What is Unit X? A Student Perspective

Video produced by Danny Orwin

This year we have had a short film produced with some current students offering their perspectives on Unit X, and how their thoughts have changed since they were first introduced to it during their first year.

We hope you find it useful, and that it may answer any questions you have with regards to Unit X. Click on the link below and enjoy!

What is Unit X?


Gallery: Unit X Festival 2017

Images provided by staff from Manchester School of Art

Following a truly fantastic week of events, below is a gallery of images from this year’s Unit X Festival, along with photographs from activities and events that happened during the Unit.


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Unit X Festival 2017 – Punk Project

Words & Images: Aimee Plumbley

‘I didn’t know what to put here’ consisted of three exhibitions made up of contributions from students studying Curating; Textiles; 3D design; Fashion and Art Direction; Interactive Arts; Graphic design, and Fashion design.

Students investigated the wider theme of Punk, and interpreted ‘new Punk’ and considered whether Punk still has currency. The outcome of this resulted in a mixture of zines, photo exhibitions, graphic scrapbooks and exhibits. Themes such as feminism, inequality, politics and climate change were explored. The response to the theme was a physical manifestation of contemporary issues and anxieties of young people, as well as an opportunity to express rebellion and protest to them.

The quality of work produced was amazing, well done to everyone involved.

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Unit X Festival 2017 – Inspired by Ceremony

Words & Images: Aimee Plumbley

Unit X students and staff occupied Bruntwood’s NEO building on Tuesday night. Animation, filmmaking and photography student’s short films were displayed across the enormous digital screens in the lobby area.

The short films were inspired by Phil Collins’ ‘Ceremony’, dedicated to Friedrich Engels, as part of the Manchester International Festival.



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Unit X Festival 2017 – Identity

Words & Images: Aimee Plumbley

First year Three Dimensional Design and Interior Design students displayed their work in Manchester’s quirkiest independent bookshop ‘Chapter One’ as part of the Unit X Festival.

Interior Design students responded to the concept of ‘paper towns’, which are towns or places created by mapmakers that don’t exist, in order to deter plagiarism. Students explored the concept of ‘paper towns’ within the Manchester context. The response to this topic varied greatly; from the placement of fake blue plaques misplacing Manchester’s history, to dreamy visual constructions depicting fake towns in popular culture and the blending between realities.

3D Design students explored the identity of Manchester in their pieces. The prevalent themes were: what Manchester is, its histories, its culture and what Manchester could be in the future. Students drew on things such as Manchester’s architecture; communities; industrial past; homelessness issue; drug culture- to defining events such as the Strangeways riots. Pieces included ‘knuckledusters’ made out of everyday objects and accompanying zine, inspired by the Strangeways riots, to plant pots inspired by Manchester’s connection with its canals and sustainability.

Well done to everyone involved!

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Punk Workshop

Words: Aimee Plumbley

Images: Zoe Hitchen

Last week, level five students on the option three Punk project stream took part in a process led workshop held by graphic designer Malcolm Garrett, and stylist and art director Judy Blame. Malcolm and Judy are old school punks who studied in Manchester in the 1970s.


The students prepared research in advance of the workshop, which fed into a physical response to image and identity. The brief required students to ask questions such as ‘What inspires/ frustrates you?’ and ‘What do you feel a part of?’ to inspire their physical manifestations of punk.

Our students approached the brief from different perspectives, and the physical responses varied. Some of the ideas explored throughout the workshop included:

  • Punk and femininity acting as masks.
  • The commodification of punk and feminism. Especially conversation i.e. wearing the punk aesthetic, but not actually making any political statement.
  • Does punk still have currency? What is punk in 2017? In this world of hyper-reality, is making conversation with eye contact breaking the norm and rebelling? Could putting away our phones and in fact talking to one another be punk?

Malcolm explained the workshop was a unique opportunity for students to act unprofessionally in a professional setting, the punk aesthetic after all is supposed to be fun. The students were learning in a different style of learning as opposed to usual workshops at University.

“Punk encouraged personal expression and endorsed positive, personal intervention in society.”

We caught up with a second year Interactive Arts student who found the workshop “exciting”, and was inspired by the sense of community in collaborating with various creative students. She felt the workshop “allowed me to express how I’d like to present my work”, and was a welcome break from the academic model.

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Inspirer Talk – DR ME

Words: Aimee Plumbley

DR.ME is made up of Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards. DR.ME is in fact an acronym of their names. Ryan and Mark met on their first day at Manchester Met, and have continued to collaborate ever since. At University they both decided working for a design studio wasn’t the direction they wanted to be in and instead set up DR.ME, their own personal design studio.

The session covered pieces of work they had done, and tips and insights behind the work that helped DR.ME grow.

The session opened with a film documenting DR.ME’s ‘365 Days of Collage’ project, which invited the studio to commission a new piece of collage every day over the course of the year.

Mark reflected “it started a fire in us, in regards to the immediacy and speed in which we could create collage. We could approach so many subjects in a short space of time”.

On the back of this, DR.ME approached Thames and Hudson to publish a compendium, ‘Cut That Out’, celebrating different graphic designers who are excelling in the field of producing collage. They quickly realised that the preconceived idea that collage just involves copying and pasting paper is wrong. ‘Cut That Out’ demonstrated that collage isn’t limited to one medium, but can incorporate many elements, from photography to fashion design.

Ryan and Mark admitted they did not study curation, but rather it was something they had developed naturally. This was especially enhanced by the one-day exhibitions they put on monthly during their time at University. The Waiting Room was held at Nexus Art Café, and would invite artists from across the UK to hold mini exhibitions and live screen-printings.

“We were reaching out to people we admired, and making connections whilst we were still at Uni.”

Due to their pro-activeness and network of artists they had built up, they landed an exhibition at Urban Outfitters called ‘Like What Kids Do’ after they graduated. This then led on to being invited to curate a month-long exhibition in New York with Mike Perry called ‘Wondering around Wandering’. The experience from the Waiting Room was essential in obtaining these opportunities.

DR.ME also work with musicians and design record sleeves, posters and even a music video for Dutch Uncles. Ryan reiterated the importance of having a large network and getting yourself out there, “knowing people in bands got us some of our first jobs”. It was when they were producing Dutch Uncle’s sleeve they established a manifesto, that is, everything is primarily hand-made with the bare minimum of computer tweaking as it’s “got a more truthful aesthetic”.

“Don’t limit yourself to one medium, if you’re a creative student you can do anything”

You shouldn’t have to work for free, but in some circumstances it is beneficial for both parties. This rang true in regards to the work that DR.ME produces for Midi Festival. Midi Festival lost their funding and sought DR.ME to design their poster and murals. Sometimes “you have to rely on your gut and work out whether… whether you like the commissioner, believe in them and can trust them”. In the long run, it turned out to be a fruitful relationship.

“Failure is more important than successes. You learn from mistakes, and learn not be scared to try new things.”

Ryan and Mark then turned to what inspires them as a collective studio. They referenced ‘Beautiful Losers’ as a source of inspiration. Beautiful Losers is a documentary that follows a group of friends who are making art, it showed Ryan and Mark that you can survive outside of a studio and make money. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhS3BjEuGCY

They also felt the time they interned at Mike Perry’s studio a turning point. Mike would be in his studio from 7am to 7pm. He taught Ryan and Mark how to run a studio; not just the ‘cool stuff’ but the day-to-day stuff like paying bills and creating because you have spare time.

They also credit James Victore’s ‘Burning Questions’ webcast (Link), and travelling as a way to gain and engage with different perspectives. And finally, ‘friendship’ ensure you surround yourself with good people. People who will inspire you. Not only illustrators, designers and makers, but musicians, photographers, fashion designers etc.

Thanks to Ryan and Mark for dropping in! Follow them at @DRME_Studio,and check out their exhibition in Leeds ‘Shoulda woulda coulda’ on 31st March/1 April.