Tess Smith-Roberts

Tess Smith-Roberts

Kingston University

My Illustration practice is to be opened up to a whole new international concept.


I’m currently in my 2nd year, studying Illustration Animation. As an illustrator, I have a strong interest in the world around me and how it can influence my work. So by interning in Shanghai, my Illustration practice will be opened up to a whole new international concept. Location drawing is a huge factor of this too, so being in a city as diverse as Shanghai would hugely influence my style of location illustration, thus feeding into my more refined illustrations too.

China’s status as a world player and its emerging economy has changed the game for Chinese design. I very am eager to gain hands-on experience in this field in Shanghai, the creative hub of east Asia, as it would be a completely different experience from interning in Europe. My knowledge of the global design industry will improve, and I will see design and illustration in a whole new light


Interning in Shanghai was probably the craziest, hardest and most exciting month of my life. At Crystal CG, Charlotte and I were given a project to curate an exhibition for. The company mainly seemed to do exhibitions/spacial design, which was very new to me as I do illustration. Another thing new to me was how hard the language barrier was. In our first few days no one spoke English at all, so we had to communicate through a phone app. The app didn’t always work as sometimes it would say random sentences that made no sense, which was funny but very unhelpful. It took a while but we overcame this when a lady who worked there came in and could speak a little English, so she helped us communicate with everyone and made everything easier.

The topic for the exhibition was about water conservation in Hangzhou. We didn’t know much about Hangzhou and China’s history of water conservation, so we had to do a lot of research into it before properly starting things. To design the exhibition we needed to use a programme called Sketch Up. I’d never heard of it before this trip but luckily Charlotte knew how to use it. Whilst Charlotte was building the exhibition space in there I’d been set the task of designing the “PPT” (PowerPoint) for the proposal. It gave me a chance to brush up on my inDesign skills, which was really needed as I’m not the great at inDesign. I also had to draw lots of different graphics for the PPT, like Koi Carp and lily pads, which I found really fun, because who doesn’t like drawing a few fish. After the PPT I designed various illustrations for the exhibition, like drawings of historical figures and Hangzhou itself, which will hopefully be put on the walls in the space which is pretty amazing. I even had a go at designing a light installation which was a bit daunting and ended up looking ridiculous, but was all still fun. Thinking of ideas for the exhibition was a challenge as I’ve never curated one before, let alone one about water conservation. At one point they asked if we wanted a robot in there, which showed that we really could do anything with this exhibition.

The language barrier and not knowing a thing about spacial design/exhibition curation/Hangzhou/Water conservation was definitely challenging. But I knew that interning in China would be, and its better to be challenged than to do something you know you can already do. Learning about how to curate an exhibition about an environmental topic and the use of multimedia devices is something I never thought I’d do, but it was so interesting learn about. I definitely learnt a lot in my time at Crystal and I will be taking these skills with me to 3rd year and developing my illustration practise in ways I never thought I could. Being in Shanghai was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. It is an incredible city and I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to have visited.

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