Major Project Proposal – The rhetoric surrounding Romanian and Bulgarian immigrant workers to the UK

 Major Project Proposal – 24/04/13


“State your basic question, proposition or hypothesis clearly.”

How can graphic communication be employed to document the rhetoric surrounding an Eastern European migrant workforce in the UK. Specifically, Romanian immigrants settling in Northampton.


Aims/objectives and audience:

“Explain your intentions in choosing your topic.”

In the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s post war Britain encouraged a colonial workforce to come to the Uk for a better life and help keep industry running in the aftermath of WWII. The Empire Marketing Board, a government department, was set up to promote and protect our Empire trade and goods. After WWII Britain was left with a dwindling economy and workforce. The EMB advertised for colonial members to come to the UK and work, filling the gaps left by the casualties of War.

In 2014 Europe will be an open market place for Romanians and Bulgarians to move about freely – to live and work anywhere they choose within the European union. How have the public and the national media expressed opinion in the build up to this? How has this affected communities and attitudes towards ‘others’ – is this breeding a new racism and xenophobia?

The first generation of Romanians that have been brought up and educated in a democratic society since the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 are now migrant workers coming to the UK. Eastern Europeans have changed the face of communities in the UK both socially, culturally and politically – this has given rise to changes in our workforce, general resentment and negative journalism both locally and nationally. The media regularly speculate on the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarians that will travel to the UK for a better life on the 1st of January 2014. There is no evidence for these rumors, only speculation. Yet this migration can also be seen to have created cultural diversity and creativity within our communities.

Not all immigrants are here to drain the system of its resources. There are a significant number who are highly educated. Until the restrictions come down on the 1st of January 2014 these people, some with university degrees, are working unqualified manual jobs for a financially better standard of life. In turn helping to sustain our struggling economy by harvesting fruit and vegetables for minimum wage – working as Au Pairs, cleaners, construction workers or taxi drivers.

However the willingness – and necessity – of migrants to work long hours for very low wages is having a negative effect on small independent businesses by undercutting a skilled British workforce and forcing them out of a fair market.

This project seeks to use graphic design to present the discourse surrounding the recent Eastern European economic migrants. Specifically Romanians moving to Northampton.  To explore through word and image media and political reports, personal stories and accounts

poor, uneducated, scrounging dependents, or

pioneering, motivated, hard working people seeking independence and choice.



“… the relationship of the Area of Study to graphic design must be identified.”

This subject sits within the realms of social and cultural discourse and would act as a piece of public information. Using graphic design I will explore methods of presenting the rhetoric of Romanian migrant workers through word and image. There are several areas of interest that I have begun to identify; a xenophobic narrative seen in the press and politics, the pioneering narrative of migrant workers, and the data collected by government in an attempt to gather evidence to support their fears and control the impending flood of people.

I have made contact with the local Romanian community and distributing leaflets calling for personal accounts of their experiences of living and working in the UK. I have conducted interviews with nine individuals who have contacted me as a result of this. I have also attended the local Romanian Orthodox church and spoken with religious leaders and the congregation in order to gain an understanding of their culture and traditions.

I have been regularly sourcing online news reports on the subject of Romanian and Bulgarians moving to the UK, archiving these along with the online comments in order to build up a profile of the concerns and tone of voice expressed in the media. This primary and secondary research has given me a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the topic, yet I feel that I still do not have a cohesive perspective on the subject and am seeking data that gives an overview of the facts and figures.


Action Plan:

“Provide a detailed description of the project, breaking down the Research Question into a planned programme of specific research enquires.”

My own area of knowledge is printmaking, illustration and design. I intend to draw upon the visual language of printmaking, specifically print processes associated with Eastern Europe – and work with the graphic identity, craft and aesthetics of the printmaking process to visualize the spoken and printed word.

• Traditional print processes I have identified are; letterpress, lino, wood cut, lithography and screenprint. I have begun to research the design and graphic identity of this area of Eastern Europe as well as the posters of the Empire Marketing Board and have established that these processes are relevant to my proposal. The University of Northampton holds one of the most comprehensive poster collections in the UK – The Osbourne Robinson Collection – a few Empire Marketing Board posters (some by Edward McKnight Kauffer) as well as Romanian and Czech tourism posters – form part of this collection. I have studied and recorded these, speaking with the curator of this collection for a more detailed background history.

• Risograph printing is a vibrant and economical method of producing anything from books to artist prints. It sits in the realm somewhere between screen print and offset lithography but with a unique aesthetic. ( Although Risograph, at first, seems like it maybe irrelevant – I feel that this low grade process has roots in subculture fanzines and the political ephemera of activist groups voicing a passionate opinion. Therefore has a relevance to my project and worth investigating and experimenting with.

• Semiotics, the study of signs and how we read them – how they create meaning within the images we read around us – an investigation into the mechanics of this concept will facilitate the graphic communication needed to make this body of work speak to its audience.

• Visualizing data – information design: Use the data gathered to visualize and map an overview. Visualizing the data will give context to the media reports and the personal accounts and give the project a position within current affairs. This neutral information will give balance to the emotive content of this project. I will be looking at Nicholas Felton, mwmcreative, Berg, Edward Tufte and other contemporary information designers as secondary research into this area of design as my own work does not usually venture within this spectrum.

* Tools of design proposed but less familiar with – information design, Risograph.

* Areas with some knowledge – letterpress.


The project brief: 

“Set out specific questions and speculate on ways of answering them.”

• Gather data. Make contact with Romanian migrant workers. 9 so far

• Personal accounts of their own experiences of moving here. *Transcribe and cross reference for consistent information. (Place of birth, residence in Romania, education, job in Romania, destinations in UK, job in UK)

•Online news articles relating to Romanian and Bulgarian immigrant workers. Current and contemporary news.

• Extract quotes to work with – take into printmaking to begin exploring ways of illustrating the tone of voice. *Personal stories and quotes / headlines from news

• Pinpoint facts: *age, place of birth in Romania, place of residence in Romania, destinations in the UK, education in Romania, qualifications, job titles in Uk, job titles in Romania, reasons for coming to the UK.

Use these facts to further explore in printmaking and letterpress

Use these facts to begin information graphics


One Comment

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  1. Rasvan Lalu says:

    Very interesting project !
    You may also see how the intensity of this campaign is correlated to politics: it started quite suddenly in January in view of the local elections, it will diminish after the 2nd of May and will be reactivate whenever politics will need it.
    Good luck with your project !

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