We caught up with Jack to hear all about his 4 years since graduating from Shillington. Read on to learn about his gradual journey from internships to a permanent position, career highlights from working at The Neighbourhood as well as those amazing letters he designed for 36 Days of Type using self-taught skills.
You studied on our part-time course in Manchester back in 2013—what initially attracted you to Shillington and was the experience everything you hoped it to be?
I spent a lot of time playing around with design and it was always something that I was interested in, but I had no practical or theoretical knowledge, I just knew what I liked. I saw an ad in Computer Arts and after a bit of research it seemed that no one was offering anything similar to Shillington. I saw it as an opportunity to really change what I was doing at the time and it didn’t let me down in the slightest.
I’m not saying it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it was without doubt the most enjoyable and life changing.
I met some amazing people (and continue to now through Shillington) and it set me up in exactly the right way to be a designer. In short the answer is, Yes.
Did you juggle any commitments alongside the course and if so how did you manage both?
I chose to work while I was studying Part-Time due to financial commitments. I can’t say that the job I was doing was enjoyable at all, but the lack of enjoyment I had doing that job only made me more determined and focused on the course both in and out of the classroom. A lot of late nights, early morning, swapping and changing shifts to fit what I wanted my life to be. I can only say that it paid off. And taught me how to manage my time and commitments really well, which is something I still hold on to now both within work and in my personal life.
What happened when you graduated in 2014, were you pleased with your portfolio and did you do an internship or go straight into a design role?
I was so excited! We had our graduation in Manchester and I had my printed portfolio with me running from the tram stop to get there on time, and spirits were high. It was the celebration we needed to realise how far everyone had come from the initial (what seemed) impossible task, then all of a sudden, agencies and recruiters were talking to us about design. This is exactly what I wanted! I loved it so much.
I got a couple of internships while still working part time to keep the money coming in, and interned at a couple of different agencies over the course of 3 months. Then I decided to quit my crappy job one day and as stressful as it was, a couple of weeks later I was working in house at a huge sports brand. From there it just got better and better.
What can someone who studies at Shillington expect the reaction to be once they graduate. In your experience, did you receive any judgements for not going the traditional degree route?
There will always be judgement no matter what course you do, but I kept finding that people were very welcoming because they were more focused on the work. If people don’t agree with your chosen route, they’re judging people on the wrong things.
Traditional routes into things aren’t what the design world is about. Its about finding something new, taking routes unused and knowing when to break tradition.
I genuinely wouldn’t worry about it. Good work and passion speaks for its self. Just because they may not agree with your decisions doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. It just creates a conversation point more than anything.
You’re now working at esteemed Manchester studio, The Neighbourhood. Can you tell us a bit about what you do there—any highlights so far or details on exciting upcoming projects?
I am a designer working across multiple areas at the moment. I have recently moved here and it isn’t disappointing in the slightest. I’m working on the biggest clients I have ever worked on. The guys here are great and the studio is a really good place to be.
I had chance recently to work on the ‘This Is The Place’ book that is released in late September. Which was an absolute honour to be involved in something so close to the hearts of everyone in the city! As well as this we’ve just worked on the brand for Abandon Normal Devices, a digital arts & film festival, then onto the Manchester tourism campaign to draw people to the city. My first project was a website for a global architecture firm that has created some truly stunning buildings across the world. A difficult but interesting task that it just being finalised at the moment.
It’s amazing to see that you’ve built on your design skill set since graduating—your 3D letters in particular are really impressive. Is this something you’ve taught yourself? And would you encourage others to do the same?
Thank you! I absolutely love working in 3D now having just picked it up in my own time. There is something huge to be said for constantly learning and figuring out new techniques to sell in a creative idea. I did teach myself through the help of many many tutorials and hours of figuring out which box to tick. But that the fun in working in new software I guess.
The typography came from a worldwide project called 36 days of type. Where designers submit a letter every day in whatever style they choose. Its a lot of work to do something every day for 36 days, but also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I actually got approached by someone who I had worked with in the past that was working at The Neighbourhood and thats how the conversation started for me to get the job eventually.
I would absolutely encourage people to go out of their comfort zone and learn something new. It doesn’t have to be 3D but just spend a month getting really into something different.
Given you’ve been in the design scene for a few years now is there any advice you can pass on to our graduates just stepping into it—any tips on how to ace an interview or make their portfolios shine?
I’d say just answer the brief in the most creative, off the wall and fun way you can. Trust your heart, and always try something thats a little bit out there. Passion and enjoyment are key to be able to create good work and your portfolio is a very formal way to get your foot in the door, once you’re in, know everything you’ve done and rationalise everything with all of the passion that you put into creating it. I’ve always found that once I’m in front of someone with my work, I will talk through it and have a conversation. Its not just a binary conversation that happens. And not getting a job isn’t the worst thing in the world either.
No can be a good answer, not necessarily what you want to hear, but take it on board and fix it for the next time.
The only other thing I would say is always be yourself. You’re good at being you.
Are you curious about studying on our part-time course? Why not come to one of our Info Sessions to find out more. If Manchester is the campus for you we have lots of other interviews with our #ShilloMAN graduates. Read about Anna Duffy, once a teacher now a designer at Studio Jo and Co or Louise Hamer, Design Lead at digital studio, Empire.