How to/ Showcase: Entering competitions no.1

Steven O’Neil is one of the UK’s most exciting new multi-disciplinary graduates.

He completed a degree in graphic design in 2017 and won a Yellow Pencil award in one of the UK’s most prestigious design competitions – the D&AD New Blood Awards – in his third year at university.

In this article, he talks about how he takes an open approach to being a designer, responding to briefs and how important entering design competitions can be for your future career.

How I work: My design philosophy

Credit: Credit: Lateral typeface, GIF, Steven O’Neil.

I don’t necessarily have an oath that I swear by every day before work but I’ve always taken my work seriously. There’s no rule of thumb when it comes down to it. An effective approach for one project is useless for another. I like learning new things and if I can do that within a project then great!

And this sits hand in hand with trying new things. New approaches, new methods, new techniques, new crafts and new ways of doing things differently. Being able to have an understanding across the board of disciplines is something I strive to achieve.

Each project has an element of ‘designer role play’. I’ll approach a project as an ‘old school’ type-guru one day, and an architect the next. I am none of those things but it benefits my design practice to look at a project in different ways — to find the most unusual or un-boring ways of doing it.

How to get yourself noticed in design industry whilst you’re still college

Credit : The visual identity for Net by Crowne Plaza’ created for digital and physical spaces, Steven O’Neil and Perry Rowe, 2016.

In late 2016, myself and Perry Rowe decided to take on the D&AD New Blood Awards. We played with a few different briefs at first – one of which being the Crown Plaza brief.

The challenge was to reposition Crowne Plaza from a corporate brand, into a hotel that would appeal to the new generation of young modern business traveller.

In a nutshell, we created ‘Net by Crowne Plaza’—an experimental offshoot brand which challenged corporate conventions and spoke to the new generation of business traveller.

Entering Competitions: stretch yourself and the brief

Credit: ‘Net by Crowne Plaza’ video, Steven O’Neil and Perry Rowe, 2016. This video introduces the concept behind the experimental offshoot brand. It illustrates ideas for expanding the visual identity of the brand and how that could be used within the different spaces and events. This is often called environmental graphic design and you can see how they’ve used this technique to reinvigorate the brand for modern travellers.

We adopted the ‘challenger’ mind-set required by the brief but we also used it to challenge the brief itself. We believed that rebranding Crowne Plaza would only scratch the surface of the problem. Instead, ‘Net by Crowne Plaza’ represents our research into an alternative vision for the company by experimenting with branding. It’s a series of pop-up hotels, spaces and events that challenge the way that these businesses currently operate and how they could move with the ever-changing pace of this industry.

Winning a competition: Where it take you

Credit: The range of D&AD pencils up for grabs. Our submission to the D&AD New Blood Awards proved successful. Myself and Perry were awarded a Yellow Pencil at the ceremony, which also bagged us a place on the New Blood Academy.

Being a part of the D&AD process opened a lot of doors for me personally. The project created a conversation with industry and following the award helped showcase my body of work to a wider audience.

Work placements and internships were arranged with the likes of Pentagram and NB Studio but an offer came from Alphabetical, which I just couldn’t refuse.

Steven O’Neil is a graphic designer specialising in typography and branding. Since graduating he has worked for a different studios but has now returned to Alphabetical.

Looking for more inspiration?

The D&AD New Blood Awards are a nationwide competition open to university students- many design and advertising courses will provide you with support in entering these competitions.

Explore current and past briefs and winners on the D&AD site and get tips on what entering the competition could do for you.

Check out the Graphic Competitions website for current student competitions
Steven was one of Shernette Daly’s students at Uxbridge College before he went onto university. Explore some of her articles about the world of branding in Related Posts below.

Interested in branding and identity?

BA (Hons) Graphic Branding and Identity