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Study Design Abroad: Lorenzo Mengolini, Italy to Shillington Manchester

While working in a factory to sustain his motorbike competitions and practising his self-taught design skills on the side, Lorenzo Mengolini learned about Shillington’s graphic design course. He dropped everything and, despite the obstacles, moved to Manchester and enrolled! Lorenzo graduated with a fantastic portfolio and has been working as a UX designer across Europe ever since.

We chatted to Lorenzo about moving to another country to study design, how the course built on his existing skills and what it’s like to work in UX design. Read on to learn his story!

You moved from Italy to Manchester to study design at Shillington. Why did you choose to make the move and why did you choose to study at Shillington?

I guess that if I have to sum up the ‘why’ in one word, it would be passion.

Before my relocation abroad, I was working full-time in a small factory close to where I grew up to sustain my off-road competitions while simultaneously doing some design work on the side, mainly to practice my skills.

One day, entirely out of the blue, a former teacher of mine that knew about my design interest sent me a really concise email with a collection of impressive design schools. She was encouraging me to pursue my passion and turn it into a proper career.

At first, the idea sounded absurd: I wasn’t financially ready for it, all of my relationships were in Italy, and the language barrier was a real thing—probably, the last thing you want to do is invest all your savings into something that you’ll not even be able to understand.

Fast forward few months, despite all the possible adversities, my love for design paired with an intense curiosity for the “outside world” had made me change my mind. I quit my job, sold all my possessions and dropped everything to start an unpredictable new journey.

After all, Why not? It’s somewhat crazy to think about how powerful can your curiosity be when paired with personal interests.

How was the move? What did you make of Manchester?

I’d rather say otherwise but moving was, without a doubt, intense. At that point, I never had lived abroad before, nor lived on my own.

So… well you can imagine, right? The contemporary story of the young guy that moves abroad with just a bunch of dreams but still need to figure out how the whole thing works. I quickly found myself immersed in a completely new context, society and culture clueless of what was yet to come.

I made the city my new home and started taking free English classes downtown Manchester. Several months passed by and a few lessons were learned by before I felt somewhat comfortable again.

Everything fell into place during a lunch break when, after months of preparation, I visited the Manchester campus.

At that moment, when I first met (Manchester teachers) Ed and John on the fifth floor of 1 Portland Street, everything became clear—that was it.

Before Shillington, you were a freelance web designer. How did the course help to build your skills?

Freelance Web Designer makes it sounds very fancy. What I was really, was more just a guy trying to connect his design enthusiasm to some basic web knowledge and try to sell the results somehow. When I first decided to join the program, I was mainly looking for clarity and an authoritative point of view (that is eventually exactly what I got).

The course at Shillington, more than anything else, gave me the confidence that I had lacked.

Through practising design intensively in real-world circumstances, I learned the power of relying upon a process that resulted in the courage of doing.

From there, it was just a matter of working hard to consolidate the design skills I had accumulated over the years.

Tell us about your experience of the course? Can you talk to us about your favourite brief and the processes behind it?

Before Shillington, I never thought education could be enjoyable.

I always refer to that time as one of the most significant and exciting times in my life; both the learning atmosphere and the people I shared this adventure with were incredible.

There is no brief that I favour over the others cause I somewhat I enjoyed the learnings of all of them. But, the projects that taught me the most where the broader ones—the ones in which the idea mattered as much as the execution itself. It was at that point that I understood that good design always has a meaning behind it and shouldn’t just be artistically beautiful.

I guess from there I just kept asking too many ‘WHYs’.

Since graduating you’ve worked in Munich, Milan and Amsterdam. Did you always plan to move around for work or has it just happened?

It just happened. During these years, I’ve been investing my time living in some of the most fascinating European capitals, moving from one job opportunity to the next without really planning it. Although sparked from a career desire, when it comes to my wanderer lifestyle, my insatiable appetite for travel has presumably played a primary role too.

Besides, I guess we could connect this constant travelling behaviour to my generation as well as this particular moment in history.

There is something weirdly addictive about the different perspectives that you discover when living in different environments and cultures.

You’re now working on the experience design team at AKQA in Amsterdam. Can you tell us about what you do there?

The Amsterdam office is mostly known across the network for his broad expertise in the UX field. So recently, after several months of anticipation, I moved here from the Milan office to develop my skills while working alongside some of the world’s leading practitioners.

My responsibility and involvement differ depending on the type of project. But mainly, along with the team, I try to bring to the table customers perspective to create products that not only look and feel beautiful but also brings value to the life of end-users.

Daily, we create artefacts (such as user journeys, experience maps, prototypes, etc.) to facilitate conversations and create an agreement across all audiences.

Could you tell us about a recent professional project?

Unlike UI and product designers that principally focus on the aesthetic of the outcome for us ‘UXers’, it’s always tricky to showcase the direct results of our work.

After all, our efforts are mostly dedicated to invisible attributes like functionality and usability more than everything else.

Nevertheless, you can spot some results of my most recent work in the digital products of some of the most extraordinary automotive brands in the world.

Does your Italian heritage inspire your design in any way? Or have any of the other countries you’ve lived and worked in inspired you?

Different cultures influence my work in many distinct ways. Mostly I get inspired by observing how diverse group of people within different conditions use technology and the variety of services available today.

This curiosity and excitement for technology allow me to stay relevant in this fast paced industry, always wondering how the future will look like.

What would you say to someone who is sceptical about the Shillington course?

If you have been dreaming about it, start your journey now.

This is the kind of education you didn’t know existed. This is the answer if you can’t wait to start your design career, and you are looking to learn relevant skills while practising and building your confidence. 100% guaranteed.

Big thanks to Lorenzo for sharing his story with us—we can’t wait to see what other cities the future takes him to. Make sure to follow him on Instagram or drop him an email if you have any questions!

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