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Meet Jaira Adlawan, Shillington Graduate and Designer at Sephora

Jaira Adlawan worked as a project manager, but decided to study design for 3 months at Shillington in Melbourne to cross over to the creative side. Fresh off graduation with her brand new portfolio, she moved to San Francisco and quickly landed a job at Sephora. As she describes, a “wonderful mix of serendipity and hard work”.

Read on to hear more of Jaira’s story, including what her typical day at Sephora is like, her process behind a few creative projects and why she loves designing in San Francisco.

What were you up to before Shillington?

I was an account and project manager for creative agencies in Melbourne and London—wishing I was a Designer! 

Why did you decide to study design? 

I’ve always wanted to do something creative, but never thought I’d actually be capable of it and feared failing at it. I’ve worked with designers my whole professional life and always envied their jobs. In 2015, I wanted to stop envying and start doing. After some research, I found Shillington. Shillington’s curriculum was exactly what I was after. I’ve read fantastic reviews and the graduate portfolios I’ve seen have been really impressive, so it was a no brainer for me! That summer I left London’s miserable winter and went back to Melbourne to dedicate three months of blood, sweat and tears to becoming the graphic designer I wanted to be. Shillington really was the best investment I made for my career.

Congratulations! After graduating you moved to America to work at Sephora. Tell us about the steps behind that bold move.

After I graduated, I moved to San Francisco to be with my husband. Equipped with a fresh portfolio with work I’m so proud of, I sent in my CV and PDF portfolio to a few agencies and studios.

Landing landing a job at Sephora was a wonderful mix of serendipity and hard work.

A recruiter matched me with Sephora who looked at my portfolio and interviewed me the next day. Initially the recruiter didn’t think I had enough beauty/retail pieces but luckily her boss saw my portfolio while walking past and insisted my portfolio be put forward to Sephora. I got an interview the next day and the day following, I received a job offer! The rest is history! 

What’s your typical day like designing at Sephora? 

It really is true when designers say “No two days are the same in the office”. It always varies depending on the project, scale and stage of the project. I always start my day with a cup of coffee and check my email/to do  list. Then I look at my previous day’s work with fresh eyes and make any changes. Currently, I’m  working on 2 projects simultaneously.  The first being the 2018 Holiday campaign (I’m not even kidding—we started in February!) so my days have consisted of putting together moodboards for the several stages of the 5 month campaign. I check-in with my Senior Art Director and huddle to brainstorm any other additional ideas and add further to the moodboard. I normally use the second half of the day to jump on another project, doing explores for a double sided card including typography lock ups, colour palettes, layouts. Later in the afternoon, we have a creative alignment with our Creative Director and Editorial team to make sure we’re on track and the project is creatively sound with the brand. I finish my day by writing my to-do list for the next day to ensure I leave nothing out! 

We love your art direction and illustration for Sephora eGift Cards. Tell us more about that project!

Thanks so much, I’m so proud of this. We update our e-Gift cards seasonally and last year my Art Director and I were tasked with refreshing the e-cards with a new creative concept! After researching the latest trends in beauty and illustration, we fell in love with the idea of integrating beauty elements with fun illustration and images. We worked with our editorial team, stylist and our in-house photographer to bring our ideas to life. I particularly love “Future Boss” with its inspiring and empowering message which to me, embodies Sephora. 

Why do you love San Francisco? Would you encourage fellow designers to move and work overseas?

San Francisco actually reminds me a lot of Melbourne, my home.

It’s got the great outdoors, good food, good weather and so many opportunities! I’d definitely encourage fellow designers to move and work overseas in a heartbeat. Yes, I was nervous at first and it took a lot of hard work to finally get a role I liked, but you really do reap the benefits once you get over the hurdle of fear and initial few months of settling in. It’s so invaluable being able to experience different cultures, opening your eyes and mind and therefore your creativity! 

Can you share the process behind a project from your Shillington portfolio?

Of course! For Synesthesia: Festival of Words and Colours the project was to create an event and identity that would position Spellmasters Victoria as more than just a spelling competition. They want to be seen as a fun, educational and leader in literacy and numeracy.

My process always begins with researching the client, followed by researching our target demographic being kids and teachers. I would then look visual elements that would appeal to this demographic and I also put myself in my grade-school shoes and remembered how much I loved Play-Do with its malleable nature—giving me the ability to create any shape or thing I want. This informed the concept of Synesthesia:  Festival of words and colours.  Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon where one sense is stimulated by another. This was followed by some word association exercises and sketches, which you can see on my website. So using play-doh, I handmade each letter and used different shapes to create a letter – imitating the same nature of Synesthesia. 

The colour palette was very much driven by existing play-do colours and being a daytime festival, blue was an obvious colour choice. Along with creating the event, I designed a poster, website, tickets and a tote bag as “support” pieces. 

Who were your Shillington teachers and what were the biggest lessons they taught you?

My teachers were Chris and Wayne! The biggest lesson they taught me was to thumbnail thumbnail thumbnail and learn the hot keys! Get those ideas out on a piece of paper before jumping straight to the computer. I still do sketches to this day and still keep learning new hot key shortcuts. Thanks Chris and Wayne 😃 

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about studying at Shillington, but skeptical they could change careers?

I would say, it’s now or never —Go for it!

Shillington will change your professional and creative life and you come out of it a very skilled and confident designer, ready to tackle the design world.

It’s honestly the best decision I made for my career, and no joke, I still thank the universe everyday, that I get to do what I love everyday. And it couldn’t have happened without Shillington!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I hope to one day share my knowledge and experience with other students at Shillington. Thanks again guys – I’m forever grateful to Shillington, that I get to live the creative career that I’ve dreamed of. It’s opened up so many opportunities for me and I absolutely love being a forever learner and creative person. 

Big thanks to Jaira for sharing her story! Check out her website and follow her on Instagram for more!

Would you like a creative career like Jaira? Study design at Shillington in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane –>

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