Shillington London graduate Rob Key was already running his own marketing business, Studio Change, but when he wanted to add branding and design to the mix, he knew there was only one choice—Shillington. Whilst balancing his business and family life, Rob completed the part-time course and now five years later is able to offer the full package through Studio Change—working in brand strategy and design. Though, Rob’s repertoire doesn’t stop there! Recognising a major gap in the industry and wanting to do something about it, he’s just launched Change Space, a mental health community specifically tailored towards creatives.
We chatted with Rob to get the low down on his time at Shillington, the five years since he graduated and his work with Studio Change and Change Space.
It’s been 5 years since you left Shillington! Can you tell us about the last 5 years? How has Shillington changed your life?
WOW! That’s flown by!
Completing the course at Shillington gave me the confidence to explore creative ideas, not just in graphic design, but how design in general can impact lives and create change.
Thinking back, why did you choose Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I had been watching Shillington for a while, probably about 3 years before I signed up. The reason I chose it was it’s flexibility, I needed something that would add to the knowledge I already had. Something that fitted around work and a young family. I chose the part time option and managed to gain clients as I was going along.
You now have your own studio, Studio Change. Can you tell us about your studio and the idea of #DesignToDoGood that is at its core?
I have been running my own business for about 10 years. Firstly more marketing, before shifting to brand and design. At its core is the ethos that design can create change, business have the power to create change, it’s something that founders should integrate into their businesses. We all need to make a profit, we all want nice things.
You can have all those things and still do something good. That’s what we try to do, and we like to help clients do the same.
What kind of projects do you work on as a studio? Tell us about a recent professional project.
Most of our projects are brand strategy and design related. Rebrands for traditional service based businesses, charities and community projects. Recently we branded an investment company, that specialises in student accommodation. As part of the project we also helped them set-up mental health services for students. Everywhere they invest will have a student mental health offering.
We try to rebrand the thinking of a business as well as the visual stuff. How are they different? What is it that only they can do? Can they be a niche of one in their industry? How can they use their business to do good things? To be honest, the visual side without the deep thinking is a waste.
You’re also about to launch Change Space, a Mental Health Community for Creatives. What are the aims of the community?
I am passionate about creating projects that make a difference. After all it’s what we try and get clients to do! I have suffered from poor mental health on and off for years. Some days better, some days pretty rubbish.
I have seen it come up a lot in the industry and wanted to take a simple concept to provide a space for those who might need it.
I am hoping it will become a community of positivity, a safe space to be vulnerable, to learn, support and grow.
What will Change Space offer designers? And how can our readers and graduates get involved?
Change Space is set up to be a light-touch space, it’s not heavy therapy, it’ a space to come as a group and share what’s in our heads. Get it out and move on with the day. I will be backed up with an online community with resources, articles and events.
It’s easy to get involved, head over to www.changespace.me and sign up. You can cancel at any time, once you’ve joined you’ll be able to book into check-in slots and contribute in the platform.
Once we’re up and running we will look at how the project can be improved, added to and developed.
Why did you feel it was important to start an initiative like Change Space?
Lots of people have places where they can talk openly, many people do not.
It’s a space to get the noise out your head, not to get feedback, just to speak it out. Help often comes from listening to the other stories.
It’s not right for everyone, that’s cool. But it’s worth trying out.
We’re trying to fill a gap between full on therapy and workplace schemes (often long waits, expensive or too intense) and people not having anything at all. It’s all about choice.
What are your goals for the future with both Studio Change and Change Space?
I am looking to grow the studio, not massive, but really focused on how to use business and design to make a difference. Helping clients think more about the positive impact they could have. I also want to keep a balance between the business and personal goals and freedom.
With Change Space, I am hoping it will turn into a thriving community and we can bring in speakers, community hosts, perhaps look at other industries to apply the concept. I am also looking at how can use creativity to tell mental health stories.
Back to Shillington, did you make any lasting connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
I keep in touch with a few of the teachers and classmates, it’s amazing how time flies and you get busy. But always supporting posts and content when I see it.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who has just graduated from Shillington?
Try not to get boxed in too soon. Explore, experiment find your own style and approach. It’s easy to get distracted by the latest trend!
The most important thing in life and work is to be authentic and a good human. The rest usually takes care of itself.
Huge thanks to Rob for sharing his story and work with us! Make sure to check out Studio Change on their website and Instagram. And make sure to check out and get involved with Change Space if you’re interested.