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Hear straight from our graduates.

The jam-packed days and daily briefs allowed us to build on our skills from the day before, and we were encouraged to soak up as much design as we could outside of the course.

Midweight Designer, Siegel+Gale

Helen Tong

Why did you choose to study at Shillington? What made our design course stand out?

I first came across Shillington back in 2015 when I was looking into graphic design courses, but at the time I wasn’t quite ready to change careers. 5 years later though when I finally decided to bite the bullet, I was standing on a tube platform and saw an advert for Shillington, and that was the push I needed to make the change into design.

The course stood out to me as I was looking for something completely immersive that I could get my teeth into without having to take too much time off, and it seemed like a great all-round course where I could learn the skills to transition into the industry.

When I was researching and came across all the work and portfolios of previous Shillington students, I was amazed at the level of work that could be achieved within such a short space of time, and it gave me some hope that I could learn graphic design within a few months!

How did you find the course? Tell us about your Shillington experience.

Despite the pandemic starting during our course, I still had a great experience at Shillington! To be completely honest, it was an intense 3 months, and I definitely needed a couple of weeks rest afterwards but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The jam-packed days and daily briefs allowed us to build on our skills from the day before, and we were encouraged to soak up as much design as we could outside of the course so that we could start our own inspiration bank for future projects.

The talks from design studios and previous Shillington students were a great way to better understand the industry a bit more and the type of work that’s available out there, and generally where people have ended up after the course.

When the pandemic hit at the beginning of March, there was definitely uncertainty in our minds with what would happen with the rest of the course, but Shillington managed to turn things around pretty quickly and we moved to online teaching within a few days. Throughout the whole course, our teachers Andy and Rich were great, you could tell they were passionate about design but also about sharing their knowledge and pushing us to do our best work. When the course moved online, they were encouraging and understanding of the whole situation but helped us maintain the momentum that we’d created over the past couple of months and were always positive—even if we weren’t sometimes! Overall, the course was great and as much as it developed my skills in design, it also helped with my personal development too in terms of learning to let go of perfection, being okay with making mistakes and just generally being more confident in my ideas and work.

Back to the course, what were you up to beforehand and why did you make the switch to graphic design?

My previous career started within publishing and then I shifted into the digital space, working in web production and website management roles. I was at a STEM publisher for quite a few years and then a couple of other companies before making the switch into design. 2019 was a tough year, and by the end of it I was feeling pretty unhappy and unfulfilled in my career.

I quit my job and decided that I had to try pursuing a career in design—it was something I’d always been interested in since I was young and throughout my roles I’d be looking to work on creative projects or use my creativity somehow, and in the evenings I found myself trying to find creative outlets whether it was workshops or drawing etc. I signed up to Shillington and started the course at the beginning of 2020, and looking back now, I’m very glad I made the jump!

Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course? Especially after the course transitioned to online teaching.

My class was a great bunch, and despite the varied ages we all got on and I think even when it transitioned to online everyone was super supportive of each other. It wasn’t easy especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic at the back of our minds but everyone banded together to get each other through it. Our teachers, Andy and Rich, were great too, they were always really positive and encouraging. I’m still in touch with Andy from time to time, he’s helped me out so much since the course so I kind of see him as my unofficial mentor!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?

I’ll echo what one of the teachers said to us on our first day—‘Don’t be afraid to fail, the quicker you do that, the quicker you’ll learn’. For me, I’d always seen failure as a bad thing, but Shillington taught me that it’s 100% part of the process.

Without making mistakes and without trying, you might miss out on discovering and learning new things and that’s so crucial to design. It’s a great way to learn to let go of perfection too, sometimes with design, it can be hard to show something that’s not perfect in fear of criticism or judgement from others, but try and focus more on the process and the progress you’re making rather than the outcome. Also, just enjoy it!

Check out Helen’s website and read her full interview on the blog.

Melissa McAuliffe
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