Paul Hallam studied graphic design with a major in illustration at uni, before diverging his career into ministry work shortly after. Unfortunately, he fell ill, and could no longer continue in that role. Fortunately, it re-sparked his creative interest and Paul began to pursue his design journey again! He decided to reinvestigate working in illustration and design, and after chatting to some of our teachers, he knew Shillington was the right fit.
Fast forward six years and Paul now has his dream job as a children’s book illustrator and designer for Scholastic. Read on to find out why he chose Shillington, getting bitten by a wombat, future plans and much more!
Why Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I had studied graphic design at uni with a major in illustration about 10 years previously. After my degree, I worked in a different field but was now interested in getting back into design. I looked around different courses in order to update and refresh my skills. However, most courses were both very long and also covered a lot of what I had already learned at uni.
When I saw the course at Shillington, I knew straight away that the practical studio skills focus was exactly what I needed. I also loved that the course was 9 months part time, so I could keep working while I studied.
You recently landed a job as a Book Designer for Scholastic! Congrats, how did that come about?
Thanks! I am very passionate about illustration for children and about children’s books. I began specialising in this area a few years ago. I have gotten to know many people in children’s publishing and have been involved in several groups centred around children’s books. I found out about Scholastic’s job opening when one of my friends shared their ad on Instagram.
This was a dream job and I was really determined to stand out and get an interview. So I created my portfolio and CV in the form of a children’s book, with myself as the main character. I was so excited when I was called up for an interview and then later to be offered the job!
Being a children’s book illustrator and designer sounds like an amazing job. Could you tell us about a recent professional project that you really enjoyed?
I am working on some projects for Scholastic that I can’t really talk about. But one project I had the privilege of working on last year was to create the visuals for a children’s Christmas music album for a company called Quiz Worx. I designed the CD cover, the booklet and the CD art. It turned out really well and everyone at Quiz Worx was really happy about it. And it was such a thrill to see my artwork on the shop shelf and in shop catalogues!
What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you take the plunge and enrol?
I had been working for a church for the previous 10 years. Unfortunately, I became sick and couldn’t continue in that role. As I was recovering and exploring job options, I decided to investigate working in illustration and graphic design again.
I knew that I needed to update my skills and could see that Shillington was perfect for my situation. I had a meeting with some of the teachers at the Sydney campus and knew that it was for me.
Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skillset?
My main design experience was through university where I studied graphic design in first year and focussed on illustration for the other three years. Unfortunately, uni didn’t really do a great job at helping students be job-ready.
I knew that I needed some studio experience and Shillington gave me just that. The course was run like a real studio—with briefs, feedback and the practices that you find in an actual design studio. By the end of the course, I felt confident to be able to step into a studio and start work.
What was your biggest challenge during the course? Why?
I think the biggest challenge was learning to think and work effectively under the pressure of a short deadline. My tendency is to get paralyzed by that sort of stress. In the course, I learned skills to help me to think and make decisions in that sort of situation.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
Definitely! The teachers were incredibly open to us both in-class time and during the week. I really enjoyed getting to know them, seeing their work and learning from them. I also enjoyed getting to know my classmates.
It was a very friendly, positive and encouraging environment.
What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
My favourite was the packaging brief. I was given ‘pet food’ as my product and ‘Couch Potatoes’ as my demographic. My process was really interesting. Initially, I was thinking about couch potatoes finding it a nuisance to feed their pet while they were watching TV. However, two discoveries in my research really shifted my direction. First, I found that the term ‘Couch Potato’ as a negative term for TV viewers is outdated. With the advent of mobile screen devices and streaming services, TV viewing is no longer seen as negative but is often spoken about positively. Second, as I researched pet owners I found that pet owners don’t see their pets as a nuisance but as a companion. From this research, I developed the concept of ‘TV Tidbits’ as TV snacks that cat lovers would give to their cats as they shared the experience of watching TV together. I gave the packaging a fun logo, movie food stylings, and even created biscuits shaped as lollies, popcorn and ice cream cones. It was a lot of fun!
Where do you see yourself in 12 months’ time?
I would love to keep working at Scholastic and growing in my skills with children’s books. I would also love to have a growing illustration practice outside of my design role. This is already happening a little bit, so I would love to see it continue to develop over the next few years.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the Shillington course?
I would suggest they check it out. Book a meeting with the campus. Ask your questions and share your concerns. As for my experience—I would not have gotten my job if not for the skills and confidence I gained at Shillington.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?
Go to each class with a sense of humility and be ready to learn, to get feedback and to put in your best effort.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us!
I have been bitten by a wombat!