Nadia Rasheed

The Conviction of Olivia Twaites

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Jut last month 25-year-old Olivia Twaites was presented with a £1,500 prize for her winning entry in the British Library and Arts Thread’s Propaganda design competition. The competition was in celebration of the British Library’s exhibition entitled ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’ and entrants were asked to create a design, film or illustration that would influence the British public’s perception of their health. Olivia’s project Shred Heads was particularly persuasive – combining an effective and aesthetically pleasing design with an important message. I had a chance to speak to Olivia about her recent prize as well as how her interest in design all began.

How did your passion for design develop?
I have always been drawn to bold visuals and I’ve always had a particular interest in photography ever since I bought my first camera at 8 years old. All the way through school, to sixth form college, where I studied Photography and Fine Art and on to my art foundation I wasn’t a hundred percent sure which specific route I wanted to go down, but I knew I wanted to end up doing something creative. It was only when I was studying Art History that I decided that I wanted to be involved in the design as opposed to learning about the history of it. I found it fascinating but knew that it wasn’t right for me. I left the course after a year, built up my portfolio, for interviews and was accepted on to the course at Kingston. My interest in design has grown as I have persisted with it and I hope it continues to.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
The challenges can differ depending on the brief, but I often find the most difficult part is when I hit a wall with a project. I’d have researched and tested ideas endlessly and still the concept doesn’t come together.

However, I have learnt that it never helps to move a project along by forcing an idea. But this can be difficult to do when there are deadlines looming and you have unsolved conceptual projects coming out of your ears. So the way I deal with this is to have two lists:

1. A list of emergency creative techniques that you can go to in your time of need.
2. A list of different ways to take a break from work such as, go for a walk, go cycling, grab a bar of chocolate from the shop. It sounds a bit silly to have a list of breaks, but when you’re desperate to complete your work, it is easy to power on through and forget about the essential things such as eating or drinking and it always helps to take a break from work.

In my final year of my degree this technique lists really helped me. This does balance out, because other times, I find that just through reading or seeing something that strikes a chord with me, out of it will come a vivid idea. Funnily enough it is these moments that have been the beginnings of my favourite projects.

Are there any people you consider to be your major influences? Or anyone in particular you look to for inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from photography. My all time favourite photographer is Duane Michals. His surrealist compositions are fascinating. I admire his ability to blur the worlds between life and death and fantasy and reality. I don’t have a major influence currently, as much as it helps to look at other work, I find that sometimes it can cloud the way I’m seeing my idea to be. I often find it best to experiment and play with what I’m seeing for the look and feel of something, before I look at how others do it.

There is no one particular person or place that I go to for inspiration. I find most of my inspiration by looking through any kind of design or photography book. The bigger the variety of visuals that I can surround myself with and absorb the better. I find it helpful to research for projects and visual styles that capture an essence of what I’m trying to communicate through a project.

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I love your Shred Heads project – how did you come up with the idea?
Thank you! The idea came through conversations that I’d been sharing with friends of mine, where they expressed that the pressures of their jobs and careers were beginning to have a negative impact on their outlook in life and more importantly their mental health. There seems to be some stigma attached to depression within this issue and it could be preventing people from feeling confident or strong enough to tackle the problem. The main aim of the project is to reassure people that there is plenty of help and support available and that they are not alone. It is important to raise awareness of mental health in general, we are all at risk of suffering from it in one capacity or another, so it is in everyone’s’ interest that it should not be ignored.

How did you feel when it was announced that Shred Heads was the winning entry in the British Library and Artsthread’s Propaganda design competition?
I was over the moon when I was announced as the winner of the competition, I didn’t expect it at all. Arts Thread and the British Library are doing great things for young creatives starting out in this competitive industry. I recommend to other keen creatives to keep a beady eye on other opportunities they are both offering!

To what extent is graphic design a viable career path?
There are plenty of opportunities out there, so it must be a viable career path! It is not only about idea generation and having an understanding of design principles, a huge part of design is understanding people and there will always be a need for that.

What advice would you offer to other young people aspiring to break into the creative industry?
Have conviction with your ideas. Say yes to every opportunity. Work hard and put in the time, but it is also important to enjoy yourself too!

Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
I would love to start my own company one day, whether this is within the design field or not, I don’t know yet, but that’s the dream! I would also love to have the opportunity to work abroad for a couple of years at some point in the future, to experience a different creative culture and to learn another language. For now I am staying put in London, picking up new skills and loving the challenge of the city.

Check out more of Olivia’s work on her website and be sure to follow her on twitter too!

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