The white stuff
2015 graphic design graduate Josefine Liland’s innovative final-year project, Whiteness, has been featured by Sandu Publishing in their book Bells and Whistles – Printing with Special Effects.
The centrepiece of Josefine’s project was a book of her own, which blended textures, text, macro photography and pristine whiteness. “The whole book is white – from the cover to every single page,” Josefine explains. “And it had to stay that way – any finger marks or coffee spill would ruin the whole concept. I forced everyone who touched my book to wear gloves – and to reinforce that ‘rule’ I had to present the book with my gloves on in every picture.”
Josefine came to Southampton Solent University from Norges Kreative Høyskole in Oslo, Norway, to finish her degree on Solent’s graphic design top-up. “Solent is not the university closest to Oslo, but it has the best reputation. [Solent Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design] Paul Shakespeare came to NKH in Oslo – he seemed like the perfect tutor, and talked warmly about both Oslo and Southampton. I think it was mainly because of him, but also because of Solent’s reputation.”
For Josefine, it turned out to be the right decision. “I had the most amazing year at Solent. I moved to Southampton not knowing anybody, but I have got lots of new friends from my time there. I’ve also met great tutors that have taught me a lot about a career within graphics…”
Learning from professional practice
It’s the practicing professional expertise of Solent’s academic staff which Josefine feels really contributed to her growth as a graphic designer. “My tutors back in Norway had only one job: tutoring. The tutors in England had their own companies or did freelancing for others, so it was very interesting to see the up-to-date designs that my tutors were working on.
“I have also learned a whole lot about working on huge projects, which you can make so much better over time. I had only worked on projects for about a month before; whereas with Whiteness I had nine months!”
Making up the bulk of Josefine’s final project, the book was seventy pages – covering everything from snow and fog to white wooden houses on Norway’s southern coastline, different cultural concepts and values attached to the colour, and why you should wash your white underwear with coloured clothes. “It is all very random,” Josefine jokes, “but somehow I made it work anyhow.”
Josefine had been using the online portfolio service Behance for years, but never uploaded her work before her last year in Oslo. “I’ve always used it for inspiration,” she says, “but it was not before June 2015, that it led to professional connections for me.”
The only contact info Josefine listed on Behance was a link to her personal website, which listed her email address. So when an editor at Sandu Publishing got in touch with her, she wasn’t sure what to make of it at first.
“I thought this was all a joke – a spam mail. I remember reading it early in the morning, and did not quite understand that this was for real. I forwarded the mail to Paul [Shakespeare, her tutor], and asked him if this was real. Paul and I did some research around Sandu Publishing, and I found out that I’ve actually looked in some of their books before!”
“I thought it was a really good way to gain exposure, and of course a huge compliment and honour that they thought my project was good enough for a professional design book.” With an initial print run of 5,000 copies, Bells and Whistles is distributed internationally – and Josefine’s personal copy recently arrived in Oslo, to her delight.
Designing a career
While Bells and Whistles has only just been published, Josefine’s already making headway when it comes to her career. “Right now I work at the Norwegian magazine and book company called Fri Flyt, who publish six different magazines and several books, every few months. I’ve got a paid internship here, and have already learned very much about the magazine industry.
“The whole idea around internships was unknown to me before Solent – I did not know that many companies wanted students for a short period so they could learn from professionals. I’m also working on rebranding for a sports store here in Oslo. Busy life!”
And her time at Solent has helped – not just with design skills, but with language ones as well. “I wrote and worked with English all day,” she says. “English is a world language, so if you speak it well, you will sometimes be more interesting than others at a job interview.”
Josefine couldn’t be happier with how things are working out. “A career as a graphic designer can be a bit tough to get into at the start,” she says, “but knowing that you can do something you love for the rest of your life should be motivation enough!”