York College

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14th June 2016

Two talented Graphic Design students Sara Merkaj and Gabrielle Gray have risen to the challenge to re-brand The Red Tower on York’s city walls, giving it a new identity to aid its regeneration.

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The Red Tower is York’s hidden gem. Having been unused and closed to visitors until recently, it is being revitalised by a group of dedicated volunteers who are keen to see the building and its garden put to good use. Located on the medieval city walls, along from Walmgate Bar, the quirky red brick building plans to open its ancient doors and welcome local businesses and community groups, creating a much-needed community hub in one of York’s most historic and under-utilised buildings.

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Kate Pettitt, Director of York-based design company, Bivouac, who is also an alumni of the College’s Graphic Design degree course, put The Red Tower in touch with York College. Kate provided guidance throughout the project, helping the students to understand the brief and the challenges of working with modest production budgets, typical for social enterprises and small businesses.

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Alan Preston, course leader on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, welcomed the opportunity for his students to get involved, saying: “The Red Tower Design Project was an excellent opportunity for the students to put their design skills into practice in a ‘real life’ commercial situation. Working in collaboration with a range of specialists, the students generated ideas and created the visual branding for The Red Tower York and then presented them to their clients. After receiving feedback, they further developed a range of designs to professional standards. They enjoyed working on a design project which celebrates part of York’s heritage and they gained a real insight into business practice."

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The project involved students in pitching their skills in response to the brief, working to strict deadlines, showing flexibility in responding to client’s needs, meeting suppliers and being fully involved in all aspects of the design process from start to completion.  Student Gabrielle Gray said: “As a Graphic Design student in the final year of my degree, the Red Tower project was an opportunity to gain experience of working with a client as well as working in a professional design studio. The project has been a great experience and interesting learning curve working alongside the Red Tower team and Kate from Bivouac. This was an opportunity that I could not turn down and I would like to thank everyone involved.”

The Red Tower team is delighted with the results of the collaboration, which will help to raise awareness of The Red Tower and its future fundraising activities to keep its doors open for the enjoyment and benefit of residents and tourist visitors alike. Katrina Foxton (University of York) has been involved as a volunteer and PhD researcher at the Red Tower since January 2015, and worked on the brief for the students. She said, “The Red Tower team aims to restore this unique, quirky building as a space for many to enjoy. As part of my research I have been documenting the efforts to make Red Tower a special place in York's local scene. It's been a fun project and we are looking forward to see it grow, especially now it has a strong image”.

The Red Tower is open most weekends during the summer and runs occasional special events and activities.  Find out more, or become involved as a volunteer on the The Red Tower Facebook page or on Twitter: @RedTowerYork1 .

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BA (Hons) Graphic Arts


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