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Shillington truly gives you the experience of working in a studio, the pressure, the deadlines, the creative energy. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Enviromental Designer at Sundance Film Festival

Laura Welch

Back in 2017 you moved to London to study at Shillington. Why Shillington? What made our course stand out?

In my early 30’s I felt very frustrated in my career. I had studied communications for my undergrad but after working professionally in the creative industry for 10 years I hadn’t ended up where I wanted job-wise. I knew if I was going to shift focus I would have to go back to school and specialize in something, but I didn’t feel like I had the luxury of time. I couldn’t afford to take 2-4 years off to get another degree. I always wanted to spend time in Europe so I decided I might as well go abroad if I was making a big life change. After looking over tons of design programs— from fashion to architecture—and visiting many cities I’d always fantasized about moving to, I realized that graphic design was really the one thing that translated into all those worlds. My prior work history taught me that on-the-job experience is almost always more valuable than theoretical experience so I wanted a program that ran like a true studio. Somewhere that taught me a skill, helped me practice it and, in the end, provided me with a real portfolio that would help me land jobs. The portfolios I saw coming out of Shillington were by far the most impressive and once I had the chance to visit the London campus and attend an Info Session I was sold.

You’re originally from Portland, Oregon. What made you decide to move to London?

London has always been one of my favorite places in the world so it was really a no brainer for me. I hope to live there permanently one day so going to school there seemed like a good start.

What did you make of London? Would you recommend it to other students who are looking to study abroad?

One million percent yes! London is hands down the best. It’s inspiring, the museums are free and they have the best accents! What’s not to love?

What did you make of the course? You were working as a Art Director beforehand, how did it build your skill set?

The course was everything I hoped it would be. It is extremely practical, it’s constantly evolving based on what the real-time design needs within the industry are and it’s taught in such a safe, fun and challenging environment. It truly gives you the experience of working in a studio, the pressure, the deadlines, the creative energy. I can’t say enough good things about it. I was an art director at a photography studio previously so it’s a very different type of work. The course built my skill set by drilling into me the tenants of design thinking, helping me to truly build meaning into what I create and teaching me that you have to be willing to put your ideas out there without fear of rejection. Nothing is ever perfect and feedback helps things grow. This is honestly one of the most useful traits I found when it came to transitioning into the ‘real world’ after Shillington.

Did you make any connections during the course? Do you still talk to your classmates from London or elsewhere?

Yes I made loads of connections. I’m actually currently working with a former classmate on re-branding his company and we are both really enjoying working with each other again since we were trained the same way! We also still have an all-class WhatsApp thread that we communicate on from time to time whether that’s just design questions or events etc… We came from a lot of different places so it’s cool knowing people now spread all over the world and having connections in different areas.

What have you been up to since you graduated? How has your life changed after Shillington?

I’ve been doing a whole lot haha. I moved to New York after graduating for a creative placement at J. Walter Thompson, ended up spending a year in the city freelancing at various agencies after that and then working a short stint with AT&T/DirecTV on brand side creative. Through sheer coincidence, I was pitching in on AT&T’s activation space at the Sundance Film Festival when I got the opportunity to move to Utah and work as an environmental graphic designer for the Film Festival itself. One of my dreams while at Shillington was to work on large scale festival branding and this was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. It was truly a life changing experience so once the 2019 festival wrapped, I came back to Atlanta for 7 months, working a couple contracts and then headed back to Utah to do it all over again for the 2020 festival! I have a little bit of a crazy life, but I love the changes and variety that being a designer allows! It’s one of the main reasons I went back to school in the first place. So, I guess you could say my life has changed dramatically in all the best ways possible.

Can you share some advice for our current Shillington students? Or someone who has just graduated?

If you’re studying currently or just out, don’t constantly compare yourself to the designers around you. It’s so easy these days to see other people’s work on social media or elsewhere and feel like you’ll never get to where they are, but instead of letting this frustrate you, let it inspire you.

We each have a unique perspective and talent that no one else has, and once you realize that it’s easier to just create in your own voice. Honestly, I was maybe mid to bottom of my class at Shillington, but while design is somewhat about natural talent, it’s also about hard work, just like anything else. If you’re passionate about making things, keep making them. If you want to land a job doing restaurant design, then make up some restaurants and brand them. If you are a passionate digital designer then find a friend or business who needs help and make something for them. When I realized I wanted to get into environmental design, I spent six weeks creating new projects for myself and building out projects I’d already had in my portfolio to show people I could actually do it! And guess what? It paid off! I got hired by Sundance a few weeks after I posted all the work to my website. Don’t wait to get paid to do something you want to do. Carve out time to do it and eventually people will start paying you for it. People value passion and dedication and I promise you just keep going and it will pay off!

Visit Laura’s website and read her full interview on the blog

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