Melanie Smith graduated from PG Dip Design for Visual Communication at London College of Communication in 2013.
She has since gone on to set up her own business STORY.
STORY was created to design and produce new storytelling adventure products for children. After successfully launching their first ‘Walk-in-Book’ on Kickstarter in 2015, STORY recently launched their first Walk-in-Book for sale on their online shop and Not On The High Street.
To date, STORY has been awarded the 2014 Santander Brighton University Enterprise award
and the 2014 UAL SEED fund. The company was also shortlisted for the Santander University 60 second pitch awards in January 2015.
In addition to running STORY, Melanie is also a freelance designer and illustrator
with a studio in Brighton, working for small businesses and cultural institutions.
What was the most important thing you were taught while studying at UAL?
I was taught lots of great technical stuff about design, but probably more importantly I learnt that you have to be very focused and to be your best self. I learnt to iterate, and reiterate my designs until they emerged from the page as something that worked well. I learnt how to really communicate my message through the medium I was using.
How do you think your time at UAL has impacted your life and work?
I think it has made me more ambitious. During my studies, I was surrounded by incredibly talented people, and I knew that in order to make a mark for myself in the world, I had to work hard, and to create my own voice.
Can you tell us more about your business, STORY?
STORY evolved from a series of experimental walks and maps I created whilst at LCC. I wanted to encourage people to look at the world in more detail, to take in their surroundings and interact with the environment in a more mindful and creative way. STORY was an attempt to expand upon this idea, to think about the idea of walks being a set of stories, which would be more suitable for children.
Our first product is called a Walk-in-Book. It is essentially a deconstructed book in which you have a map of different story locations, a story character, a mask so the child can become a character in the story, a set of Story beginning cards to start the stories off, and quest cards in case you get stuck. The great thing is, you can augment the set with other favourite characters, teddies, masks and so on. The book becomes an endless set of possibilities for story making.
The books are shown to stimulate creative thinking, teach children about story making and how to engage collaboratively with parents and peers in a non-competitive and fun activity.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I was proud to win Most Creative Entrepreneur at the UAL Creative Enterprise week in 2014. There were so many talented people who were up for awards, I didn’t think I’d stand a chance. I was completely blown away to win – and felt so proud. The award sits proudly on my desk!
What advice would you like to give to current UAL students that want to be successful illustrators and business owners like you?
My advice is to talk to as many peers as you can, and get them to share contacts, suppliers, and generally helpful people who can give you a push in the right direction. To use the resources from UAL – they are brilliant at knowing what opportunities there are for students and graduates. And also to trust your own individual voice and talent. It’s very easy to be swayed by what is popular, but I feel what is most important is not to regurgitate stuff that’s already being made, but to be brave and go with your own voice. It will help you to stand out from the crowd, and you’ll feel better for following your own path.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to see STORY continue to grow, with different editions of the Walk-in-Books being produced and available for sale in more galleries and museums. I’d like to know that my products are helping children to get off their screens and find a similar joy and excitement in using their own imaginations.
I’d also like to write and illustrate a more traditional picture book. I’ve got a few ideas swirling around.