Loughborough Students Compete in Graphic Design Challenge

Bellfoundry House Remembered in Creative Competition

One of the most enjoyable and exciting activities to take place at the Bellfoundry in recent months is a unique collaboration between the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust, Loughborough University’s School of Design and Creative Arts and Ginger Root Design. Part of our National Lottery Heritage Fund project to Save the Last Major Bellfoundry in Britain is an activity that invites students, young professionals and members of our local community “Behind the Scenes at the Bellfoundry” to get up close to the processes, people and professions involved in our grand refurbishment scheme. What better place therefore to start than with one of the most creative and vibrant parts of the Bellfoundry makeover scheme – Design and Interpretation!

We were delighted when Professor Phillip Lindley reached out to us to find out more about our project and to think about ways in which his students might become involved. After much brainstorming, we developed a series of sessions focussed on the core principles of enterprise, innovation and public engagement.

The first workshop with LU’s MA Graphic Design and Visualization students took place back in Winter 2021 with an initial site visit. The students explored the foundry and its surroundings, including the place where Bellfoundry House once stood. Once home to the Taylors – the family who set up the foundry in 1859 – the building was sadly demolished in the 1970s. We set the students the challenge of developing a piece of graphic interpretation that would capture the spirit of this lost place while speaking to the history of the Taylor family and the broader history of the Bellfoundry.

Students first took part in a briefing day at the Bellfoundry, where they learned about the goals of the Bellfoundry project and received their brief. Alex Crabtree, Creative Director at Ginger Root Design, was on hand to share his experience of developing graphics and branding for the Trust from first pitch to final product. Students were split into small teams to tackle the challenge, with each team receiving additional support from Alex to develop their design concept. The climax of the event was a “Dragon’s Den” style pitching day hosted by Loughborough University, where the student’s designs were judged by Professor Phillip Lindley, Alex Crabtree and LBT Heritage Engagement Officer Hayley Simons.

The 2022 challenge was won by Lucy Butterworth, Jiaming Guo, Abigail Mansion and Antonia Williams (view a sample of their work above). The judges loved this team’s attention to detail in depicting the characters of the various family members. They also appreciated the interactive component, which would help families to engage with the outside spaces in more meaningful ways.

Toni Williams – one of the winning designers – told us, “This project was unlike anything we’ve done in the program so far […] Before the trip to the Bellfoundry, I didn’t know the history or what it was. However, after learning about the extensive history of bell founding, it only gave the project more importance because of the meaning it had to the founders and the community.” She added, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I’m pretty sure few people will be able to say they worked with a museum to create something that will hopefully last for a very long time. Design is all innovation and creativity, so this was an incredible opportunity and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Her teammate Jiaming Guo also felt the experience had benefited her professional development, telling us: “This project has improved my English and my ability to work with my classmates, making me more comfortable to work with others on a project in the future.” She also thought that the more practical elements of the project had been beneficial: “As the workshop had a budget section, this will make me consider the budget section in my future work, which will effectively help me to recognise the achievability of the project.”

Everyone agreed that there was a real benefit to working with external experts and organisations and that the challenge should run again in future years. As another member of the winning team, Abby Mansion, put it, “it was a really valuable learning opportunity and a lot of fun!”

We are pleased to report that we plan to partner with Loughborough University to run the Design Challenge again in 2023!