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7 Years Since Shillington Manchester: Lorelle Skelton, Founder of The Creative Occupation (+ Exclusive Discount!)

Credit: Ellie Grace Photography

Back in 2014, Lorelle Skelton was working at a digital marketing agency but wanted to take that next, creative step. After stumbling across an advert for Shillington, she knew it was for. So she jumped on a train from Sheffield to Manchester and never looked back. Now, seven years later, she’s not only running her own studio, Good Great Creative, but has just launched an amazing initiative, The Creative Occupation. TCO is a network and platform for the entire UK creative community to help guide them on their career journeys—read more below! Lorelle and TCO are also offering an incredible 90 days free to Shillington students, Shillumni and friends.

We caught up with Lorelle to talk TCO’s aims, her before and after of becoming a graphic designer and her Shillington experience. Read on!

It’s been seven years since you studied at Shillington! Casting your mind back, why did you choose the full-time course in Manchester?

I never thought I’d be a graphic designer! Perhaps because my mum was, and that would have been too obvious. Instead, I embarked on various other creative and academic pursuits, and it wasn’t until I landed my first permanent role at a digital marketing agency back in 2010 that I realised it was meant to be.

I was tasked with designing HTML emails for our leisure industry clients and, though they weren’t dream briefs (think cutting out images of beer bottles and typing ‘BOGOF burgers’ into banners), a passion was ignited. I was self-taught at that point and there were huge gaps in my knowledge. I’d also developed some bad habits, and I had no portfolio to speak of. I knew that before I could start applying for graphic design roles I needed to address these things, so when I saw an advert for Shillington in a copy of Computer Arts magazine (RIP) I was excited. Having already attended a university, I wasn’t interested in duplicating that experience, and I was used to a fast-paced agency environment so Shillington was exactly what I was looking for.

How was your Shillington experience? Can you remember what your favourite brief was on the course?

I commuted from Sheffield, so the days were long, but it was super rewarding being completely immersed in the design process every day! The briefs were really meaty and the teaching was excellent—shout out to my teachers back then, John Palowski and Ed Baptist, who are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about design.

I learnt a huge amount about graphic design as well as my own strengths and weaknesses.

I fell in love with InDesign and Illustrator (and out of love with Photoshop), and ultimately created some work that I’m still quite proud of to this day! All the briefs were fantastic but I particularly enjoyed the city branding one. It was such a great challenge to invent an identity that could be applied in so many different ways.

Are you still in contact with any of your fellow students from the course?

Unfortunately, no. It was a whirlwind time in my life and we’ve all gone our separate ways now, which I regret, but I’m tapped into the wider Shillumni community through Facebook and my hope is that my new venture will be another way for myself, and other Shillington students, Shillumni and friends, to connect.

What have you been up to since graduation? How has your life changed after Shillington?

It’s been a journey! The first role I secured upon graduating was at an advertising agency in Leeds. I designed across POS, editorial, email and branding for household names such as Asda, Hermes, Hobbycraft and Well Pharmacy. I learnt lots there but it wasn’t a great fit for me, so I accepted a role close to home, working in-house at a leading educational publisher. I designed resources initially, then went on to help develop new products, before becoming acting Chief Brand Officer, taking responsibility for the look and feel of their entire, quite vast, creative output.

By this point I felt I’d gained enough experience to go it alone, so that’s exactly what I did in 2017. I initially focused on graphic art, through a self-directed project exploring the intersection of race and beauty, under the guise Black on Paper, but found myself returning to what I knew best after discovering my ideal client and personal ‘niche’—third sector design.

You’ve just founded The Creative Occupation. Can you tell us about your new undertaking? What’s your aim with TCO?

The Creative Occupation is a new network and platform for the entire UK creative community. It exists to help guide those working in the creative industries on their career journeys, so that they can fulfil their potential and occupy more space in their chosen fields.

My hope is that it will particularly help creatives struggling to access professional development tools and spaces elsewhere, such as freelancers who make up almost half of us (Creative Freelancers, Creative Industries Federation, 2017); giving them the support and resources to thrive.

TCO is also about advocating for a more diverse creative industries, with increased representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) creatives, in particular. There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that BAME creatives may be subject to biases that affect their employment (Creative Diversity, Creative Industries Federation, 2015). Being a black creative myself, I’m keen to establish the kind of welcoming and genuinely inclusive space that I feel our industry needs.

TCO will be a home for creatives to connect, learn from one another and be inspired. We’ve just launched with our 22 amazing Founding Members, and in the coming weeks we’ll be releasing lots of exciting blog content, plus details of our first set of events! We’re particularly excited about our mentoring and peer partner programmes, which all members can access.

How can fellow Shillumni get involved?

Shillington students, Shillumni and friends can sign up with 90 DAYS FREE ACCESS (it’s just £5 per month thereafter) with the following custom link: https://thecreativeoccupation.com/sign-up-shillington-offer.

Some of our Founding Members and mentors are notable Shillumni and they’re ready to connect with you! You’ll also be able to access our growing database of resources and take part in member events.

If you’re not ready to join us as a member quite yet, you can still be a part of our community on social media for free motivation, tips, Instagram Live chats and other top content: @thecreativeocc

You also run Great Good Creative. Would you be able to tell us about that as well?

Great Good Creative, simply, is about great creative for good causes. I established the Great Good studio in order to deliver quality graphic design services to third sector organisations, so that they might have a greater impact.

Great Good has had to take a back seat since launching The Creative Occupation (and becoming a mum!), but I remain passionate about helping to effect positive change in the world through graphic design.

What kind of work do you take on? Can you tell us about a recent professional project?

I’ve worked with a host of exciting charities, social enterprises and businesses to craft innovative branding, print and digital projects that inspire action. Much of my work has been in support of women’s issues. In particular, I’ve been lucky enough to have been trusted with branding Emayani Foundation and Afya Woman, charities focused on growing African womens’ businesses and well-being, respectively.

I’m also very interested in using my skill set to help tackle climate change, so I was thrilled, last year, to be selected to create the branding for Climate 2025, an international movement-building consultancy focused on climate action.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who has just graduated from Shillington, what would it be?

Find a community. I didn’t understand the importance of this at the start of my career and it’s only now, over 10 years in, that I can see how helpful it would have been.

Having people around you who can; challenge you, listen to you, teach you, inspire you, motivate you, be a friend to you, hold you accountable, collaborate with you, cheer you on, and be honest with you, is invaluable!

So, take advantage of your Shillumni network and seek out other networks and communities, like The Creative Occupation. Always be open to engaging with other creatives; you never know what relationships might blossom, or how they might impact on your work, and career trajectory.

Anything else you would like to add?

I think it’s important starting out to be prepared for any twists and turns and to remain open to any opportunities that may come your way during your first years of work.

Normalise trying a bunch of different things and taking the squiggly path less travelled!

It’s going to be a journey, and that’s OK 🙂

Huge thanks to Lorelle for sharing her story with us! Make sure to check out TCO and don’t miss out on that amazing exclusive offer. You can also keep up to speed with the organisation on Instagram. Make sure to also follow Great Good Creative on there as well—and take a look at Lorelle’s work on her website

Lorelle got you feeling inspired? Learn more about Shillington’s 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time courses Online or on campus in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

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