequor which includes a transparent series made using silicone and silver to create delicate and subtle light effects that enhance the clearness of these materials and in parallel gives the weight and texture an intriguing ambiguity.


Life Line – Cara Smith, Silversmithing and Jewellery


For Interior Design graduate Sophia Steele, gendered inequality in public spaces around the East End of Glasgow are formally resolved in The Ladies Pool, a women-led swimming pool where everything is on one level and designed to be accessible to all. Her sensitively drawn illustrations and diagrams express her ideas beautifully and detailed technical drawings demonstrate her practical understanding of interior and exterior construction.

Nicola Burleigh’s concept for Salt Bazaar, a year-round market place and social hub, situated within a former multi-storey carpark building is believable and elegantly realised. Her graduate portfolio contains a series of lush illustrations backed up with journals that evidence her research into sites, as well as marketplaces and retail environments. Burleigh and Steele make themselves stand out with their sheer graft and attention to detail.

We hope that as many of the graduates from this year’s cohort as possible will continue to make their home in Scotland and continue to bring their critical thinking, and creativity to the design sector. We wish all of you the very best with your future endeavours.


Salt Bazaar – Nicola Burleigh, Interior Design


Stacey Hunter is a curator, writer, producer and a passionate advocate for Scottish Design. She founded Local Heroes in 2015 to present the work of outstanding designers working in Scotland.


  1. *refers to Droog, a Dutch word for dry or wry mostly associated with Droog Design↩︎