On the 6th March, ten students from the CSVPA Graduate School, responding to a brief given by HEARST UK, were invited to present creative design proposals for a new luxury product to Alex Bilmes, the Editor in Chief of Esquire, Lauren Jones, Art Director for Esquire, and Sharon Douglas, the Managing Director of Brand Diversification.

The Masters courses at CSVPA are delivered in partnership with HEARST UK (publishers of Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Esquire magazines and more) who support our students’ creative growth and industry knowledge, as well as providing them with a stepping stone into the industry. This partnership gives students unparalleled access to experienced professionals who impart invaluable insights into what it is like to work in modern creative industries.  

CSVPA Masters Students at House of Hearst
Photo courtesy of HEARST UK

The brief outlined by HEARST UK was to create a brand identity and present creative concepts for either a whiskey or a watch to be launched by Esquire, one of the world’s most sophisticated men’s style, culture and lifestyle magazines. Our artists and designers were asked to question “If Esquire was a whiskey or watch, what would it look like?”. A key part of the brief was also to propose an existing company within the field of timepiece or whiskey production with whom Esquire could collaborate with to bring this new product to fruition.

The project required our students to not only craft appropriate designs and branding visuals to appeal to Esquire’s demographic of readers, but to truly understand the brand itself – it’s image, ethos and mission.

Standing in front of a panel formed of Alex Bilmes, Lauren Jones and Sharon Douglas, students presented their design concepts, revealing their inspiration, discussing their research and explaining how it has informed their creative decisions.

Each pitch was as unique as the student who presented it. Anna, an MA Fashion: Branding & Creative Communications student, introduced the panel to a revolutionary new whiskey for the man of the future with a global conscience. With a thought-providing slogan, “Because your social impact defines your status”, her progressive, biodynamic and sustainably produced whiskey focuses on quality over quantity, reflecting a responsible production process. Her concept moved beyond the product and included the prospect of social clubs for inspired gentleman to come together in a united aspiration of “not only their own absolute, but to the absolute of humanity”. Alex Bilmes described the concept at “turning an old-fashioned idea on its head and make it progressive and modern.”

MA Graphic Design student Nikita’s creative outcome was inspired by the evolving concept of masculinity, as she questioned ‘What does it mean to be a man today?’. Her final design paired luxury and sophistication with the modern requirements of a smart watch.

Ariba, a textile designer at CSVPA, introduced a modern take on a classic piece through the revival of the pocket watch for the modern man. The importance of heritage and how Esquire “defines and influences what it means to be a man” were her inspiration and she was praised by the panel for her “different approach” to the brief.

Anna drew inspiration from the history of Esquire and its link to literature. Her research followed the mystery of the disappearance of Esquire’s one-time mascot Eski, and re-introducing him as the gentleman narrator of the advertising campaigns for her luxury watch. Sharon Douglas noted her pitch was “really emotional” and commended her “empathy with man and what it’s like to be a man today”. While Alex Bilmes recognised her “deep and thoughtful ideas on masculinity and cancel culture.”

The opportunities available to CSVPA students outside of their course curriculum are endless, with this partnership with HEARST UK being one of them. As a result of the high-quality and distinctive creativity shown through their product designs and pitches, each of the 10 CSVPA students has been offered the opportunity to undertake work experience at the House of Hearst, and to work on a project to enhance their real-world design skills for one of the company’s leading magazines.

Recently, CSVPA Graduate School students have had the opportunity to work with researchers and academics from the University of Cambridge, translating their research into creative concepts in order to share their academic work with a wider audience. This exhibition took place at West Hub, in Cambridge, as part of the Cambridge Festival 2024, through an initiative called Cambridge Creative Encounters. An exhibition was also held at Friar House, during the Cambridge Festival, where our Artists at Large showcased a collection of rapid-response artistic reactions to events, talks and workshops held during the festival to document what they heard, saw and felt.

The MA courses on offer at CSVPA include: MA Fashion: Branding & Creative Communications, MA Fashion: Design, MA Visual Communications: Illustration & Animation, MA Visual Communication: Graphic Design and MA Art & Design.