Gradwatch 2022: Marina Garcia Salcedo, Nottingham Trent College

“I think I’ve always enjoyed packaging, even before university,” says Nottingham Trent University graduate, Marina Garcia Salcedo. This much is evident from her portfolio, which features a range of bright, colourful projects that lean heavily into the world of packaging. There’s Gutted, a probiotic beer brand that features chunky type and geometric shapes; Mush, a mushroom coffee brand with a sustainable focus; and Capital, a zero-waste deodorant with a charming wordmark that turns the C into a waving hand.

“I used to keep bottles that I liked the design and packaging of,” Salcedo tells CR. “ I feel like I’m really drawn to food and drink packaging … I like the idea of packaging being so physical, because sometimes when you’re creating digital brands it’s just on the screen at the end. I like the idea of walking into a shop and seeing something you made.”

Salcedo studied graphic design at Nottingham Trent, having already completed fine art and graphic design A Levels. When deciding between the two creative routes, she says she chose design because it felt like something that “would affect people more in the public than someone going to an art gallery”. She says the degree was a chance to bring in some of what she’d learned from studying fine art, but also experiment with illustration and animation, alongside branding. “I feel like my personality, in terms of the designs I make, is very bold and colourful – I really like using colour in my design, as you can probably tell from the Gutted cans,” says Salcedo.

While in her first year she says she was “quite scared of type”, Salcedo started experimenting more and more with letterforms in her third year, playing with hand-drawn type and its potential to add energy to branding projects. In her Gutted wordmark, she’s turned the descender of the g into a squiggly mark that’s a reminder of the product’s gut-supporting benefits.

Although Salcedo says Covid was challenging – giving students less access to facilities – she believes it forced her to focus more closely on the ideas at the heart of her work, and also develop critical digital design and Adobe skills. She describes university itself as an invaluable opportunity to understand how to handle criticism. “A lot of my projects, and some of my favourite ones, have come from criticism – where someone’s been like, maybe you should go back and rethink it. It makes you think a lot deeper and more creatively about the problem. So even though it’s frustrating, usually your first ideas are never the best. Sometimes it’s best just to get it on paper, and then not be too precious about your ideas.”

Currently, Salcedo is finishing a round of internships, including upcoming placements at Pearlfisher and BrandOpus, and is hoping to land her first junior role in London. She says that sustainability is definitely something she wants to consider in her work in the future, describing it as something that designers “can’t really not consider”, especially when it comes to packaging.

“I like to consider that in my design,” she says. “In Gutted, I tried to think about the material as well as the ingredients, so making it organic and vegan. And also for the Capital deodorant, I had to think about the lifecycle and what would happen afterwards – whether it would be recycled, whether someone can use it … I think it’s important to think about where you work, and you can have a choice,” she adds. “I don’t want to work for something that I don’t believe in at the same time.”