Melissa Ridgley‘s creative journey goes way back when she applied to University at age 18 to study a Graphic Design major. But she thought it wasn’t a responsible choice—subsequently cycling through a couple different majors. Post-university, working as a marketer—Melissa found herself at a design conference where she had a lightbulb moment! Down the rabbit hole looking for a design course she stumbled upon Shillington and the rest is history.
She even managed to snag a design job part-way through Shillington! Read on to find out more and hear about her experience with our course.
Before becoming a designer, you studied music and worked in marketing. Why did you decide to take the plunge and become a designer?
I had always been interested in design, but for some reason, I never considered it as something I could do (read: imposter syndrome). I actually applied to University at age 18 as a Graphic Design major, but thought it wasn’t a “responsible” choice so I changed to Music Industry (so much more responsible), and then changed to Business/ Marketing.
A few years after graduation, seemingly through divine intervention, I was working as a Marketer for HOW Design Live, a Design conference for creative professionals. I had this lightbulb moment while working at the conference in Chicago that I wasn’t supposed to be here doing Marketing. I was supposed to be Designing. I think I was always meant to Design, I just didn’t listen. 10 years later and I’m finally where I was meant to be.
What advice can you offer to someone who wants to transition careers?
Pay attention to what you are good at, and what you are obsessed with. If you could spend your entire day off reading about and looking at great design, then chances are you might make a great designer! It sounds cliché, but life is too short to spend it doing something that you aren’t obsessed with.
Recently you started a new job as UX/UI Designer at XPO Brands, congrats! How did you land that?
Thank you! I was contacted by a recruiter about the job in the middle of a pandemic and half-way through my Shillington journey. It was a very uncertain time. But when I learned more about the company, I knew it would be the right fit for me.
I always wanted to work for a small-mid sized Agency, with interesting work and clients, woman-led, and close to where I live—XPO literally ticks all the boxes so it was a dream come true. I think I landed the job not because of my half-portfolio or past experience, but because I expressed my desire to jump right in and tackle the project head-on. They took a chance on me and I’m so glad they did.
Can you tell us about what you get up to at XPO? What does a day in the life of a UX/UI Designer look like there?
Every day at XPO is different and fun, I’m always learning something new and applying myself in a different way. One day I might be researching and designing an eLearning platform, the next day might be an interactive dashboard, a tasks tool, a survey builder, literally anything! It’s a bit more technical than traditional graphic design as I work with developers who help me to understand the technical requirements and limitations, but it really suits me.
I regularly use the techniques I learned at Shillington in my day-to-day, from idea generation to thumbnailing, sourcing inspiration to wireframing, I still follow the same process. My primary goal as a UX/UI Designer is to make things usable, my secondary goal is to make it look and feel great while using it.
How did you learn about Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I learned about Shillington when I was searching for bootcamps and short courses in Sydney in UX/UI Design. I compared Shillington to General Assembly and Academy Xi, both of whom specialise in UX/UI courses and have great reputations.
I decided to go to Shillington even though it’s not purely UX-focussed because of the brief-based curriculum and studio approach. Shillington teaches the foundational skills of Design and Design Thinking, which can ultimately be applied to any discipline. Not to mention, the student portfolios from Shillington absolutely blew the other Bootcamps out of the water! I definitely think I made the right choice.
You had a unique experience with our course, could you tell us a bit about that?
I started out bright-eyed in the February 2020 Full-Time course, moved online due to COVID, decided to take leave from the course, found my job at XPO, and then went back in August to finish in the Part-Time course. It was a whirlwind and very difficult at times but I am glad I stuck with it and finished strong. Also, I can officially say I experienced both the Full-Time and the Part-Time formats.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
Yes! Because I was lucky enough to be part of two cohorts, I have kept in touch with classmates from both courses. I continue to stay in touch with my teachers as well, I love seeing what they’re working on and what they’re up to.
What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
That’s like making me choose my favourite child! It’s a toss-up between Packaging and the Bikeshare brief. I enjoyed Packaging so much because it was unlike anything I had ever done before so my imagination ran wild. I struggled at first but in the end, it all came together. I also loved the Bikeshare brief because it changed and evolved so much, it really took on a life of its own. As a cyclist it felt like a legitimate brand that I dreamt up on my own.
What would you say to someone who is sceptical about the Shillington course?
Believe in yourself and trust the process. I was sceptical if I would be able to do the course myself because I was worried it would entail a lot of drawing.
You definitely do not need to be able to draw or make “art” to do design. All you need to have is the drive and desire to learn, grow, push yourself, and try new things.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?
Pretend you are a kid again and create the things you dream of. Let go of control and lose your ego. Don’t try to be trendy or make what you think you “should” make, just make what’s in your heart. Most of all… HAVE FUN! It’s intense but it goes by fast, and you will miss it.
Big thanks to Melissa for sharing her experiences with us! We can’t wait to see where her creative career takes her. Check out more of her work on her website.
Inspired by Melissa’s story and thinking of taking the leap into graphic design? 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.