Five Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students who collaborated on a project set by the BBC for Edinburgh Festivals have been awarded a coveted D&AD Pencil award. D&AD have been awarding Pencils for over fifty years and they are highly revered within the design and advertising world.

The Actor Who project allows people to participate in a play by auditioning in an Edinburgh phone booth, while online audiences watch and vote on Twitter. This multi-platform experience lets participants work together to create a story wherever they are in the world, bringing the Edinburgh Festivals to them.

Xian Tang, Kiersten Hay, Jingwei Zhang, Parul Sharma and Xinqi Lu developed the award-winning idea while taking the "Design with Data" course on the Design Informatics - MFA/MA programme. The team were led by Dave Murray-Rust, the Programme Director for Design Informatics.

“For us, the most important part of the brief was about capturing the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival and then giving that to an international audience," said Kiersten, "The spirit of The Fringe is that of being both an audience member and a performer, and kind of serendipitously stumbling across something that you may not have considered.”

“We were playing around with the phone booth idea for a while because it’s so iconic to the UK, but we were definitely stuck in finalising our idea," said Parul, "Our tutor, Mark, suggested we go to the booth around the corner, and I don’t know if it was just fresh air but seeing it and stepping in helped us to formalise the idea. It cemented it.”

Design Informatics is an interdisciplinary programme which bring designers and computer scientists together. Often, these students approach tasks, problems and projects from quite different angles, meaning they can create something innovative and fresh.

“In our team, we had two people from the traditional design side and three people from the traditional computer side," said Kiersten, "we’d been in this programme for half a year when we got the brief, and everyone was starting out in this weird grey area of what their skills were. But it ended up being a really nice collaboration between different expertise.”

“I was physically shaking, for probably ten minutes," said Kirsten when describing the win, "Circle and I come from design schools, so to win a pencil - that’s a big deal!”

“It’s a big honour for me," said Jingwei, "It’s the first time I've participated in a design competition, and the first time getting a big award like this. It's unbelievable! Of course, it’s a result of teamwork - without everyone's creative thinking, professional skills, dedicated attitude and cooperative work, we wouldn’t have won this. Huge thanks to my teammates!”

The Design Informatics Pavillion, featuring work by researchers and students on the Design Informatics programme, is part of the Edinburgh College of Art Masters Degree Show at the 2017 Edinburgh Art Festival. The Pavillion is open 3-26 August.

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