Six Years Since Shillington London: Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson studied at our Shillington London campus over 3 months on the full-time course. Since graduating in 2011 he now works as a digital designer for ITG. Alongside his full-time job he is well known for his beautiful illustration work which has been featured on popular design blogs Form Fifty Five and Creative Boom

We caught up with Paul to hear all about his 6 years since graduating from Shillington. Read on to learn about his experience of the full-time course, how having a background in Marketing helped him on the job hunt and more about his personal illustration work. 

You studied back in 2011 on our full-time course in London, what was your experience of studying at Shillington and would you recommend it?

The whole Shillington experience is one that I loved and would highly recommend. I’d made the commitment to change careers and wanted a place where I could do that quickly and Shillington offered me all the tools I needed to do it. I did a lot of research and spoke to people who’d studied here and in Australia on the course. I also wanted something similar to University, in that I could find a cohort of people to share the experience with and keep in touch afterwards, (which I have), hence why I did the full time course.

In the end it ticked all the boxes from the design history lectures, to the way we approached real time briefs and worked in teams.

A lot of the students at Shillington are here to change careers or up-skill. Having come from a career in Marketing do you feel like this helped you in any way both on the course and afterwards on the job hunt?

It helped on the job front afterwards, particularly due to the fact that we graduated in the middle of a very tough economic time so after a few months without work, I sold myself into a small studio for a six week internship on the 80/20 rule. I worked out what I needed to get by and offered to work three days as a designer and two days doing their marketing planning which paid my bills. I also sold my “experience” of being a marketing manager and the ability to deal with a range of people.

It’s been 6 years since you graduated from Shillington, can you tell us a bit about the journey from then until what you’re doing currently?

I can’t deny it was tough at first after graduating because I was in my early forties and I’d just quit a well paid job where all my qualifications were based, but once I had secured my internship everything fell into place. I ended up staying at the small studio where I did the internship for four months (my internship was meant to be six weeks) and then moved onto a small design agency for a year designing a monthly print magazine for one of their clients. After that I freelanced for a while before moving into digital work at ITG where I’ve been for the last four years.

You were recently featured on popular design blog Form Fifty Five for your amazing illustrations. Is this something that you’ve been building on since graduating and would you say broadening your skillset is important for designers?

Yeah the FFF commission was really fun and rewarding, especially doing three illustrations that flowed across their web, iPad and mobile sites. Back when I did the course it was very print focused which was fine, but the illustration has certainly grown over time, particularly the last 2 years.

It can be tough working a day job then starting again in the evenings on freelance work, but I do think broadening your skillset is important.

As a designer you have to be able to offer clients a range of options. It’s one of the reasons I chose to move into digital, because I felt I needed to widen my skills at that time. I miss print if I’m being honest, but Illustration feels like a natural fit for me going forward.

You’ve worked with clients like Virgin Media, what would be your dream client and why?

Anything for Manchester City. Sad but true.

We love the prints available to buy on your website! Seeing a football theme there—do you think working on personal projects is important for designers?

Thanks, I’m expanding the range of what I offer online and I’m working with on a joint print collaboration with Made by Folk at the moment. Personally I do think personal projects are great, mainly because they can be anything you want and I’ve found them an ideal way to learn and explore with my style and skills. Creative Boom just profiled a personal project that I’m working on which is an illustration for every Manchester City Premiership match this season (I’m a season ticket holder even though I’ve lived in London since 2004) and growing up watching the World Cup was in hindsight probably my first introduction to design and colour. I remember falling in love with the various kits at the ’78 World Cup, especially the Dutch and Argentina strips, just lovely.

You’re active on both Instagram and Twitter. As we delve deeper into the age of social media what advice would you give for designers looking to use social media to promote themselves?

Social media can be a tricky thing. My Instagram is very much a showcase for my design and illustrations where with twitter I have a studio account just for my design work and a personal account that is for everything. It’s been really useful to network, meet and talk to a range of designers and illustrators in a way I wouldn’t have been able to before and I’ve picked up quite a bit of freelance work through both. I try to be honest but careful. It’s an outward mirror to the world on ourselves and the reflection can be wonderful and harsh at times.

Huge thanks to Paul for answering our questions and sharing his amazing work. Be sure to head to Paul’s website to see more work and follow him on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates. 

If you’re looking to launch a creative career then perhaps Shillington is the right choice for you. Our next full-time intake is January 2018, jump on our website to read more details or come to one of our campuses for an info session