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Hear straight from our graduates.

6 months into my Shillington course I was lucky to have picked up my career goal of becoming an Art Director at a Melbourne based advertising agency, Cyclone. Despite only being halfway through my course, Shillington was a major factor in getting that role.

Art Director, Cyclone

AJ McLaughlin

Why Shillington? What made you choose to study with us?

My career goal has always been to work as an Art Director. Advertising is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, so I had to get a bit creative to land a job with my Economics degree. When I landed in Melbourne three years ago, I found myself knocking on doors of agencies I wanted to work at, creating videos to introduce myself and messaging just about everyone my basic LinkedIn plan would allow. Without a design degree, I quickly realised that I could only get so far. Shillington had been sitting in my bookmarks for years and after months of humming and hawing, I signed up for the info session.  

You made a change over from what you were previously doing to design—what inspired you to take the leap?

Throughout my short career up to this point I had always worked in creative fields. I found myself up late trying to teach myself how to mask an object in Illustrator or the correct process to export in InDesign. Being self-taught through YouTube can only really get you so far. YouTube is an incredible resource, but you miss out on the fundamental processes trying to patch together a series of videos. You can’t ask for feedback, there’s no space for questions and you certainly won’t make any friends along the way.

What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!

Project: Campaign, Bad BloodAn open brief can often be a blessing and a curse. It can feel somewhat overwhelming not knowing where to start and which direction you might take with it.

Fortunately, I had been wanting to crack open a topic that’s close to home for me for the last few years. Under Australian law, gay men and trans women who have sex with men, aren’t permitted to donate blood if they’ve had sex in the last twelve months. Each year, more people die because gay men can’t give blood. As a result, each year, more gay men would give blood if they could.

I wanted to hero this desire to give blood by choosing the Red Cross as my client and hosting an illegal 24-hour blood drive. I had landed on this gothic, religious space with my mood boards which I felt added an element of poignant irony given the topic. Once I had the idea and palettes locked in, the design followed a pretty organic approach. There’s a turning point throughout the course, granted that it’s different for every person but things begin to just click. This brief was right at the epicentre of this turning point.

Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?

Having moved from Ireland to Melbourne three years before studying I didn’t necessarily have a strong creative network down under. This was a big factor of why I decided to study at Shillington. Everyone was incredibly supportive of one another and we shared each other’s highs and lows. Luckily we all stay in touch and I’m heading up to visit an old classmate in Sydney at the end of the month. As far as the teachers go. Because it’s such a non-traditional learning environment the relationships you form with the teachers are like nothing I would have had in University or secondary school. My teacher’s partner became my copywriter for a stint. 

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the Shillington course?

Shillington had been in my bookmarks for about two years before I decided to apply. Taunting me every time I open Google Chrome. Having looked through dozens of alternatives I immediately recognised that Shillington just gets it. I could go on and on about all of the different reasons why you should study here but I would most likely max out on my word count and I know there are hundreds of reviews online that can put it into words better than I can. But I will say this, Shillington has a reputation for being the best design school in the industry for a reason. The teachers are world-class, the students are extremely motivated and the portfolio you walk out with will stand out from anything else that’s out there.

Check out AJ’s website and read his full interview on the blog. 

AJ McLaughlin
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