Anastasiia Vinnichenko has been creative since her teenage years, working on craft projects and drawing. After graduating from the university, she worked as a tax consultant for three years in Moscow. However, after moving to Manchester, she decided to change career paths and enroled in the Shillington full-time course.
Since Shillington, Anastasiia won an AGDA Design Award and was a winner of the Shillumni Type Competition! Find out about her experience working at the creative studio Tile Creative, her screenprinting collaboration with another Shillumni, and advice to designers looking to live/work abroad.
What made you decide to take the plunge and shift careers after working as a tax consultant?
Like many young people, I’ve been pushed towards financial education by my parents. I’ve got a master’s degree in international tax planning and 3 successful years working in PwC. I was good at it and it certainly paid the bills, but the truth is it’s not what I really wanted. When I moved from Russia to the UK, I had to change my life drastically, so I’ve realised that it was a perfect opportunity to pursue my dream and become a designer. And I’m so glad that I did.
It was quite a journey. The beginning was really tough. Everything was new to me and I didn’t know where to start. I’d spend days learning online, drawing, designing and applying for jobs, then updating my portfolio and starting again the next day. But with very little luck. It was clear that I needed a direction and I decided to go for a professional education. Then Shillington took me like a hurricane. Despite some struggles and sleepless nights it just felt right. Time went by and the full-time course switched to a full-time job almost right after graduation. Endeavours paid off and my dream came true before I knew it. Now I pride myself on working in a design agency in Manchester and couldn’t be more delighted.
How is the Shillington course different from other design programs you considered?
I’ve seriously considered only two options in Manchester—the Shillington course and a graphic design degree at a university. On the surface, the latter seemed to be a more profound real education, but it would take me 3 years without any guarantee to actually apply learnt skills to real life. And to be honest I didn’t want to wait so long. Shillington was the opposite—3 months of intense therapy with a predictable outcome. The studio environment approach and quality of other grads’ portfolios I’ve seen made the choice obvious to me.
What was your experience studying in Manchester and what tips can you offer to other students looking to study internationally?
When I started the course my English wasn’t great and frankly speaking I felt a little bit ashamed of it. There were many other international students at the campus with similar language and cultural barriers. Originally I thought it would be a problem, but then we learned that those differences, in fact, are our advantages rather than weaknesses, and helped us stand out in a creative environment.
My main advice to future students is to not be afraid and stay open-minded.
I also remember that guest lectures had a big impact on me. It was very inspiring to interact with the industry leaders and learn from their mistakes and success, it helped me a lot with setting my own goals. Use every opportunity to interact, ask, listen and share. And of course, don’t forget to have fun!
After graduating from Shillington, you decided to stay in Manchester. What is the creative scene like?
Coming from Moscow, Manchester seems small to me. But when it comes to the creative scene I’d say it’s true only geographically—so many things going on! This boiling kettle density creates high competition but also gives a lot of opportunities to make connections easier and build your network by going to professional events or even just hanging out with friends. I‘ve grown to like Manchester and its creative family very much.
What interesting projects are you currently working on at Tile Creative?
It’s quite a wide range really. One of my first big projects was to create a suite of graphics for an office space, and a logo and wall graphics for a gym. Unlike most of the work I’ve done previously, this one allowed me to apply design to a 3-dimensional space.
I also really enjoyed working on the brand identity for a makeup artist and pleased with the laconic but precise result. On a daily basis, I do a variety of print and digital projects for our regular clients—menus, roller banners, brochures, business cards and other collateral. Also, I had a chance to develop clients’ social media strategy that includes illustrations and animations which I’m particularly fond of.
Do you think the Shillington course helped build your skillset and prepare you for the design industry?
Absolutely yes. Before Shillington, I only could draw and paint. The course really helped me to elevate my creativity to a completely new level. It gave me a system and a process that I can use to transform any creative concept into a beautiful design project.
I like how during the course we gradually built our skillset from the basic to more advanced techniques.
After graduation, I felt very confident in core skills such as typesetting, illustration, fundamentals of digital and packaging design and was already exploring animation. Moreover, my first job seemed a lot easier in comparison to some of the challenges I came across during the course.
Did you make any meaningful connections with your classmates during the course?
I’ve met so many talented people—we usually catch up at design events and grad shows. Even though one of my good friends from the course moved back to Canada, we still keep the connection and plan on collaborating. The Shillumni Facebook group has been particularly useful. I’m also working on a screen printing project with another classmate from Shillington—I’ll talk about it later.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?
Ask a lot of questions! Teachers and classmates are genuinely supportive. So be decisive on your goals and don’t be scared to ask for help.
It’s really only up to you how much you can get from the course—just go for it!
You were the winner of the Shillumni type competition! The Cyrillic typeface is so beautiful. Tell us about the inspiration and process.
Thanks again for picking my work as a winner! My artwork was inspired by the old Russian type of Cyrillic ornate lettering (called Vyaz) which was widely used in the 14-19th centuries. The actual look of these letterforms was more important than readability. So every book handwritten in Vyaz had a sense of craft to them and was considered as a true masterpiece. Colour palette represents the precision and expertise of Russian scribes.
I started with research on different Russian typography styles. After I picked the style I sketched out a few options of the type lock-up. Then I moved to my laptop to build a few letters and realised that it didn’t have enough to it. So I went back to sketching and decided to use variant baselines and decorative swirls to create a sense of development and playfulness. I had to draw the final lock-up by hand, then scanned it and traced with a pen tool on my laptop and picked the right colour palette.
After I won the competition, my Creative Director decided to put my artwork on our glass wall.
Now our studio is truly unique unlike any other place in Manchester. And of course, I’m dead excited to see my work in this huge size every day!
How has your life changed after Shillington? Where do you see yourself in 1-2 years from now?
Drastically! I’ve got new like-minded friends and dream job! I became much more confident and settled. In 1-2 years I see myself doing what I love in a small team of designers, but on an even larger fascinating scale and embrace and lead younger talents.
What do you love about being a designer?
I simply love the opportunity to create something beautiful and meaningful that never existed before. Even if it’s a simple poster. I like the artistic vibe and the people around me at work. And no dress code.
What advice can you offer to other designers that want to work internationally?
My advice to other designers that are considering to work abroad—go for it! You can always move back if it doesn’t work for you. But still it’s definitely worth trying—you’ll get priceless experience (both life and work) and an opportunity to build your international network.
Building a career in a new country can be a bit tricky. However, it can be used to your advantage. It’s easy to learn about a new culture just by asking lots of questions. Most people are very open to exchange experience. Different cultural backgrounds can also be used as a unique selling point when looking for opportunities—it gives you a different perspective on solving problems that can add great value to the team. Working with people in another language can be a bit stressful. However, it’s enough to learn basic language to communicate your ideas clearly. It’s also useful to research local design events where you can learn about recent industry trends, meet like-minded people and practice your networking skills. For instance, in Manchester there are events almost every week. Do your research on the studios/agencies you would like to work at but at the same time be open to different career opportunities.
You are very busy creatively! Tell us about your personal projects. You mentioned you were creating a range of t-shirt designs with abstract shapes and also collaborating on screen printing with another Shillington graduate.
Thanks! Custom clothing has been always my passion and nothing can cheer you up better than different handcrafted t-shirts for each day of the week—that’s my abstract shapes line of 7 acrylic paintings. I wish I could share my designs with as many people as possible, so screen printing was the natural step forward.
With my classmate, we bought all the necessary equipment, built frames and set up mini-lab in the garage. It’s always compelling to learn new techniques and get your hands dirty. So even though it took some time to get through unsuccessful attempts, I really enjoyed the process. Definitely looking forward to the Manchester Print Fair this Spring. You can see some of my creative experiments on my Instagram page here.
Are you still keeping up with your weekly type challenge?
It was a 3 month typography challenge aimed to push the borders of imagination and gain more experience in typography. Consistent exploration of other designers’ work and ideas, mimicking their work not only gave me inspiration but helped to develop my own style. Glad to announce that I’ve actually accomplished it and quite satisfied with the results.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Actually very exciting news! My packaging & branding project for boutique pet products that I did during the course recently received the AGDA distinction at the 2018 AGDA Design Awards! I’m very proud, it’s a true honour to have been picked out of all the entries. The brand concept is quite eccentric and based on a fictional story about boarding school pet dog Master Julius. Definitely check it out!
Are you interested in studying at our Manchester or London campus? Learn about Tally Thompson’s path to a career change from marketing to design and Camila Rogelis’s experience studying abroad in London.