Manchester School of Art: Black Holes Project

We were recently asked by my old course tutor and design whizz-kid, Graham Jones ( to set a brief for his current 2nd year graphic design students at the Manchester School of Art.

Myself and Angela decided to base the brief on something we both have an interest in. Nothing captures our joint love for all things sci-fi, spacey, time travel-y and cosmic quite like… black holes!

We tasked the students with creating an identity for a highly immersive sensory exhibition creatively titled, ‘Black Holes’, to be held at the fictional, ‘Schrödinger Museum’.

It was great to see the variety of project directions and ways of thinking on show within the responses we received. Some students adhered strictly to the brief, producing convincing visual identities and print materials suitable for a contemporary science museum; whereas others chose to use it as a springboard to create truly interesting visuals from a more art based approach.

Being a fairly recent graduate from the same course myself, I’m familiar with the high standards of the course, the quality of teaching and the application traditionally shown by the students. However, I have to admit even I was impressed with the collective strength and maturity of the projects – especially for 2nd years.

There were a few projects that really jumped out at us. Josh Beetham’s project looked into the manipulation of light and distortion of space by using projections on 3D landscapes – resulting in some beautiful imagery. He then elegantly wrapped it all up nicely with a strong visual identity.

Check his stuff out here –  /

Zach Rowlandson’s response eloquently described the process he went through as a designer / thinker to get to his visually striking outcome. Rather fittingly, this approach worked wonderfully as the concept of his entire project was “journey through the black hole”. Zach’s planning of the route you’d take when walking through the exhibition itself – linking it to complex ideas such as Spaghettification and Singularity – displayed an inventive and unique way of thinking.

See his work here –  /

Dominique Fletcher based her project on theoretical physicist, Nikodem Poplawski’s theory that the world in which we live is a black hole. Dominique came up with a brilliant creative concept and managed to adeptly carry it through to some very strong graphic outcomes. The idea of reflection being key within her work, Dominique created a range of posters made from mirrors – adorned with beautiful hand drawn type.

You can find her work here –  /

Jesse Sheen’s project revolved all around light. Her idea to illustrate and map the constellation of Cygnus X-1, then prick tiny pin holes through each of the plotted stars and back light her work, was a real treat. A brilliant creative strand of thinking that’s yielded some elegant results. We all however felt like this was just the beginning of the project… we want to see more!

Jesse’s work can be found here –

And finally Emma Patterson’s response was really, really interesting. She hinged her project on something found in her research – the phrase “fabric of the universe”. This resulted in Emma looking into continuous lines and linear designs in meticulous detail. She then came up with the name “Sphere of Influence” for her exhibition and proceeded to create a wide range of convincing print materials with a strong, relevant visual identity.

View her work here –  /

I’d like to thank the small number of students who took time out of their *ahem* busy schedules to bring their work to a short feedback session with us. I would also like to say a huge thanks to all the students that made the effort to answer the brief and send us work that we weren’t able to feedback to directly; alas we could only spare a single afternoon away from the studio!

Good luck to all 2nd years for next year and hopefully we’ll be seeing some of you then for portfolio crits and placements.


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Jonathan Buschenfeld