Getting a job straight after graduation was the name of the game for Shillington Brisbane Graduate Chantel Charchalis, so she needed to find a course that would help her stay ahead of the pack. After a long hunt for a hands-on, cost-effective Graphic Design course, she found Shillington and never looked back. Two months after graduating, Chantel found her dream job as the new Marketing and Content Creator at Dog Mum, a unique Australian-based online retailer catering to the stylish animal lover in all of us.
We caught up with Chantel to talk about the benefits of getting thrown into the deep end in the classroom, why you should never rush the planning and creative stages when launching a new business and how studying online during lockdown was an unexpected win! Read on to learn more.
You recently graduated from the part-time course in Brisbane. How did you learn about Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I had sought out a creative learning path for some time but was deterred by expensive and drawn out courses. I had already completed 3 and a half years of university back in 2009, so the last thing I wanted was more debt and years of study.
I found Shillington online and began to research their course offering, read the Shillington blog and watch student experience videos online—I knew that this course was the right fit for me!
I loved how hands-on the approach was, and the collaboration aspect with fellow students. I also loved how students are equipped with the skills needed to get a job straight away after graduating. The price is also very reasonable, so I was able to pay off the entire course fee prior to starting—which was great!
How was your Shillington experience? Did you form any close bonds with your classmates in the nine months you studied with us?
My experience was a roller coaster of emotions, but absolutely no regrets! The initial few months is actually really overwhelming, despite choosing a part-time course, the workload outside of class is a lot.
I do believe that Shillington throws students into the deep end—but for the best!
To be a great designer it’s important to be able to work under pressure, strict deadlines and an ability to be flexible with your designs (you can never get precious about a design!). You also need to be ready to make a million iterations!
In the 9 months of study, the last semester and a half were spent online due to Covid, so it did feel difficult to form bonds with other students from afar. Despite this, there were a few students that I felt comfortable to confide in during our portfolio period and provide support for one another during this stressful period of the course.
How did the Shillington course build up your skillset?
I knew absolutely nothing about Abobe programs before starting at Shillington. Upon graduating, I was confident and comfortable with InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, which surprises me, as I found them so daunting 9 months prior!
The invaluable “design eye” you build up throughout the course changes your whole perspective on design, art and a lot of other aspects of life. I look at things with design principles in mind, almost unconsciously these days. The course has excelled my creative abilities immensely.
What was your favourite brief you worked on during the course? Walk us through your process!
I was always excited to start the packaging brief as I had completed a similar task at uni (all those years ago!) whereby I hand-drew the whole design of an eco character and the boxing elements.
Fast forward to Shillington and I loved that I could use design programs and digitise packaging mockups (no more hand-drawn boxes!).
The process for each brief at Shillington always begun with an ideation phase of which the teachers encouraged us to use different techniques to help explore and push our design ideas. This phase quickly made me realise just how far initial thoughts can be pushed—through quick sketches, over and over again! I chose a boutique tea product, targeting middle-age, health-conscious women who love achieving balance in their life. Named Guided Tea, I designed these boxes around times throughout the day and everyday rituals—like waking, energising and winding down before bed. My favourite part of this whole brief was buying myself an iPad to illustrate images of my cat, teapots and terrazzo patterns—all homely elements of my design. This also ignited my passion for illustrative art, which I then incorporated into almost all my other briefs after that!
Packaging can be really time-consuming and tedious to get right, there are dye lines to take into account, and then mocking-up onto products in Photoshop. Despite this, I actually fell in love with the process of positioning each side of the box and mocking up, I spent many more hours on this than I probably should have. Still, I love seeing a design come to life on a mock product! I especially love mocking up on billboards, and promotional items, which I did a lot of for my Byron Bites Food and Wine Festival brief. This brief also included a lot of hand-illustrated art, inclusive of a poster, kombi van wrap, and other fun rollout elements.
Congratulations on your new role as Graphic Designer and Content Creator at The Dog Mum. What does a typical day at TDM look like for you? Tell us about some interesting projects you’ve worked on since starting there.
Thank you! I hit the ground running at The Dog Mum, day one was a full day photoshoot for product images, and more importantly, included dogs! I spent the day taking all the behind the scenes footage that would later be used for email campaigns and social media. A large part of my role is designing EDMs, social media posts and stories. I’ve also been able to utilise my illustrative skills by creating dog breed images for new ranges, typesetting for new shirt designs, compiling tech packs for upcoming products and lots of other fun tasks that keep my day diverse and interesting. Having such a deep love for animals, I honestly feel like I have scored my dream job! Recent graphics I’ve created can be seen on TDM’s Instagram and by subscribing to their emails.
You’re no stranger to the art of the side hustle. Can you tell us a little about your long-running passion project, Rawe Clothing?
Rawe Clothing has been a hobby of mine throughout the years—mainly spurred on by my love of creating. I used to draw mandala style art quite a lot, so I decided to put these designs onto eco-friendly t-shirts. After travelling to India to source a fair trade, organic cotton manufacturer, I built this cute side-hustle as a great creative outlet! Recently, with a lot of spare time during Covid lockdown, I learnt hand-dying processes and started tie-dying Rawe shirts, another process that I’ve loved. I used to sell face-to-face at markets but have more recently solely sold on Etsy and through word of mouth.
Having started Rawe Clothing before studying at Shillington, how have your new design skills changed or improved how you approach running and presenting your business online?
Since Shillington, I have definitely looked at the branding elements of Rawe with entirely different eyes.
Straight after graduating, I redesigned my logo and overhauled the look and feel of the online presence. I have put much more effort into packaging elements and the overall experience for customers.
What advice would you give to other people who are keen to kick start their own businesses and passion projects? What would you say are the key tools of the trade?
Don’t rush the starting stages! The starting stages of business, such as naming, logo, design elements, branding and product/service offering are so important! Once you start the business rolling and get your name out there, you have to really love and be proud of what you’ve created. So don’t rush your marketing elements before you have planned, brainstormed and all that juicy fun initial stuff!
An essential tool of the trade is at least one high-quality Apple product (yes, I love my Apples!) that is equipped with enough RAM to withstand intensive design programs. I went through a lot of stress of slow, crashing systems when I first started my design journey. After wasting a lot of money on second-hand machines, I finally invested in a brand new iMac (and iPad) and my life has never been the same. It’s really worth investing in a good quality machine—it will make your life as a designer a whole lot less painful!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting on the part-time course at Shillington, what would it be?
You get out what you put in.
Be prepared to do A LOT of your own homework outside of class. You will thank yourself later for putting in more time to graduate as confidently as you can.
Anything else you wish to share? Surprise us!
I never wanted to do remote learning (hence why I chose Shillington). Surprisingly, I really loved going into lockdown and attending Shillington online. I thrived in the online environment! It gave all students a great chance to learn online collaboration programs like Slack and Zoom—also helpful after graduating as a lot of job interviews had begun to be conducted online. It also pushed me to set up an equipped home office and invest in a high-quality iMac (without school computers to work on), which has been a valuable investment!
Want to become a graphic designer just like Chantel? Learn more about Shillington’s 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time courses in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Online.