June 19 2014 | 2:00 pm

Sheffield Institute of Arts


Now might be a good time to get yourself comfortable because this project is a big one… A while ago we were asked by Sheffield Hallam University to pitch for a project which involved visual positioning for their Institute of Arts. Most of Hallam’s higher education arts offer used to live at Psalter Lane, a campus building on the outskirts of Sheffield. A few years ago the arts institute moved from Psalter Lane to various locations in the centre of Sheffield and since then had struggled to unify the offer with something coherent that art students felt they were a part of. That’s where we came in…


As part of the pitch work we engaged in conversations with the marketing team and head of Sheffield Institute of Arts (SIA), interrogating the brief and basically getting down to what was needed. After conducting some research we found that the old Psalter Lane students didn’t realise they were part of an Institute of Arts at all, referring to their place of study as ‘Psalter Lane’. What followed was an idea that was intended to give the institute back to the people who make it what it is – the students, the lecturers and the alumni. This idea was articulated through a campaign message, ‘What AM I?’ which asked people to reflect on what their creative output was, but at the same time posed the question ‘what is the Institute?’. From that idea came months of interviewing, writing, editing, art directing, shooting and designing content to live within a book. Not a prospectus, but a book which would give SIA something to communicate with, set out the stall. It’s a book packed with individual stories, creative work and a real heart. It’s about the city, its output, the people who teach at SIA and the students past and present. This wasn’t only a design job but a content collation, writing and editing job. This book is the SIA bible. In it is everything about the place. That editing process for us went something like this…

We worked with Sheffield writer Tom James to create a tone of voice for the book that felt honest and befitting of a city like ours. Tom used to produce a fanzine about Sheffield and felt like the perfect fit. His emotive style of writing came up with this beautifully written intro…

peter_and_paul_intro_lo copy

We commissioned a foreword by Brendan Dawes who has just had a successful exhibition at the SIA gallery…


We wanted the first part of the book to talk about the city and it’s culture and habit for making – the stories of David Mellor, Park Hill, The Human League and inventing the beautiful game featured. We accompanied the writing with illustrations produced by a team of SIA alumni illustrators.


Illustration: Helen McLafferty



Illustration: Matt Harrison Clough



Illustration: Rowan Roberts



The illustration by Tom J Newell about the ale making in Sheffield, was later used by him as a fathers day present for his dad! The project has life beyond the book!


We organised a shoot to communicate not just the past but the present Sheffield maker community, featuring Sheffield designer/makers like Mamnick, Psalt Design (also SIA graduates) and Field Cycles amongst others.


We met a number of current lecturers and conducted interviews with them about their practice, how they teach and what it’s like to be at SIA. Beautiful editorial photography was shot by India Hobson.




It was these interviews that gave us pearls of wisdom like this from John Kirkby, who leads the packaging design team at Design Futures, SIA’s in-house structural packaging and product ideas factory:



When it came to featuring the students, we selected a group to be photographed with their favourite piece of work made at SIA. To keep it all in the family, we worked with the very talented and promising Dora Damian who has just graduated from SIA’s BA (Hons) in Photography.



This is a shot Dora took on the day and uploaded to her Instagram feed.



Dora Damian — BA (Hons) Photography



Conor Rogers — BA (Hons) Creative Arts Practice



Getting hold of Alumni to photograph was tricky, some of them are working far afield (of course, such is the pedigree of the place), so we worked with our team of SIA alumni and student illustrators to re-interpret their image to accompany their story. Illustrations shown here are by Lewis Currie (above) and Vector that Fox.


All of the above, the positioning, the insight, the image making, the writing, the questions, answers, opinions and stories all culminated in the book. The true story of the Sheffield Institute of Arts.


















Posted by lee