Tally Thompson took a huge risk to say goodbye to her social media manager job and completely retrain as a graphic designer. Studying nine months part-time at Shillington Manchester, Tally graduated with an incredible design portfolio that landed her a job at Awesome Creative quickly after graduation. Plus, she went on to receive two finalist nods at the AGDA Student Design Awards 2018 for her Icecreamists Packaging and Shero Campaign, which also picked up an extra Distinction.
Read on to hear how Tally switched careers, her self-set challenge to enter design competitions, how Shillington “gave [her] the confidence, guidance and technical knowledge for the real design world” and what’s on the horizon for 2019.
What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you decide to study design?
I was a proper art kid in school, spending as much time in the studio as I could because I just loved to draw, paint and print! I then went on to study graphic design at university but, like some other people I found on the course, when I graduated I didn’t feel prepared or confident enough to go for designer jobs.
I tried to find something that allowed an element of creativity, whilst directly communicating with an audience so I ended up becoming a social media manager for a tech company in Manchester.
Although this was a great job, it didn’t push my creativity enough, I needed to see how far it could really go and stop living in a comfort zone!
At first it felt like a huge risk quitting the steady career I had built for years, but Shillington has genuinely been the best investment and career choice I’ve ever made!
You landed your role at Awesome Creative quickly after graduation. Tell us about that hiring process. Did you feel confident on your job hunt?
A big piece of advice for Shillington students would be, although it’s a great opportunity and spring board, don’t depend on the graduate show as the only place to get job. Real talk: Graphic design is an incredible, but competitive industry! You need to be able to use the confidence and creative skills you’ve gained to really stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs.
Start by following people/studios on social media and make sure you post your work and doodles as much as possible. Be bold and dive into industry events to meet other designers and ask their advice. They’re a lovely bunch who were all junior designers themselves at some point!
I met my boss Rob through freelancing. I always admired his amazing work at Awesome Creative and kept in touch throughout my time at Shillington. Even though Awesome Creative were getting plenty of grads applying, they wanted someone they knew they would get on well with and had an awesome portfolio.
Be bold, express yourself and just get to know people!
Congratulations! Two of your Shillington design projects were selected as Finalists in the AGDA Awards, and you received a (seriously impressive) Distinction. How did that feel?
Thank you, it genuinely felt incredible!
Before starting the course, I saw that a few Shillington grads had gone on to win awards and so I set that as a—what seemed mystical—goal to make sure I pushed myself as much as possible to create work I could be proud of and wanted to show people.
It’s been an incredible confidence boost that was true recognition that really made me feel that I made the best choice and I’m exactly where I should be. It’s all good when your mum or friends think your work is good but when it is a great feeling to know that legendary professionals in the industry like it too! I’ve got the bug now so will be applying for more in 2019…Watch this space.
You studied part-time. What was your biggest challenge during the course?
Time management. This is something you need to nail from day one. Shillington may start at an intro pace but there’s a lot to learn in a short timespace so it becomes intense pretty quick, so juggling work alongside coursework is a real challenge but if you’re ready to be dedicated and passionate about becoming a designer—anyone can do it!
What would you say to someone who is sceptical about Shillington’s fast-paced design course?
I can honestly say that I have learnt more in the 9 months at Shillington than I did in the 3 years at university and know others that would say the same! Shillington is a well-recognised course in the design industry, with grads all over the globe smashing it whether they work for huge agencies, own their own studio or are amazing freelancers.
Shillington gave me the confidence, guidance and technical knowledge to prepare me for the real design world. Working on exciting, in depth briefs whilst being taught by successful designers who are currently working in the industry—what’s not to love?
Anything else you’d like to share?
Firstly, you will meet some incredible, like-minded people who will become great friends (and helpfully honest critics). Secondly, there will be highs and lows (two words: portfolio time) so make sure a solid goal to keep you focussed on why you are taking the course and what you want to achieve after – do you want to work for a big agency? Be a freelance illustrator? Or just master photoshop? Then make sure each project reflects that goal.
The more you put into the course, even in your spare time with extra practise and tutorials (which I still do now!) the more you will get back. Believe me, it will feel so worth it! Just go for it!!
Would you like to change careers and become an award-winning designer like Tally? Study design 3 months full-time or 9 months part-time in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.