Samantha Miller was longing for a chance to do something more creative—so when she spotted the chance to win a Shillington Scholarship she jumped at the chance. We were wowed by Samantha’s engaging, creative response and offered her a position on the full-time course in London. Flash forward a matter of months and Samantha is working as a designer for Within and couldn’t be happier as ‘no two days are the same’ in her new job.
We spoke with Samantha to find out a bit more about her time at Shillington, her new role at Within and advice to those hoping to catch our attention and win one of the 2018 Shillington Scholarships.
Tell us a bit about what you were doing before Shillington. What initially attracted you to study graphic design with us?
Like most people, I had a somewhat circuitous route to Shillington. After studying modern languages at university, I worked in the translation rights department of a large independent children’s book publisher. In many ways it was a dream job, however after over five years there I was longing for a change and the chance to do something more creative. I’d always been interested in graphic design and had dabbled in little projects here and there, but it took me a couple of years before I finally decided to take the plunge and sign up to the course.
I didn’t have the time or money to spend three years doing a new degree, so Shillington was the perfect choice.
You studied on the full-time course which a lot of students describe as being an intense yet thoroughly rewarding experience—was it what you expected it to be and what would you say to someone thinking of signing up?
I have a degree from Oxford University, so I thought I was used to hard work, however Shillington was definitely the toughest thing I have ever done. That said, the teachers do a wonderful job of getting you through the difficult times. You really do just have to trust the process. I spent the first two months hating most of what I produced and wondering if I was ever going to ‘get’ it, but everything came together in the final month and I left with a portfolio I was proud of.
I would absolutely encourage anyone thinking of signing up to do it.
I’d advise doing some basic preparation before the course to get yourself in the right mindset—read lots of graphic design books, start following design studios and blogs to immerse yourself in good design, and free up your diary for three months!
You were one of the winners for our 2017 Half-Scholarships which you won by wowing us with your illustration/animation skills. Were you able to finesse these skills once on the course and combine them with any portfolio projects?
We were really encouraged on the course to explore mixed-media and also to learn as much as possible outside of lessons. I particularly enjoyed the packaging project, I hand-drew different patterns for a luxury granola brand inspired by the work of William Morris. I also enjoyed getting messy with paint and woodblock type for the Hackney Council community report project.
Since graduating you snapped up a design role at global agency Within International, can you tell us a bit about your interview/application process and what it’s been like working there since?
Although I was quite happy with my skills after I finished the course, I was discouraged by lots of junior designer job adverts asking for at least a year’s design experience. After having worked for over five years before Shillington, I really didn’t want to have to go back to doing internships again!
Luckily, the job advert at Within didn’t specify a minimum amount of experience, which gave me the confidence to apply. I had two rounds of interviews including a technical skills test. I could tell that the team really valued my prior work experience which was very encouraging, and they were impressed with my knowledge of the design programs.
Working at Within has been a great introduction to the world of design consultancy. No two days are the same, and it’s really inspiring to work closely with videographers, animators, web developers, C.G.I. specialists, and account managers. Starting a new career can be daunting, however when I joined I was relieved to discover that the practical and conceptual skills I learnt at Shillington held up well in the real world, and I didn’t feel disadvantaged compared to my colleagues with design degrees.
You graduated with a really diverse portfolio with a variety of powerful projects. Which were your favourites and which aspects of the course really stood out for you?
All the projects we did were really valuable from a learning perspective, however one of my favourites was the branding for a Stanley Kubrick film festival. It was interesting exploring how the end user would interact with the brochures we developed, and I came up with a strong graphic style which carried across well to different branded collateral.
I think what makes the course special is the emphasis on teaching the other skills designers need, there is so much more to it that just being good at design! Now that I am working, I can really see the value in the team projects and presentations that we had to do.
How would you describe the community at Shillington and also the Shillumni network of graduates you’re now a part of since graduating?
I loved getting to know the other people on my course. There was a real sense of camaraderie and we supported each other throughout the bad times and the good. We are still in a Whatsapp group together and meet up to go to talks and events. It’s also great knowing I’m part of a global network of other graduates.
Going through the course together gives you a feeling of connection, even to people you’ve never met.
We’re opening up our half-scholarships again this year, what would you say to someone working on their application, any encouraging words of wisdom?
Go for it! I almost didn’t bother applying because I thought there was no way my submission would be good enough. It’s easy to assume that there are hosts of more talented and creative people out there.
It’s a cliché, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go.
I didn’t have a clue what to include in my submission at first, but then I thought of using the Shillington design process itself as my inspiration (or at least what I understood the Shillington design process to be at the time!), and the idea flowed from there.
Are you interested in applying for a half-scholarship? Find out all the details on what we are looking for in the application. Deadline for submission is Friday, 27 July 2018. Read about more of our 2017 winners in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.
We have campuses in London, Manchester, New York, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Find out more about our course by attending an Info Session. You can also speak to our Student Experience Team directly via phone, email or arrange a personal appointment.