Thursday 21 September 2017

My YCN Submissions 2017


This summer I found out I had been commended for the two YCN projects I entered and was absolutely gobsmacked! During A levels I visited student awards exhibitions in London, staring adoringly at all the amazing entries, and hoping that one day I could be as good as them, so to receive recognition from one of the same made my little self very happy indeed. It really proved to me that the projects you enjoy working on usually turn out the best, too.

Instead of one flat out winner for each project, YCN chooses a number of commended entries that their judges, as well as members of the companies who set the briefs, have decided worked best. I think this is a wonderful way to run a student competition, as not only do more people get to feel like hot shit, but you also get to see lots of different, successful interpretations of the briefs you entered!

I thought I would write a bit about the projects themselves and the awards ceremony, as I know a lot of the people who follow me are design students themselves, and may be entering next year!

To my knowledge, YCN is an educational initiative that runs courses and events for creatives. It also hosts a Student Awards every year where companies (often very big companies) set a brief each for design students and recent graduates across the UK to enter. The briefs are suitable for Graphic Design, Illustration, Creative Advertising, Vis Com and really students of any commercial focused design course to enter.

As part of second year Illustration, we had to enter student competitions on our own, and collaboratively. I entered other, smaller, competitions too. There were so many projects that I was interested in, but as it's my first year studying as an illustrator, after switching from graphic design, I chose briefs that allowed me to focus on my new practice.

To design a greetings collection of 4 cards, a notebook, a notecards set, wrapping paper and a gift bag.
Notecards front & back

Everyone who knew me was telling me to go for this brief ahaha, it's SO up my street. I spend my life designing products for my shop, Sighh, and greetings cards are the epitome of commercial and illustrative.

I had so much fun working on the brief. I'm really passionate about creating products that people want to give others, so the concept developed quickly into "cards to congratulate and motivate loved ones", named the High Five collection.

The visual style focused around positive hand gestures and fun phrases in naive lettering, decorated with other expressive symbols like stars and sparks. In production, the stars and parks would be foiled or glittered for extra fun.

One of the greetings card designs, also adapted for a notebook.

To design a cohesive collection, I decided the greetings cards would be the focal products, containing primary imagery that the rest of the products would expand on. See that the happy sun, hand gestures and even one of the full designs have all been taken over.

I took crap photos to quickly draw from on my iPad because I was too in the zone to even get up and use the scanner...

Two concepts that didn't make it into the submission, but I still really like & will hopefully use for my own projects!

The most difficult part of the collection was designing the wrapping paper. We had just been given a workshop on repeat pattern, but it's pretty damn hard to get *just* right, especially when I couldn't decide which pieces from the collection to use!

Full submitted collection. Find more on my portfolio:

The aftermath of my commendation was the best bit, however. UK Greetings were kind enough to offer me a week's placement over the summer, and it was BRILLIANT. I couldn't have wished for a better experience, honestly. I got a full tour of their studios, and got to work in two departments: Humour and Core.

When I was introduced to the humour team, the managers (who were co-judges on the YCN team) really bigged me up, and I had to disclose to my desk mates that I'm definitely not as funny as they said. However I quickly realised that it wasn't just jokes, but phrasing and writing that they liked, which is something that I love to have within my work.

They were so open to bringing a new voice into their studio, that they set me a wide open brief to design a collection of cards under any theme. Now, this completely sets them apart from any company I've heard about. Usually students are given a project that has already been concepted, and they just need to be the hands, without the company taking into consideration their specific skill-sets. So it was an absolute honour to be made to feel like a freelancer in the studio. The UK Greetings team are just the best and it really boosted my confidence.

I ended up creating two collections that week, that I bloody wish I could show you, and they *fingers crossed* are going into shops to see how they sell! I'm just waiting on the design adjustments I need to make. And then I get paid with money. Omg. If all goes well I can even sell them in my shop! :)

To design customisable packaging for The Grown Up Chocolate Company's chocolate gift boxes. Including the outer sleeve, box, inner chocolate packaging and website landing page.

This was a collaborative project, and I was lucky enough to team up with a Graphics student, Hattie, from the year above who had experience in collaborative projects, so it went as smoothly as is humanly possible. 

Something I thought was quite funny, is at the start of the module we were warned that Graphics students like to dominate projects, and not to take any shit. I wasn't particularly worried though as I definitely fit that stereotype, so it's probably them who have to put up with me! hahaa... 

We had a great start, coming up with concepts we were both happy with in the first meeting, and finally deciding on a nostalgic postal aesthetic. We both like to push projects to the max (I am so grateful I got to work with a truly motivated student who put in equal effort, as I've had horror stories from friends!) and decided to make a sticker pack, postal packaging, 6 different customisable sleeve templates, extensive website mockups to show the customisation process, and a hand written font. Concept done, I was ready to take on the illustrator role and leave the layout design to Hattie, but as I absolutely *love* fun food packaging, I took on the sleeve layouts too (below) while Hattie did the chocolate sleeves, box and website design.

Customisable sleeve options (nets)

Having just discovered photoshop brushes, I spent a long time having a lot of fun with the "stickers". The idea took inspiration from snapchat, where customers would add stickers of their choice to the box.

Halfway through we realised that the blue/red colour scheme of vintage postal packaging wasn't going to fit in with the company branding, so we revamped everything to stick to their pink and brown colour scheme, which instantly looked more professional and consistent!

Branded Postal packaging

Tying into the postal theme, I thought it was only apt to design some stickers to decorate the envelopes that chocolate would arrive in. These vintage label style stickers continue the branding but with personality.

Pushing the brief: instead of just the landing page above, we provided a 10+ step process fully explained with mockups.

Mini chocolate sleeves (top), box sleeves & box.

On the awards night I got to speak to the company CEO who said ours was one of the two most on-brand submissions *yay!*. However upon asking "no pressure of course" he had a different favourite. Ah well, haha! They had lettered with melted chocolate. I mean, you can't compete with that.

The YCN projects were so much fun to work on, the ceremony was very fancy indeed and the foot in the door you get from entering (not even having to be commended!) is brilliant. Real managers and CEOs from these companies judge your work, so if you get in touch down the line they are likely to remember it and be more willing to give you work in the future. I would highly recommend entering if you're a design student! For more information:

Which projects would you have entered? How would you have responded to them? Have you entered before? Let me know! :)



  1. Congratulations Polly! I love the work you've done for the UK Greetings brief, such a simplistic colour palette but it works like a charm!

    Sara - Flemingo

  2. The outcomes are amazing! Not joking but the chocolate colour looks delicious ahah and the first note cards are just so cute!!

    Carolina - @andimcarolina


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