Top Marks For GCA’s University Challenge With Student Winners Announced

The winner and two runners-up of the GCA Thinking of You design a card competition, run in conjunction with University of Hertfordshire’s School of Creative Arts have just been announced.

Joana Dionísio’s ‘Sending Hugs’ design (pictured top in the centre), created with her long-distance boyfriend in mind, was pronounced the winner, while Anna Żelasko’s ‘I’ve got you on my mind’ frog and snail design and Ally Williams’ sentiment-based card, inspired by her grandfather, are the two runners-up winners. All three will see their designs turned into actual cards, printed by Loxleys, with Joana’s going on sale in House of Cards’ six shops.

The competition, which involved issuing a design brief to the university’s second and third year Illustration & Graphic Design undergraduates, is part of the GCA’s thrust to engage with the next generation of card designers, making them aware of the potential and creative opportunities in the greeting card sector.

Above: After meeting all the students, GCA’s Amanda Fergusson (top right) and Second Nature’s Chris Bryan (top left) and senior lecturer Dr Thomas Cuschieri spent extra time with (bottom left-right) Joana Dionísio, Ally Williams and Anna Żelasko.
Above: After meeting all the students, GCA’s Amanda Fergusson (top right) and Second Nature’s Chris Bryan (top left) and senior lecturer Dr Thomas Cuschieri spent extra time with (bottom left-right) Joana Dionísio, Ally Williams and Anna Żelasko.

This morning (May 13) the GCA’s ceo Amanda Fergusson and Chris Bryan, joint general manager of Second Nature (and vice president of the GCA) attended a meeting (via Zoom), organised by Dr Thomas Cuschieri, the senior lecturer of the course, with all the students who had submitted entries. They were able to share feedback on all the designs from the judging panel (which included House of Cards’ Miles Robinson. Adriana Lovesy of Mrs Lovesy, Loxleys’ Alice Buck, PG’s Jakki Brown as well as Amanda and Chris).

Commenting on the project, Dr Thomas Cuschieri said it “was a really fantastic experience for our students, and a great opportunity for them to gain a better understanding of the greetings card world. It’s great to see the industry nurturing the next generation of illustrators and designers – especially during such volatile times. Chris, Amanda and the whole team at the GCA were extremely supportive and encouraging, and the students clearly responded very positively. On a personal level I’m excited about seeing my students’ work being stocked in shops, knowing that these cards will bring joy and comfort.”

Winner: Joana Dionísio:

Joana created her Thinking of You design with her long-distance boyfriend in mind, who she has not seen in half a year due to the pandemic.

Above: Joana’s winning design.
Above: Joana’s winning design.

“My whole design concept is based on the idea of a hug or hugging. Considering the tough times we live in and how hard it is to meet up with people who are far away, I wanted a design that would be pretty universal that anyone could choose to send. I leaned into the idea of hugging and created some type that itself is hugging (with the arms wrapping around the letters). Not only that, I also wanted emphasis on love, so I designed a heart-shaped floral crown around the typography. With this, accompanied by the soft and warm colour palette, I hoped to convey a ‘cosy’ feeling to the card design.”

Commenting on the experience, Joana said: “Thank you so much again for the initiative and for the amazing feedback on the designs, it was an amazing brief to work on!”

Runner-Up: Ally Williams

Ally created her Thinking of You design with her grandad (Noo-Noo) in mind.

Above: Ally took a scripted approach with her submission.
Above: Ally took a scripted approach with her submission.

“My Grandad is pretty much housebound and sits in his armchair by the window all day – when we go to visit he likes to tell us about everything that’s happened in the past week while my Granny goes to make us cups of tea. He likes to watch the birds that go under the cars on the drive and the squirrels stealing the nuts from the feeders and tells me what the neighbours are up to because I can’t see them from where I’m sat. He starts up a childlike chant while he waits for his food, and gets me to join in with him. A couple of years ago, when we were leaving and saying our goodbyes, he pulled me to the side and said: “keep smiling”. It was out of the blue and yet exactly what I needed and I have never forgotten it. When I next saw him, I asked if he could write that down for me so I could keep it  on my person wherever I go. He’s stuck in an armchair and in a cycle of ‘eat and sleep and exist’, but is able to find happiness in anything.”

Commenting on the experience, Ally said: “I was absolutely thrilled that the judges found my design ‘heartwarming’ – the fact that it resonates with others is a wonderful feeling, and it makes me so happy that there are more people out there just like my grandad. Being with my grandparents and thinking about spending time with them properly in the coming months always gives me that little bit of strength for the day, like so many people do for others, and I’m so grateful to be able to pass that message on.”

Runner-up: Anna Żelasko

Anna created her ‘Thinking of You’ card design for friends and people she has not been able to see in a while, to remind them that she is still thinking about them.

Above: Historic reference came to play in Anna’s design.
Above: Historic reference came to play in Anna’s design.

“My main inspiration for this card design were Victorian greeting cards with frogs. These designs often featured frogs in human like poses and portrayed the frogs murdering each other or engaging in similar morbid situations, while the messages of the cards still read a cheery ‘hearty wishes’ and the like. People enjoyed these due to the humorous juxtaposition and the appeal of frogs. While I did not want to make another design for the series, I did consider these while researching for my design. I decided to avoid the morbid aspect of the Victorian cards and came up with my own design featuring this frog with a snail on its head and the phrase ‘I’ve got you on my mind’ as a play on words.”

As the GCA’s Amanda Fergusson summed up: “It has been such a wonderful experience for all involved, and so important for us as an industry to interact with the next generation of greeting card creatives. The students’ enthusiasm and creativity in responding to the brief, as well as the enlightening back stories to all the designs submitted, show how greeting cards continue to resonate with students.”

The hope is that more members of the greeting card community will be inspired to forge relationships with schools, colleges and universities using the resources on the GCA website.

Background for people looking to visit their school/college

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