Learn graphic design fast. That was the first I’d heard of Shillington. The advertisement headline made me want to stick pins in my eyes. As an Honours graduate of a cut-throat Australian university, I considered that statement to completely undermine the consideration and care I had invested in my four year academic odyssey.
The very worst designs are often the result of ill or limited historical and cultural consideration—this recent miscalculation from Zara is a case in point. I thought that a three month intensive wouldn’t be able to even touch the edges of what a design graduate would need to know. I ho-hummed a little, and then got on with my decade of working in design and advertising agencies across Australia and the UK.
Several years later I stumbled across another advertisement for Shillington, this time for a graphic design lecturer. I’d long wanted to share my knowledge with others and my interest was piqued. But Shillington? How could you possibly teach what young designers need to know in such a short period of time? Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to apply for the job.
Two interviews later I was still not convinced. But the staff were amazing and it looked like a great place to work. Andrew Shillington asked me to come along to the end of year Graduate Exhibition, and that was my turning point.
The grad show was impressive and portfolios were amazing, but that wasn’t what changed my mind about Shillington. It was the spirit of the place. An overwhelming warmth was present in the room that night. Elated graduates, glowing with a sense of achievement, and the teachers hugging their graduating students like proud parents.
It was the total opposite of my soulless university graduation, and I wanted to be a part of it.
I accepted the job the next day. I was excited, but I still had no idea how it was possible to achieve so much in so little time. That all changed very quickly. After my initial training, I was thrown into the intensity of the course. And intense is the only word I can use to explain my experience. Class is from 8am to 5pm—a far cry from the few hours a day I used to drop into university for on my way to the pub!
But it isn’t just a matter of contact hours. The Shillington course is efficient. Theory is interlinked with the practical. Colour theory, for instance, is taught through a series of short lectures and exercises to apply new knowledge—and then used directly in a commercial client brief.
Of course, you couldn’t possibly teach all there is to know about colour in such a short time, but it is the starting point of a student’s learning. It gets them excited and opens the door to further knowledge. I studied colour theory at university for two years (writing essays about Japanese colour theory versus the Western method, and so on) but when it came to applying colour to my own designs, I was left paralysed.
After all that study, I spent my first years as a young designer using only black, white, grey and (if I was feeling really adventurous) silver!
The attitude towards design education is changing rapidly. The days of doing a degree and moving into a job for life are long gone. Agility is key. A course such as Shillington’s is a strategy in life-long career of enhancement and development.
While I wouldn’t give up my university experience for anything, I graduated with my Honours degree in tow and without the skills to get a real job. After four years of study I could art direct and conceptualise, but I’d never actually used the industry standard layout software. And that’s the exact reason that Andrew started Shillington.
Small class sizes with two full-time teachers means that Shillington can really provide a personalised education. We make sure we get to know each student, what motivates them, what skills they already bring with them, and what they’d like to get out of the course. This is the bespoke and unique model that Shillington offers and is something that just cannot be done through online learning or production-line courses.
I completed teaching my first Shillington course proud of what each student had achieved, and with a few lifelong friends as a bonus.
Fast forward to 2015, and I’m proud to be the Director of Shillington. Every day is an exhilarating experience working with passionate designers and teachers in an industry that is constantly changing.
Across the world, each graduating class sends a group of passionate and inquisitive designers into the workforce, and taking with them our unique Shillington approach and sensibility.
Anthony Wood is the Director of Shillington Australia.