Most of the course was based around project work. By the final year, the number of formal projects had been reduced; our results would be based upon a combination of course work, our final project, the ‘dip show’ – a mini exhibition of our best work, and a thesis. As design students, not only was the content of the dissertation important, but it was implicit that the visual presentation should be arresting.
Like all students, we had fallen into a rhythm of partying until the delivery of a project for grading was imminent, then working through the night to complete it. By the final year a slightly larger dose of responsibility had crept in, but the principle remained the same. During the latter weeks of the term students were rarely seen in the college as they worked feverishly, not only to complete their assignments but also to mount and re-mount past projects to make a uniform and impressive exhibition. It was not only the late hours that were potentially injurious to health, but the heavily solvent-based substances common at the time. Markers, inks and spray-paints were all packed with volatile esters but worst of all, especially in the quantities used was the ubiquitous Cow Gum. This was a rubber-solution based adhesive used for mounting paper on card, board and other substrates. The rubber was dissolved in a petroleum base, and the principle was to coat both surfaces to be joined, allow a minute or so for the solvent to evaporate and the surface to become tacky, then bring them together. Preparing for the end-of-year show, the average student got through gallons of this. My own flat was heated by a gas fire and I was spending hours in front of it with boards and gum-soaked paper spread upon the floor. The partially burned fumes were particularly noxious as I noticed when I stood up in the early hours of the morning, swaying drunkenly with a thumping behind my eyes.