If you hold with the belief that every picture tells a story, the SWIFT Team like to think that this is especially true for our artwork.
You will see our luminous, colourful characters in assorted school situations on our website, flyers, newsletters, socials; even Christmas and thank you cards and other messaging to you.
Whatever your personal point of view, it would seem to be a truth universally acknowledged that modern life is visual and your brand matters. It speaks of who you are – whether that is you as a person and/or your organisation and what you stand for and believe in and how you share this brand with your audience – and thinking big as we like to do at SWIFT, sharing it with the world!
Schools encourage their children and young people to stand out from the crowd. To be their own person. To embrace their own creative and individual potential. And whilst PR photographs serve a purpose to model positive behaviour and situations to staff and young people; we wanted to complement these pictorial representations in our communications and building on this thinking, we commissioned Olivia Petrini, a talented former Sixth Form student from Colyton Grammar School - the lead school for our Colyton Teaching Hub - to work with us on this project.
It was to be an insightful exercise. We had to consider how to transmute our SWIFT vision and values as two of the Department for Education’s Teaching School Hubs in creating high-quality opportunities for staff to learn, develop and connect, so that all children, especially the disadvantaged, achieve the best educational outcomes into a series of images that would stand out and show our schools and partners what we believe in at SWIFT.
Communication is everything to us. Our communication commitment is to be clear, concise, humble, together with schools and relevant for schools and we were to discover that this was a good starting point for our SWIFT artwork.
At the heart of our artwork is staff and pupils. Think of the designs of schoolchildren in the yard with their smart uniforms and school bags. Think of the teacher with the wizard’s paintbrush inspiring her pupils. Of the pupil diligently sat at their desk arm raised to answer the teacher’s question with a genuine alacrity and alertness.
In discussing with Olivia our brief and intended outcomes for the artwork, it was clear that she was every inch an artist with art having always played a part in her life since a young age. At school, Olivia studied Art GCSE and A Level and for fun, she kept a sketch book alongside her coursework as a space for therapeutic doodling and jotting down ideas. It was following her success in designing - and winning – a Science Department post card competition, that Olivia soon stood out from the crowd and became the de facto resident digital artist at Colyton designing similar subject artwork for other subjects. Our confidence soared. Olivia was the artist we were looking for and what super-serendipity in endorsing the creative circle to think that she was a student at our lead school.
The design work for SWIFT was an iterative process through a series of meetings with Executive Director, Martin Smith and the then, SWIFT Deputy Director, Chris Harris who shared their vision for the SWIFT artwork. A quick confession. Olivia admitted that to start with the SWIFT artwork was not really her style, which is more detailed and textural, often using a digital brush to mimic a pencil led, before including more detail in the character faces and illustrating with patterned clothing and background elements.
But as the design discussions developed, she was able to adapt her work to the current SWIFT style that we know and love today and the way the abstractified forms of block uniform clothing and pupils and staff without facial details for instance, can cheerfully convey the work of SWIFT, and the messaging of Teaching School Hubs of diversity, equity and inclusion, progress, and teamwork, to name but a few. Moreover, and rather lovely in the true spirit of SWIFT, it allowed Olivia to express in the artwork a fun, creative element with a lively and colourful playfulness. After all, we want the educational journey to benefit and boost our schools and their staff and students.
You can see here some of the evolutionary design journey starting with small compositional thumbnail sketches, that progressed into the developmental mood boards with images and what was to become the SWIFT “corporate” colour palette that grew into the more detailed drawings. As with any artist – famous and humble, it is always thrilling to observe their early work as we can show here Olivia’s loosely mapped-out compositions by hand using paper and pen, before setting forth to sketch out the designs digitally.
Interestingly, the most challenging aspect for Olivia was to create a consistent style. We like consistency at SWIFT. We believe it speaks true to our dependability and commitment to our partners and schools. The temptation was for her to add more detail and to embellish the designs to “unnecessary” lengths. But thanks to the guidance of Martin and Chris, she came to understand the importance of maintaining a recognisable uniform SWIFT style and once she was into an effective workflow mode she produced her pleasingly consistently-styled illustrations.
As our work has grown as Teaching School Hubs in delivering the Department for Education’s Golden Thread, we have introduced more designs that we enjoy using to illustrate our offer to schools. Now in its second year, we like to think that our artwork is established and an essential part of our SWIFT DNA. Natural and intuitive.
We are proud of our SWIFT artwork that sings to our SWIFT tune and hope that it tells the story of our ethos and identity and hope that you will have enjoyed gaining an understanding of some of the thought that has gone into the artwork.
But also importantly, may this happy design experience for us at SWIFT be an exciting inspiration to enlighten other aspiring artists and designers in our schools so that you know you can make a difference and share your magic in pictorial form.