The Information Design programme in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria (UP) has won several awards at the 2020 Loeries. Masego Panyane (MP) caught up with course lecturer Kyle Rath (KR) to hear about the award-winning projects, the course and the students.
MP: The work created by the students was part of their course and then the decision was taken to enter their work into the Loeries. Please tell me more about this? Is this something the programme does annually?
KR: Yes, the work is created as part of their Information Design degree, but never for the purpose of entering – this is only considered once the project is complete, and if we feel a particular project is good enough, we might recommend that a student enter their project for a Loerie. We always encourage our students to enter, but it is not an 'annual' ritual per se. The Loeries are rather expensive, at roughly R600 per entry, and of course, there is no guarantee of a win. Where we can, we try to help students who produce exceptional projects, who cannot afford it, with some financial assistance. But our budget is extremely limited (mostly 3rd-stream income). This year, owing to COVID-19, the Loeries decided to make the student categories free to enter. And so, the floodgates opened. We were able to submit a substantial amount of the excellent projects. We nabbed 22 Loerie nominations this year (the most we have ever had in a single year). Usually, if we are lucky, we are able to enter four projects, and then usually have two to four nominations, again, owing to finances. We ultimately brought six medals home, which again, is the most we've brought home in a year. We tied with Stellenbosch University with the most wins (beating all the private colleges). Moreover, of the three gold medals that were awarded in the student categories this year, Information Design nabbed two of them. It is a big win for Information Design, and for the School of the Arts.
MP: The success of the students and alumni at the Loeries is, in part, due to the success of the teaching programme of Information Design. What sets students and graduates of this course apart from others in their field?
KR: I have examined at nearly every college and university in South Africa that offers a “comparable” design course. There are a couple of things. Firstly, our theoretical underpinning encourages deep research and a solid conceptualisation process. A project is typically two to three weeks in length, and the first week is spent on research, the second on conceptualisation and execution. Essentially, there is a rigorous exploration phase before a student even touches the design software. This is, I would say, a massive differentiating factor. Secondly, our course is a broad-based course. We're the only [institution] in South Africa that offers such a course. We cover pretty much every design field apart from fashion and interior. That is, we offer everything from branding to advertising, web and app design (UI/UX design), typography, film, photography, animation, motion graphics, 3D, post production, game design, design for social, illustration, editorial design, wayfinding, information visualisation, packaging and more. Therefore, our students are extremely adaptive – there isn't anything, really, that they can't do.
MP: How many projects were nominated in total?
KR: There were a total of 22 nominations. We ultimately won six trophies: one bronze, three silver and two gold.
MP: How do you feel about this achievement by the students and alumni?
KR: We are extremely proud of our students – all of them (the nominees and winners). It is also a great way to benchmark our course, but also to see how well the course serves our alumni once they enter the design industry. It is difficult to track all the wins in the industry, from Information Design alumni (this is because designers, unlike fine artists, operate under an agency. So it is the agency that wins, not the specific designer) but we know of at least 15 wins that can be tracked to projects that Information Design alumni worked directly on.
MP: Where can we see some of the award-winning work?
KR: The first [platform] is the YouTube channel. It has all the winning and most of the nominated videos on it (we release new videos weekly). I would like to encourage readers to subscribe to the channel. It’s a free way for people to support us and we hope to eventually generate income from the channel, which in turn helps pay for future entries. Then, there is our Instagram account, @upinfodesign, where anyone can view our latest work. We currently have our 4th year work displayed.