Meet Carla Zimbler, VJ, Designer and Shillington Graduate

Woman leaning on bench, resting chin in hand

For Carla Zimbler, studying graphic design at Shillington meant diving into a fast-paced, immersive course to overhaul her design skills and swiftly adapt to the growing demands of her clients. In building a strong foundation in the fundamentals of design, Carla was able to jump straight back into business without hesitation. She was even able to use her valuable in-class time to produce work for real world clients.

After Shillington, Carla has gone on to start her own business and spearhead a multi-dimensional career as a designer and VJ (short for video jockey). Her work pushes her to constantly innovate, improvise and problem solve on the spot. Read on to find out more about how Carla got the most out of her time at Shillington, how she is finding running her own business and why experimentation is a key to great design.

How did you learn about Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?

I found out about Shillington through online research. I weighed up a few different design schools, asked questions, sourced feedback and settled on the full-time, 3 month course. At the time, I had just arrived back from overseas and was looking to skill-up before the new year. My pre-existing clients were asking for motion graphics/animated type and I was eager to go back to square one and learn the basics.

I realised that I had gaps in my knowledge and Shillington was the perfect opportunity to completely immerse myself in design thinking and practice and meet like-minded creatives in an intimate class setting.

I realised I prefer intensive-style learning as it helps me stay focused and on track.

Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skill set?

I come from a media production background with a focus on post-production, editing and experience designing title sequences. During a year-long exchange in Copenhagen and Iceland, I discovered a passion for animation and VFX and developed new skills in set design for performance and projection art. Combining these interests led me to the music industry where I directed music videos, produced promotional material for album releases and designed/operated live visuals as a ‘VJ’ for festival tours.

At Shillington, I learnt how to understand and respond to a variety of creative briefs/clients, be critical and adapt my aesthetic to different genres.

I felt more confident in both technical/design knowledge and scope of the software. I dipped my toe into serif typefaces for the first time and learnt basic UX design, I developed ‘tone of voice’ and got ‘punny’ for COP-A-CHOP which received a Distinction at the 2018 AGDA Design Awards.

What was your favourite student brief? Tell us about the process and the final outcome.

My favourite brief was hand-made, because it gave me the opportunity to engage with ‘analogue-style’ distortion rather than digitally manipulated text. I crouched over my bathtub with a mini-projector and DSLR camera, blowing bubbles, capturing the warped effect and impact of fluid, soap-infused typography.

I utilised the hand-made brief to develop promotional assets for an A/V festival called ‘A Nice Warm Bath’ I was in the process of conceptualising and curating. 

The brief helped me refine the visual identity of the festival which I pitched to City of Melbourne Council in 2018. Once the grant was approved, I adapted my hand-made project into merchandise, marketing content for social platforms and festival way-finding. ‘A Nice Warm Bath’ sold-out at Melbourne Music Week in November 2018 and is expected to return in 2020-2021 with a refreshed identity.

My approach to each Shillington brief was always experimental—I would be in the back of the classroom under the table with a projector trying to map text across unusual surfaces like cotton wool or using animation software to extrude and manipulate graphic elements. Whilst there were times in class when I felt doubtful, frustrated and sat blankly shrouded in brain-fog, I recognised this was all part of the creative journey—and an emotional one it was!

The final two weeks of the course unearthed an adrenaline I didn’t know existed. I ultimately emerged from the design frenzy with a portfolio I was proud to present. 

Shillington was a rewarding challenge and I want to thank the staff for their patience and support.

In 2015, previous to Shillington, you studied Experimental Art Studies at LungA School in Seyðisfjörður in Iceland. Can you tell us how this time influenced your graphic design work?

My studies in Iceland highlighted the importance of trial and error and taught me to trust the process. I attended a workshop called ‘Intuition over Intention / Purpose over Goal’ hosted by Lotte Rose Kjær Skau (DK) and Daniel Grossman (UK) who asked us to trust our intuition and embrace accidents. We were challenged to break out of our patterns, experiment and create freely, get into the state of making using new tools, rules and obstacles. This creative process opened up new pathways and the outcome was rewarding.

Can you tell us about Tszuj, your stage design and light installation collective that you run in partnership with Mikaela Stafford?

At Studio Tszuj, we design the visual aesthetic and spatial experience of a festival or performance through light-based sculpture and projection mapping. The process usually starts with a meeting, site-visit and an exchange of reference images and mood boards.

We spend a few weeks conceptualising the design, testing ideas, assessing feasibility, chatting with manufacturers of various materials, developing visual assets such as typography and 3D animation which will help define the colour temperature, tone and mood of the event.

A great example is the installation work we did at ACMI for International Women’s Day in 2019. A life-sized puzzle featuring UV-reactive string outlined the words: STRONGER TOGETHER FOR A BETTER WORLD across a series of cubes which encouraged interaction and play. We also soaked the space in projection mapped quotes and live visuals. Over the past year, Tszuj has worked with clients such as Mixcloud, W Hotel, Inner Varnika, Hybrid Festival, Red Bull Music Festival, Art Not Apart, Something Unlimited, NECTAR and Bizarro.

We like to think multi-sensory when it comes to design, curating spaces that bodies can respond to in unusual ways—such as using light, scent and touch to evoke emotions, mindfulness or trigger memories. There are a lot of exciting projects and festivals in the works—which are all temporarily on hold due to COVID-19. Follow our Instagram for updates and rescheduled dates.

What was your favourite recent project?

My favourite recent project would have to be ‘Performing Femininity’ with Makeda Zucco at Arts House, Melbourne. The project was curated by Cool Room and Liquid Architecture. I added feedback and noise displacement to text that floated and warped around the room and manipulated a live-stream of the performance.

What creatives are you currently inspired by?

I’m currently inspired by Greta Þorkelsdóttir, Vincent Houzé, Zach Lieberman, Dirk Koy, teamLab and Paolo Bosson—definitely fill your feed with their art.

Anything else you wish to share? Surprise us!

Thinking about the resurgence of skywriting and aerial advertising right now.

Huge thanks to Carla for sharing her Shillington story with us! Be sure to check out Tszuj, explore Carla’s website and follow her on Instagram.

Want to study graphic design at Shillington? Learn more about our 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time course in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

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