Meet Simon Langer, Proctor and Stevenson Design Awards Finalist
BA (Hons) Graphic Communication graduate Simon Langer was selected this summer as a finalist for the South West Design + Digital Student Awards, run by Proctor and Stevenson, one of the UK's longest-established independent marketing, brand and design agencies.
We spoke to Simon, who is originally from the Czech Republic and founded his own design business Langer Studio, about his entry to the awards, what inspires him in design and what he learned during his time studying at Arts University Plymouth.
Hi Simon. Can you tell us a little about your Design + Digital entry?
Fashion waste accounts for roughly 20% of total landfill and ocean garbage as of 2022. My entry, GARB, is a brand that refurbishes the old, to create the new. It takes and resurrects old, donated garments from clothing bins, local charity shops and left-over supply from mainstream fast fashion brands. They are combined, shredded, or stitched together to make new, bespoke outfits
The project’s brand strategy was to overlook any greenwashing trends; not using the colour green, any leaf symbols or any buzzwords such as recycle, sustainability or eco-friendly! My thinking was deeper and centred on using a bold visual language that creates a social community feel. This meant devising an expressive, dynamic, and loud identity that was attention-grabbing.
I decided that instead of having a primary focus on areas such as the logo design, or typography, I would centre the brand around strong model photography. I focused on the model's expression, integrating the bespoke patterns created for every product separately.
Because every garment is different, each needed a custom look and feel. This meant a custom colour, pattern and model for every artefact, which were all pulled out of the product’s features. It is used throughout the brand's touchpoints, including the online store, print advertising and social media channels. It was important to me that GARB needs to be bold, authentic, and contemporary and I hoped my design achieved that.
GARB, Mock-up for Ipad
How was your experience of entering the competition?
I had entered competitions before, so I was well prepared. It was an open brief and I could submit whatever I was currently working on and/or was important to me. The final interview could seem intimidating for many, but being in these situations before, I knew it was about making a comfortable environment for me as well as the judges, resulting in a great chat for both sides I got positive feedback from the judges and although I was a little disappointed in not getting placed higher, they gave me some really useful comments.
I think it is important to remind yourself in these circumstances that design is subjective. The thing about design, specifically branding, is that you have the fundamental power to change people's perception about anything, but some people will disagree with you. That’s the beauty and nature of art. What I love is not going to taste the same for everyone, just like food! I personally feel that the best design is art that fits into society, so for me it’s about really letting your imagination flow without boundaries. Ultimately I am really happy and humbled to have made it as far as I did.
GARB, By Simon Langer
What made you choose a degree at Arts University Plymouth?
I was born in the Czech Republic, where I spent many years competitively swimming and studying violin to a high level. Living in multiple places throughout my life, I was attracted to Plymouth by the Leander swimming club, which has a great reputation. I loved the slower pace, as well as the quiet and natural habitat. I have lived in large urban cities before and wanted something different. It was important to me to be in a place that was peaceful and surrounded by natural beauty, like the ocean. As far as the surrounding environment is concerned, being surrounded by the moors and sea, Plymouth is incomparable.
Arts University Plymouth stood out because of the fantastic facilities. Even as a small independent university, AUP has a wide reach. I loved the access I had to the facilities and how much cross-pollination there is between disciplines. I have tried glass blowing and really recommend it! I also love how you can book into the various facilities, there are no barriers between departments and doors are always open for you to try a new skill. I have enjoyed fantastic guidance from the course tutors. Amanda Duffin was a brilliant mentor, her passion for design was obvious as was her enthusiasm for sharing it with her students. Having the task of taking over the course in 2021, Frédérique Santune has also been a brilliant guide for me, especially when it comes to research and idea development in every part of a project.
Outside of your study, are there any other experiences that have shaped the way that you work?
One of the aspects of design I somewhat disagree with is the power social media has on our lives. There are many brands that use it to their advantage in unethical ways, in my opinion, that it ends up having such a large impact on mental health and human behaviour. It is often sad to see people comparing themselves to each other to a level where wealth, fame and social status becomes their priority in life, completely changing their definition of what happiness means. As a natural overthinker, it is something I have fallen victim to myself. That’s part of the reason I took so long to develop my website, I was always questioning if it was good enough. I have such high standards and expectations of myself.
I think this pressure I put myself under contributed to certain health problems when I was at swimming training. I had a major incident in the pool resulting in me having to be rescued and taking a long break. As I don’t remember much of it, it was more traumatic for my friends, family and training partners, more than for myself. I left Plymouth for a year and went home to look after myself. It taught me to take things a lot slower and understand compromise. The biggest thing to help me find myself again was psychotherapy and I recommend that to anyone going through a tough time!
Where do you envision yourself heading next?
I have been working as a freelance designer, building up my own business. It was great to grow something that was mine and I certainly expect myself to build it further in the future. Now I am looking at work opportunities for some other branding companies in Europe. Being a part of a large and diverse team is something that excites me, and will give me the knowledge of how to build my creative orchestra one day. I am really excited to take the next step in my career and discover where it takes me.