“Our platform offers a fresh take on what a digital space can be. If Central Saint Martins has taught us anything, it’s to be as proactive and responsive as possible in our approach”.

Lili Phillips

LOGO STAMP copy.png

NEARLY PUBLISHING HOUSE: A publishing house showcasing the works of creative students amidst the Corona crisis.

Words Eleanor Stephenson


Eleanor Stephenson is a curator working and living in London. Click here to find out more about her work.


As final year arts students across the country adapt to their new working environments and the prospect of losing their all-important degree shows, creative alternatives are beginning to emerge. Just last week, Guts Gallery used their Instagram platform to launch ‘When Shit Hits the Fan’ – an incredible group show featuring young artists like Lydia Blakeley, Yulia Iosilzon and Corbin Shaw. In an attempt to replicate the private view experience, artworks were posted between 6pm-8pm on a Thursday evening. 


Other Instagram accounts like @SadGrads2020@csm_bafa and @rca_painting, are proving community support for art students who have had their degree shows cancelled. The innovation is truly inspiring! But how will these platforms retain momentum in the coming months of lockdown? And will this move towards the virtual worlds reshape not only degree shows, but how art is made, exhibited and sold?


I had a quick chat with Abbie Lilley and Lili Phillips, third year students on the Graphic Communications Design course at Central Saint Martins, who have built Nearly Publishing House – a platform that provides support for their peers by previewing unpublished or unfinished projects. Their website, nearlyapublishinghouse.com, is a community focused artwork in itself, allowing visitors to build a collage from the content they find.  


Currently CSM is still deciding on when/where final year degree shows will take place this year, why is it important to you that it physically happens rather than be online? 

I think we can say on behalf of everyone; the degree show is fundamental. It is not just an exhibition of work; it is a celebration of the three years we have spent together.  


We understand that nothing can be confirmed until the government allows mass gatherings. Therefore, we are aware that an online degree show is being discussed. As two practitioners who are passionate about the tactile, user experience, we are strongly against the idea of a digital exhibition. Our course is full of wild and wonderful approaches to what graphic design can be, and this simply does not exist behind a flat screen. 

It is also a vital time for us to meet potential employers and colleagues – an invaluable opportunity for graduating students. These types of conversations are near impossible to conduct digitally. Our platform offers a fresh take on what a digital space can be. If Central Saint Martins has taught us anything, it’s to be as proactive and responsive as possible in our approach. 

I think the community and support aspect of Nearly is extremely relevant, why is it important to you?  

We stumbled across an Instagram post with a quote we fell in love with: “Communion moves beyond walls. We can still be together.” This really resonated with us as we were all feeling disheartened by the uncertainty. We just wanted to be back in the studio, building upon our relationships and conversations. With the project, we were trying to encourage productivity whilst maintaining our well-being. The two go hand in hand. Right now, times are tricky, but we genuinely believe our project can be a positive, collective space for everyone.  As for us, we have been fully immersed by this project and have enjoyed the benefits of working as a pair. It means we have to get out of bed in the morning to work on our never-ending to-do list! But it's great. We love a challenge.  


We’re also extremely grateful for the feedback we’ve received from our peers, as the project is dedicated to the whole creative community – not just us.  

Life in quarantine allows for experimentation, research and hard work – evidenced by Nearly! How do you think this period of introspection and reflection will change the future of graphic design?  

Yes, we believe the current crisis will revolutionise the quality of our thinking. We are being forced to adapt and utilise local material to drive our concepts. In turn, this will enhance our final works.  

As students, we’re so used to having a rich supply of workshops, technicians and materials, all available at our fingertips. This contrasting situation allows us to make mistakes and to take ownership of our projects, despite them not being up to the standard we originally perceived they would be. But, in these happy mistakes, we will find completely new territories to explore as designers.  

Because of this, we’re excited to see how projects will adjust and develop over this time. We’re not just looking for a single submission, but a constant stream of updates and testing from our peers.  

Lastly, when you’re not working hard on exciting projects, what do you spend your time doing? 

At the minute – nothing! It’s really just a matter of deciphering when our free time exists. As you said, the past two weeks have been pretty hectic, and so we’re looking forward to finding some time to rest and work on our personal projects.  


If you are an art student or recent graduate who has been affected by COVID-19, please let us know how you are responding.