Module 1, Week 2

Week 2 : York – Where is your creativity?

Starting this week’s task I wanted to keep a very open mind about the city I live in. Having previously stated that York is “sleepy” and “lacking some serious creative flair” I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and seek out other like minded individuals who have broken this mould. I have to say, on a personal level, going into these design studios or galleries has inspired me to talk to more people!! On the other hand, (a slightly more important hand!!!), my previous statements are, in fact, quite true. There is a lot of frustration towards the local council for lack of Arts funding and not promoting smaller, fresher designers or artists. This was a running theme with most people I spoke to – bar the one main studio – for obvious reasons which I have highlighted below.

How could I conduct this brief without talking about my favourite magazine, film festival creators and art enthusiast – Aesthetica. This company is a big deal in York – every November they take over many different spaces to showcase independent filmmakers throughout the country and beyond. I’ve sat and watched short films by French/Norwegian/Icelandic/Italian producers. This company runs a very important magazine within the art sector and was created by two individuals at a University here in York. They’ve expanded and grown and now host a multitude of awards, exhibitions and festivals. There is nothing else like this in York and I’m so proud that they’ve grown from strength to strength. I could go on and on as I am so passionate about this company but below are the URL’s to the film festival and magazine.

Team Members: 13

“Aesthetica is a worldwide destination for art and culture. In-depth features foreground today’s most innovative practitioners across art, design, photography, architecture, music and film.”

Picture above shows Aesthetica HQ – there was no signage at the front nor any acknowledgement of the great work being produced there. Also next to a fantastic brewery…
The brightest shop on the street… That has to mean something right?!

“According to McGee is a contemporary York art gallery, UK. Since 2005, directors Greg and Ails McGee have exhibited the most exciting artists in the UK”

For all my time in York, I’ve walked past a lovely Art Gallery called According to Mcgee. It has always a been painted a vibrant yellow on the outside and every time I’ve gone past there’s new design work or art work in the window. There’s a lovely sense of mystery in this shop over looking an historical Viking Castle site, surrounded by a combination of dark betting shops and cafes. This brief made me step into this shop for the first time and boy am I glad I did. The young lad behind the desk immediately started up a conversation about the work in the gallery and how it’s not just an art gallery as it appears from first impression. It’s a fantastical mish-mash of extravagant design, refreshing art work, strong bold monochrome pieces sat on the wall next to a colourful skull painting. Adrian told me that whenever he is working in the gallery he is allowed to put up his own work which you can see from the front photograph – He started out with a degree in engineering and was so intrigued by the beauty and strong lines in the designs he takes this as his inspiration. He too mentioned the lack of opportunities for creative individuals in York – with little funding, local creative hubs can no longer survive. One such example I’ve mentioned below:

Bar Lane Studios Now stands slightly dishevelled just a few doors down from Aesthetica. This was one of the last creative hubs available in York, another one on Stonebow having recently closed too. This space had a number of small studios open to individuals who wanted to get some peace and quiet and focus on their work whilst also making new connections with other creative individuals. I feel it’s a sad reminder of how the power of a local council can crush a city’s creative spirit – since this closed no other major open studios have opened and it’s a big fear of mine that if the council keep funding the larger corporations it’s going to be a very difficult place for young designers and artists to make their mark in this city.

In doing this exercise, as you can probably tell from above, I have been getting increasingly angry at the lack of creative opportunities in York. This research has uncovered another great design/web design studio called YorkMix. This company creates web sites for local businesses, creates design media for York events and provides a (much better) news site for York. However, digging a little further, I realised that this company provides design and other necessary media for a local business called Make It York – a predominantly council funded business which organises all major events throughout York. As I made these connections, I realised that all big events within York are being funded by the council using one main separate design company for all the marketing and branding. With the sheer lack of funding elsewhere for artists or designers, and YorkMix having only 3 people on it’s team, does this provide a fair and opportunistic platform for budding creative individuals? Does limiting your marketing for numerous events to just one business mean no other designer can break through? As you walk around the city, every bit of branding is provided by the Council and this one company. This both baffles and scares me.

Interestingly, YorkMixMedia does not have any signage outside it’s door…

“With a regional monthly readership of more than 110,000 unique users, we are perfectly placed to design, build and market your business digitally.”

However, I have to acknowledge therefore that this company, YorkMix, is vital to the current identity of York’s design industry.

Due to the fact these companies are not all graphic design studios I also studied further into the other studios available in York. As previously mentioned these are predominantly freelancers or small agencies and therefore their registered addresses are either their own homes or small offices sat above larger shops. I have highlighted the agencies that I have come across before as I know they contribute greatly to design within York. These studios and design producers are:

Art of Protest This is an amazing gallery located just behind where I work. It showcases different talented artist – worldwide and locally. They have also just commissioned a wall art for opposite their gallery reflecting some of the work they represent. Although not a producer nor designer, they are purveyors of amazing designers and artists and I find it really inspirational.

Thin Ice Press I live very close to the University of York and I am making it my mission to find more out about this amazing company. They are bringing back the original letter press styles and the history of this work made me realise the huge impact printing had on York. Based on the work of the York printer Thomas Gent whose initial printing houses were based on Stonegate, again where I work. I have always walked past this devil statue and never realised that this little guy got all the blame for any mis-spellings on the final prints!!!

Inc Dot Print Combo of designers and printers for the local York area.

York Print Company Very small and local! This is a one man band with a small printing shop.

NIMA A large branding company based in the newly developed Hiscox Building. as well as branding and marketing, they also focus on brand management and business growth.

RhubarbCreative A local freelance Graphic Design who focuses on logos and branding. I have spoken to Anna a number of times as a fellow local designer.

DesignByIdea3 Another local freelance Graphic Designer – not only designing branding and logos but also web development.

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