Design students take on the challenge of designing posters for national Stephen Lawrence Day

Designing a poster to promote the annual Stephen Lawrence Day is without doubt a big challenge for a student.

However, the pressure was turned up a notch further for final year students studying Graphic Design/Illustration at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) when the task was set by Stephen’s brother Stuart.


Stephen was murdered by racists in South London in an unprovoked attack on April 22, 1993, when he was just 18 years old.

It took his mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence – the former Chancellor of DMU – his brother Stuart, the Lawrence family and lawyer Imran Khan QC, 18 years to get a conviction against two of Stephen’s murderers.

Since then Baroness Lawrence has used Stephen’s legacy to encourage young people to be inspired about what they can achieve in their own lives, create the kind of community they want to live in and have a strong voice in building a fairer and more inclusive society.

Part of that legacy exists through the creation of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre (SLRC) at DMU, which overlooks the campus’s Hawthorn Square.

While Theresa May, when Prime Minister in 2018, announced that every April 22 would be a national Stephen Lawrence Day.

STEPHEN DAY - second main

Baroness Lawrence launching the first Stephen Lawrence Day at DMU 

Since then Stuart Lawrence, who runs the Stephen Lawrence Foundation, has met with Graphic Design students every year to set them a task to come up with their ideas for a poster that can mark the national day of remembrance.

This year’s students were facing the challenge while in lockdown, but, thanks to their tutor Dr Emma Powell, they were able to gain access to Leicester Print Workshop under COVID regulations to experience using a space dedicated to professional printers and artists and enhance their skills.

To add to the challenge, and to experience the real-world pressures of working for a client, Stuart Lawrence set the task, then met the students at the half way point to receive a progress report and finally attended an end of year presentation to judge the results and provide instant feedback.


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Dr Powell said: “Being able to get into the Leicester Print Workshop was the first time some of the students had been able to leave their usual spaces and enter a professional workplace.

“They really embraced it and it was an incredibly positive experience for them all. It brought more variety to the students’ work and that combination of analogue skills with the print making and the technical design skills with the computer gave them a good combination of skills that will help them with their careers.

“Gaining this type of knowledge, and working on such an important, socially aware brief, definitely makes them more valuable to potential employers.”

Below are four poster designs produced by students on the course. Alongside their illustrations, the final year students explain how it has helped them develop personally and prepare them for their career.

Millie Cofano

Graphic Design (Illustration) 3rd year

From Hertfordshire


It was really enjoyable working with Stuart Lawrence, his experience as a teacher was really helpful in understanding how our designs could be put into practice in the real world to influence change within schools and communities.

It gave us something tangible to work toward, rather than just creating a hypothetical campaign for change. We learned from Stuart how our work could actually be used by the Foundation. Leicester Print Workshop was a welcome change of scenery from working in my bedroom for most of the year. Being able to physically print my work really elevated my design and gave it a more professional feel.


It's made me feel more confident about working with clients and being able to present my ideas to them.

 Mia Clark

Graphic Design Illustration

From Kettering


It was such an honour to be able to work with Stuart Lawrence and the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation. Developing designs for the purpose of spreading such powerful messages about diversity and inclusivity is very important to me, and the SLD Foundation really embodies this. I felt that I was making a real impact in connecting with what the University represents.

In terms of real-world experience, I couldn’t be more grateful to my tutors for this module, Emma Powell and Sat Kalsi who organised our visits to Leicester Print Workshop. Having the opportunity to complete hands-on practical work was a real treat after a year of working from home and designing purely online.


Completing this project helped me to develop my inter-personal skills and ensure I could articulate my design process clearly and effectively to respond to a client’s needs, which is essential in my progression from university to employment

George Coles

Graphic Design (Illustration)

From Kettering


Personally, this was one of my favourite, if not one of my favourites throughout my whole university experience. One of the major factors that contributes to this was that the project gave me the opportunity to be innovative, to put my imagination in motion and proudly participate in an important social campaign.

At the beginning of the project, we had an initial briefing by Stuart Lawrence. It was clear from the start that his own personal drive, passion and desire to create positive change was alone enough to prepare all the students for an exciting project. Being lucky enough to work in conjunction with Leicester Print Workshop, was again another fantastic opportunity and this was all thanks to our tutors who helped in the preparation of a safe, fun working environment


This project has certainly helped prepare me for a career in graphic design. Having a strong ability to create a sense of positivity through design and in turn spread awareness of important issues is something that is becoming more prevalent in our society. It is a key skill I hope to have developed throughout this specific project and my time here at DMU.

Lauryn White

Graphic Design

From Milton Keynes


This project was one of my favourites from this year. I enjoy experimenting with typography but the focus on helping to make a positive change in the world is what initially attracted me to this brief. The opportunity to work with the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation was an honour and it really inspired me to create something meaningful with the potential to educate others.

Being able to speak to the clients at different stages throughout the project was very beneficial as it helped to influence some design decisions and ensured my ideas were aligned with their expectations. I felt that the opportunity to present our work at the end of the project   allowed us to receive immediate feedback.


The visit to Leicester Print Workshop was a really positive experience and the fact that we were able to attend sessions during the pandemic shows the dedication and hard work from everyone involved.

It has helped to improve my self-confidence and ability to present my design work to other people. This is something which I previously found quite difficult but is an essential part of the process when designing for a client. The skills I have learnt will almost certainly be beneficial for my future career.

Posted on Friday 25th June 2021

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