Brighton University Student Wins Brighton Marina Bench Design Competition

May 15, 2024

Tiana Szalajda-Smith a third-year student at the University of Brighton, has won an annual competition to design the public benches at Brighton Marina.

The initiative between Brighton Marina and the University of Brighton was launched last year and proved a success, not just with the students who took part, but with visitors who have been admiring the 2023 winning design on the site’s benches.

Tiana’s winning design, which showcases the flora and fauna of Brighton, was unveiled today (15th May) and has been installed on 27 benches across the marina, including at the iconic waterfront, which has been recognised as one of the most ‘Instagrammable’ spots since 2019.

The new design will remain on the benches until the start of next year’s competition, giving the millions of annual visitors a chance to see Tiana’s artwork.

Students from the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton were invited to submit designs that encapsulated the theme of ‘Sussex Nature and Wildlife’.

In April, a panel of judges including artists and lecturers, shortlisted three designs which were then uploaded onto Brighton Marina’s digital platforms, so that members of the public could vote for their favourite design. In total, over 1,300 votes were cast across Brighton Marina’s channels, with Tiana’s design receiving 625.

21-year-old Tiana Szalajda-Smith, who is studying Design for Digital Media, commented: “I applied to this competition without grasping the thought that I might actually win. I was watching the votes on Facebook as they were coming in and felt so much excitement that people actually like my work.

“When I received the email saying I’d won I couldn’t believe it! It felt like my work was being recognised by a wider audience for the first time and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. The fact my design work is leaving my bedroom for once and going out into the real world where regular people walk by every day is very exciting.

“It feels like a great stepping stone into my career as I leave University, as well as a big confidence booster.”

Sophie Chandler, Marketing Manager at Brighton Marina, said: “We’re delighted to be working alongside the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton once again to give students the chance to have their designs displayed across the marina.

“It’s been so heartening to see the breadth of designs that were created for the competition, so we want to say a big thanks to all the entrants for all their hard work, and congratulations again to Tiana. Her design captured the Sussex wildlife beautifully while also reflecting elements of the city.

“We encourage the local community to come down and see the winning design which will be on benches across the marina for a year.”

Tiana continued, “My design was definitely very seagull-heavy, because whether you like them or hate them, they are a huge part of Sussex life. I thought it was only right to embrace this, along with other animals like the foxes, bumblebees, pigeons, crabs and a little sausage dog on the boardwalk. I wanted to also show off some of the beautiful flowers of Sussex, taking inspiration from flowers I saw in Brighton Pavillion – lilies, peonies, foxgloves and symphytums- as well as, of course, the coast. I included the starling murmurations too as this is something I was taken aback by when I first moved down South, having never seen them before.”

Vanessa Marr, Principal lecturer, and Course Leader: BA Design for Digital Media, said: “As Tianna’s Course Leader and 3rd year tutor I am extremely proud of her success in this competition. She is a talented illustrator, and as such this competition was a great opportunity to develop her skills through a professional design brief, whilst showcasing her work to the public. Tianna’s winning design captured the diversity of our coastal wildlife, along with the ubiquitous seagull, through a colourful composition that is dynamic and surely appealing to all who visit the area.”

The costs for production and installation of the bench design have been covered by Landsec, the landlord of Brighton Marina.