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It's Nice That's Ali Hanson on judging this year's CSM degree shows for the MullenLowe NOVA Awards

What do Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Jarvis Cocker, M.I.A and Antony Gormley have in common? Other than being internationally celebrated creatives, each of these big names was at one point a student at London’s world-renowned art, design and performance college, Central Saint Martins. With its long list of impressive alumni, it’s no surprise that the school’s annual degree shows attract a flock of art critics and culture journalists who seek to champion the school’s latest promising artists. 

At the forefront of these celebrations is global marketing communications network, MullenLowe Group. MullenLowe will be returning to the legendary art college for its eighth year running in order to handpick the most exciting and forward-thinking creative talent across a range of disciplines. It will do so in the form of the MullenLowe NOVA Awards; a set of awards that shine a light on innovative artists with unique imagination and ground-breaking creative vision.

From Central Saint Martins’ 1,300 graduating students, the MullenLowe NOVA Awards will be presented to five promising students. Shortlisted work will be displayed at the degree shows with the final winners being announced in July 2018. The awards are an opportunity for students to gain the confidence and drive required to apply their skills beyond their university experience. Previous winners have, for example, gone on to exhibit at London Design Festival and participate in New York and Milan Design Weeks.

This year, MullenLowe Group judges will be joined by designer Hannah Martin, Transition Gallery’s Cathy Lomax, V&A East’s Catherine Ince and It’s Nice That’s own senior creative Ali Hanson. We caught up with Ali to find out a little bit more about judging the MullenLowe NOVA Awards. 

It’s Nice That: What excited you about becoming a judge for the MullenLowe NOVA awards? 

Ali Hanson: It’s exciting to see what graduates are thinking about, what their focus is. I love being able to see new work that surprises me. Students at the top of their game are at an incredibly exciting stage creatively, which can be inspiring to see up close.

INT: What makes a degree show an important part of a young artist’s career?

AH: There’s always so much hype around degree shows. At It’s Nice That we always get excited at this time of year because we know new talent will emerge and inspire us with work, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Degree shows are the catalyst for this in so many ways. If you put your all into the show, nine times out of ten it will kickstart your career.

INT: What do you look for when judging?

AH: We judge so many disciplines from fine art to graphic design to fashion. You have to find a common ground across those disciplines and find a level to judge people fairly on. Seeing things I’d never dreamt of making or thinking of is always the highlight for me. I love to see the approach to craft students have as well, it’s one thing having an idea but if you can realise it in a skilful way that’s what makes a good project great. 

INT: Why do you think initiatives like the MullenLowe NOVA Awards are important?

AH: It gives talented people the leg-up they deserve at such a pivotal moment in their career. I hope it gives anyone nominated for initiatives like NOVA a much-needed confidence boost at a daunting time of entering a competitive industry, whether they win or not.

INT: As an art college graduate yourself, what advice would you give to students looking to continue their work?

AH: You have to hustle. You can’t sit at home, send an email and expect an opportunity to come your way. Make the most of any small opportunity you get. Meet people, send a thousand emails and don’t worry if only ten people reply, speak to everyone who comes to your show, knock on doors, be persistent in getting that meeting and be prepared for when you do get it. Do anything you can to get people excited about you and your work. Be positive, show your hunger and desire to work and things will come your way. Even if things don’t turn out as you hoped when you graduate, don’t let it put you off. Keep going. To use an old adage, success in this industry is certainly a marathon not a sprint.

INT: The MullenLowe ‘YourNOVA’ Award will be open for judging soon, what’s your top tip for people voting in the ‘People’s Choice’ award?

AH: Go with your gut. Ask yourself what moves or surprises you over everything else you’ve seen. It comes down to two things for me. Does the idea feel new and is it beautifully realised.

YourNOVA details:
To see the shortlisted work and cast your vote for the winner of the “people’s choice” MullenLowe YourNOVA Award, visit MullenLoweNOVA.com.
Voting will open online on 25 June and close on 2 July.

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