3 Shillington Graduates Reflect on TDK Bootcamp in Sri Lanka

We’re pumped to interview Shillington graduates Lauren Koste (Melbourne), Sophie Green Moore (Sydney) and LiSun Francisco (New York), who all recently traveled to Sri Lanka for a TDK Bootcamp. Hosted by The Design Kids, TDK Bootcamps provide connections and opportunities for graphic design students and graduates locally and globally. More opportunities to come—Bali, Portugal and Byron Bay!

Before Shillington, Lauren Koste was doing “a whole bunch of different things” like teaching figure skating, pouring beers and working in PR. After spending her 20s traveling and doing odd jobs, she studied part-time at Shillington Melbourne. Since graduating, she’s been working as a Freelance Graphic Designer and Craft Beer Specialist. Find out how in Sri Lanka she walked away with “the full package”, including an updated CV, portfolio, head-shots, Instagram, and job-hunting plan.

Sophie Green Moore calls Shillington the “hardest, most excruciating, most frustrating and all round most incredible and rewarding thing” she’s ever done. Before studying, she received a Bachelors in Advertising and Marketing, but was working in retail and a bit confused about where she wanted to go. After lots of research she studied full-time at Shillington Sydney. Now she works as a graphic designer at LJ Hooker. Discover why, after the TDK Bootcamp, Sophie believes founder Frankie Ratford is a “super hero”.

LiSun Francisco graduated with a Bachelor’s in English in 2014, but last year was bouncing around from job-to-job, trying to figure out her passion—and how she could “translate it into a viable career”. She eventually studied part-time at Shillington New York and recently graduated. Currently she’s working as a visual merchandiser, and building her personal design brand for freelance work. Read on to hear LiSun’s special shout-outs to people and places that made the Sri Lanka Bootcamp extra special.

Why did you decide to attend the very first TDK Bootcamp in Sri Lanka?

Lauren Koste: My job was coming to an end and the time had come for me to search for a new design gig! I loved the community and support that Shillington provided so I thought the TDK Bootcamp would be a similar situation. I wanted to be around other creatives that were in the same position as I was and work together to nail our personal branding and design direction.

Sophie Green Moore: I applied for the first TDK Bootcamp before I’d started working for LJ Hooker. I felt like I was at a standstill, I was feeling lost, uninspired, defeated and like I’d capped on my ideas and creativity. The Bootcamp seemed like a great opportunity to restart my passion and enthusiasm for design, get better insight, learn from other designer at my level, AND do it all somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. Confidence has always been my biggest downfall so something that could help improve that was definitely going to be worth giving a go.  I was so shocked when Frankie emailed be telling me I’d got in, it didn’t feel real, I still don’t believe I was that lucky.

LiSun Francisco: I had freshly graduated from Shillington New York and possessed this great, new arsenal of skills up my sleeve, but I still felt like I needed that extra guidance to extend my reach and keep up my momentum. I distinctly remember waking up for work one morning in January and seeing TDK’s post about a last minute spot opening up for their Sri Lanka bootcamp. To me, the timing and curriculum of the bootcamp seemed like a natural progression from Shillington, with the added bonus of traveling to a gorgeous country. I immediately jumped onto my laptop to apply and a few days later I got the call from Frankie. Honestly, I feel very lucky that I was able to attend.

What were the top three highlights of the TDK Bootcamp experience?

Lauren:

Well, it doesn’t hurt working your butt off in a beautiful location.

The house we stayed at in Sri Lanka was unbelievable, with views of palm trees and the beach. We had yoga sessions every morning, an awesome excursion to another part of the Sri Lankan southern coast and a beach bonfire celebration on the last night! Becoming so close with the other design graduates, and Frankie, was another major highlight. We all became great friends and still chat every week. Also, we got a ton of stuff done.

Frankie hosted some great workshops where we all discovered our personal style, where we want to take our careers, and how to get there. I feel unbelievably prepared for applying for the jobs I want now!

Sophie: So hard to pick three! I think first would be all the people, we were a small group of 15 so everyone got really close, we all spent so much time together, within 24 hours it was like a little family, it was so nice to so comfortably be able to share your worries, struggles and experiences with people you knew were at the same level as you and struggling in different areas. I also loved our final presentations – the first night you present your current folio to the group, it was torture, they all say it’s not going to be as bad as you think, well it is haha. I’m a confident presenter and public speaker but so guilty of comparing myself to others, so I found that super challenging, on the last night we all presented our new folios and websites, it was so amazing to see the transformation of my own work and everyone else’s.

We all went from timidly presenting our work on day one to HEY LOOK WHAT I’VE DONE on day six.

My third highlight would be the days we spent working in a co working space nearby called Verse Collective – it was not only the most beautiful space, right on the beach and had amazing food, but it was also so cool to be surrounded not just by our little group of designers but so many other people who use these creative spaces ‘in real life’, I found that really special.

LiSun: 

  1. Any one-on-one time with Frankie was so valuable and insightful. Her story is incredible and she has so much knowledge of the industry as well as trust in her abilities to get where she wants to go. She’s the best, and absolutely someone I admire. Her advice and constructive thoughts on my work helped me to identify my strengths and amplify them, which became illustration and pattern design.
  2. The area of Sri Lanka we were in was so lush and heavenly. We stayed at the lovely Jasper House which was located down the road from a tiny beach paradise. We worked out of a local hostel/cafe, Verse Collective, which was super accommodating with their gorgeous space and fulfilled all of our intense caffeine cravings. In a nutshell, there were monkeys, there were coconuts, and there were good spirits all around (and of course design!)
  3. It was truly a pleasure being able to share this experience with the people I met. Everyone there was super talented, yet so diverse in their skills and interests. It was impressive how much their work and mentality transformed within a week. I think we had such a great group of people coming together to learn from Frankie but also from each other.  Shout out to Casey, our yoga instructor and unofficial mom, and Laura, our photographer and my roomie, who really added to the overall experience with their own insight and brilliant personalities.

Would you recommend other designers attend? Why?

Lauren: Yes! It’s an amazing experience for so many reasons. You get to travel to a beautiful location with other designers from around the world. The skills and advice you get from the workshops and one-on-one’s with Frankie really give you an edge in the industry. You also come out of it with an updated CV, portfolio, head-shots, Instagram, and job-hunting plan. It’s really the full package. I’m so happy I did it!

Frankie gave me the courage to be the weird, quirky, hands-on designer I always wanted to be! Sometimes we feel like we need to be something we’re not in this industry, especially seeing other designers beautiful work splashed all over social media. The Bootcamp taught me to identify what I’m good at and what I love, and to be just that!

Sophie: Yes, a hundred times yes, if Frankie would have me for every Bootcamp, I’d be there.

Be warned though, the Bootcamp hard work and an emotional rollercoaster, but also so much fun and so rewarding. It’s kind of like portfolio week at Shillington, but a million times harder, but with the benefit of being set in paradise. If you’re like lacking in confidence, direction, need a spark or just want the extra learning experience then I can’t recommend it enough.

Frankie is incredible, I’m pretty sure she’s a super hero, she’s inspiring, makes a huge effort to get to know everyone, what their goals are, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

LiSun: As someone who’s still green to the design industry, I found the experience enlightening and honestly, quite comforting. The week was approximately half bootcamp and half retreat. We had our briefs and attainable goals for the week, but we also had this time to take a step back and maybe reassess our career trajectories or suspend our own hangups when it came to fears like Imposter Syndrome. I highly recommend the bootcamp for aspiring designers, students, and those who maybe feel stuck and need that jumpstart. Our group came from all walks of life, but we all came with open minds and a desire to learn.

And before you go, tell us more about your Shillington experience. What were you up to before studying design, and what are you doing now?

Lauren: A whole bunch of different things! I did everything from teaching figure skating, to pouring beers, to working in public relations. I spent my 20’s in odd jobs and traveled heaps until I realized the only consistent interest I had was design and applied for the Shillington Part-Time course in Melbourne. I graduated a few months ago and have been working as a Freelance Designer and Craft Beer Specialist since.

Sophie: Before I enrolled and began Shillington Sydney I had just graduated from the University of Canberra with Bachelor of Advertising and Marketing Communications. I was working in retail and feeling a bit confused about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I’d been travelling round the US and thought that would enlighten me and solve a lot of problems, and while I had the best time no light bulbs about what I wanted to do came on. I knew I wanted to create, to solve problems, and tell stories – so I did a lot of research about what kinds of careers I could enter into and I kind of fell into graphic design, it paired well with my degree so it seemed like I could choice. I then stumbled upon Shillington, enrolled, moved to Sydney, and off I went. I started Shillington in September 2016, in the 3 month full time program.

Shillington was the hardest, most excruciating, most frustrating and all round most incredible and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

After graduating from Shillington in December 2016, I moved back to Canberra for a few months, I went back to my retail job part time and started some freelance work on the side. An opportunity for me to move to New York City had come up which I jumped at so I had my sights set on saving for that. I spent a year in New York, freelancing, learning, listening, reading, exploring and adventuring. I moved back to Canberra mid way through 2018. I am now working as a graphic designer for LJ Hooker.

LiSun: After graduating from university in 2014 with an English BA, I was bouncing around from job to job, trying to figure out what exactly my passion was and how I could translate it into a viable career option. This led me to working with a few ceramics gigs, a gallery position, and finally as a visual merchandiser for a popular retail chain. I knew the common denominator with these jobs was a desire to work in a creative field, so I finally decided to take the leap and enroll at Shillington’s NYC campus to become a graphic designer. Presently, I’m still a visual merchandiser, but in my free time, I’m building my personal brand through a dedicated Instagram and website.

Anything else you’d like to share?

LiSun: I’m still very much a work in progress haha but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from both experiences (Shillington and the Bootcamp), it’s that you’ll get what you put into it. One of my favorite quotes is from a sitcom called Parks and Rec, where Ron Swanson wisely offers, “Never half-ass two things, whole ass one thing.” I think this is generally great life advice.

Big thanks to Lauren, Sophie and LiSun for sharing their insights from TDK Bootcamp. Be sure to check out Lauren’s website and Instagram, click through to Sophie’s website and Instagram and visit LiSun’s website, Instagram and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Learn more about TDK Bootcamps and apply for a future session! Next up is Bali, Portugal and Byron Bay.

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