DurhamWorks is a dedicated programme for young people aged 16–24 who are living in County Durham and not in education, employment or training. They have operated since 2016, led by Durham County Council and in partnership with other delivery partners. The £29 million project is funded by The European Social Fund in a bid to help individuals overcome the barriers they might face in getting to where they want to be in the future.
I was informed of the scheme in November 2018, soon after leaving my previous employment in retail, and joined the partnering Citizens Advice training programme in January 2019. While participating on the 12-week course at the Peterlee office, and after discussing my passion for graphic design with my mentor there, I accepted a brief of producing a large piece of design work aiming to promote DurhamWorks and the other organisations it was working with at the time. The completed piece would fill an empty wall in front of the open classroom that the training course took place in, allowing viewers to gain an understanding of the benefits provided by by the DurhamWorks initiative.
My approach to this project was to create something that would stand out to those passing through the corridor, in turn allowing staff members to be reminded of the positive outcomes their work was having, as well as informing service users of the future endeavours they could proceed towards. Initially, there were no plans for something to fill an entire wall; however, because there were no limits specified to the scale I could go to, I knew instantly that I wanted to fill the empty space across from the training room, which was perfect since it was directly in front of participants.
After permission was given to proceed with using the wall, it was a case of measuring it in order to set up an accurately scaled document in Adobe Illustrator. The wall's overall dimensions turned out to be roughly 4.5 × 2 m (h × w), but fire safety equipment and signage being fixed to the side resulted in that section being left blank. With a sufficient workspace still provided, I calculated that the optimal size for the design would be 415.8 × 189 cm (h × w). This equated to exactly 126 sheets of A3 card stock — the desired material to use for the low-budget project — divided into a 14 × 9 grid formation.
The design as a whole followed a green and blue colour scheme throughout, reflecting the DurhamWorks branding. The centrepiece of the mural was the "DurhamWorks world", the concept for which I devised from how service users had a plethora of opportunities available to them that they could take advantage of, which the programme could assist them with. The DurhamWorks logo and 'to improve your future' slogan were positioned inside of the globe illustration, while a circular text path reading the quote 'a world filled with opportunities. With a network of training and support services across County Durham, we can help you reach your potential.' surrounded it. The globe was "orbited" by the logos of the nine organisations that DurhamWorks encompassed at the time: Foundation of Light, Jack Drum Arts, SHAID, DeltaNorth Consett, Citizens Advice County Durham, County Durham Community Foundation, Groundwork, The Cornforth Partnership, and East Durham Business Society. The circles the logos were placed in were filled in a lighter corresponding shade.
In the background were a number of rays emitting from the centre, within which were direct quotes from past participants of the service and the various outcomes of the courses on offer. At the bottom were silhouette-styled illustrations of some notable landmarks from across County Durham and the southern section of its neighbouring county of Tyne and Wear, therefore not County Durham restrictively, despite the DurhamWorks scheme only being available to those living there. These included the ruins of Barnard Castle, Durham Cathedral, and Apollo Pavilion within County Durham; in addition to the Wearmouth Bridge, Northern Spire Bridge, and Penshaw Momument to the south of Tyne and Wear.
Typography wise, the quotes and outcomes of the scheme, written along the rays, were styled in the Futura Bold font, which I chose for its easy legibility and visual aesthetic. I lowered the opacity of these slightly, allowing the background to filter through yet the text to be clearly visible in front. The message along the circular path was written in Citizen's Advice's corporate typeface, Open Sans, of which I used the Bold variant. I matched the fill colour to the blue in the globe, which contrasted the bright glow effect behind it for advanced readability.
Once the artwork was completed, the individual sheets of card had to be accurately trimmed, by hand, with a guillotine. They were then were secured to the wall with pieces of Blu Tack in each corner. Being carried out by hand, it took a lot of patience to ensure the outcome of the wall was successful. Most of the sheets had to be reapplied in order to line up correctly, and some had to be reprinted as a result of scuffing from the Blue Tack. Thankfully, the application process only took a couple of attempts before it was finalised.
The wall design was well-received by employees, participants and visitors alike when completed, and I was given a tremendous amount of praise for the effort and dedication put into it. I later received a nomination for the "Going the Extra Mile Award" at the annual DurhamWorks Achievement Awards ceremony that took place in May 2019, which I unexpectedly won. Unfortunately, the design was only on display for around four months before having to be taken down, as plans were put in place to move the Peterlee Citizens Advice office to another unit in the town centre. It was intended to be put up in the new office, but delays in securing the unit, and then the initial coronavirus lockdown forcing everything to a sudden halt, ultimately meant this never happened.
To date, the wall has been my largest-scale piece of work, and I'm proud that I was given the opportunity of exhibiting my skills to members of the local community, especially to promote such a fantastic scheme that was helping everyday young people. As of 2021, DurhamWorks has supported 10,000 young people, with the goal expected to climb to 15,000 by December 2023. I was one of the ten thousand already supported, and have a lot of gratitude to not only the programme, but four of its employees at the Peterlee Citizens Advice office: Claire Wright, Mary Stevenson, Eve Galloway and Gail Rayner, who helped me develop my confidence while working on various projects with them.