“I’m a graphic design bore, a geek. I bleed it.” So says Alex Rabone. Practitioner, BA (Hons) Graphic Design lecturer and all-round creative
“I’ve never wanted to do anything other than graphic design,” she says. “It’s absolutely sustained me career-wise. It’s the best subject in the world because you’re exposed to so many different subject areas, environments and people. People trust you to take a job on for their business and if you do it well, it’s incredibly gratifying.”
Alex has been teaching graphic design since 1983. She specialises in creative thinking and typographic communication, combining her teaching with personal practice and ongoing research.
After graduating in her subject from Manchester Metropolitan University, Alex joined Marks and Spencer’s packaging design team at the company’s London head office. She became senior designer, focusing on cosmetic and toiletry packaging design, as well as bilingual packaging for the French-Canadian markets. The mass distribution of packaging holds a certain appeal for the commercial graphic designer, she says, citing a £2.5m-selling Marks and Spencer cosmetic palette box she designed as an example.
Working with Marks and Spencer suppliers and other businesses including Schwarzkopf, Yardleys, Rymans, Richards and Appleby, Alex then set up her own design consultancy, expanding her interests into the food and clothing industries, including Speedo and Pringle.
“I love visual communication and the fact you’re communicating to an audience,” says Alex. “Graphic design is an applied art that’s respected in a business environment.”
She began the teaching aspect of her career at Colchester Institute, where her students achieved two prestigious graphic design D&AD awards. In 1994, she returned to her home city of Hull to teach at Hull School of Art and Design, first on the New Media course, then on Graphic Design, where she developed the D&AD connection.
Alex says: “We take our undergraduate designers down to the national D&AD New Blood exhibition for emerging talent every year. I’m a D&AD university group member, which means I’m committed to supporting students in terms of design and art direction, and to being part of the New Blood design organisation.”
A member of the Chartered Society Of Designers, Alex maintains a connection with the Royal Society Of Arts and the Young Creatives Network, whose student programmes supply briefs and design initiatives for her Hull students. She also reviews academic graphic design books for publishers Lawrence King.
Spatial urban interventions are a particular area of interest – Alex’s students are currently working on an intervention-themed streetwear branding project for a group of young fashion designers. And keeping up-to-date with current thinking and practice is integral to Alex’s approach to her subject.
She says: “Everything we do is research. Graphic design is a fashion-based industry – if you’re not actively aware of trends in typography, colour and style, you’re doomed. It’s our lifeblood.”