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Hear straight from our graduates.

I never shy away from admitting that attending Shillington were some of the happiest months of my life.

eCommerce Designer at PepsiCo Foods Canada

Vanessa Castiglione

You started your career in marketing and brand management within the food & beverage CPG space at PepsiCo. How did you learn about Shillington? And what made our design course stand out from the rest?

I discovered Shillington online in my university dorm room. From the first time I landed on the website and explored, I knew this course would be something I wanted to do one day.

The exceptional work on the Student Work page sold me on the course. I remember wanting to be able to create work like that myself one day. The way the work was displayed, the colours, the creativity, and the diversity of all the outcomes made me believe that within three months, I would be able to do the same.

Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skill set?

Yes, I started learning the Adobe programs in high school, designed for several organizations throughout university including completing an internship. I also completed a certificate at an art university one summer.

However, I found myself lacking a thorough design process and often hitting a “design block.” Throughout the Shillington course, it completely transformed the way that I approached design in two key ways. Firstly, learning the design process and ideation techniques helped me approach design in a more thoughtful way. Previously when designing, the goal was always to just make something that “looked good.”

Shillington taught me that it’s much more than just about creating aesthetically pleasing pieces, it’s about solving problems and understanding the everything that affects design like competitors, personas/users, demographics etc. to create something effective.

Secondly, the course and the process helped me avoid “design block” as I was encouraged to seek inspiration in several ways and use techniques to get the creative juices flowing. After having taken the course, I have a much more holistic approach to design problems I face and built my skill set in terms of process and how to seek inspiration.

While studying at Shillington, did you have a favorite brief? Tell us more about it and your process?

Throughout the entire course, my favourite was the campaign brief. I chose to create a campaign educating the public on periods. There are a ton of periods myths that exist and many of them are quite ridiculous. As part of the process, I spent a lot of time understanding how large brands have handled the topic of periods in previous campaigns as I wanted to take a different approach.

Additionally, I spent time understanding the most common misconceptions there are about periods. The project went through several iterations as the goal was to make the somewhat “taboo” topic more approachable for everyone… regardless of whether you have periods or not. In the end, my campaign entitled One Understanding, came to be a lighthearted, approachable, and educational branding project.

What was the course like? Did you make any lasting connections with your classmates?

I never shy away from admitting that attending Shillington in NYC were some of the happiest months of my life. Each day, I had the opportunity to create something new and push myself as a designer further than I had the day before surrounded by supportive classmates and teachers.

The course was fun but challenging at times. It was a perfect mixture of theory, technical learning and design ideation. Coming from a business background, learning about prominent designers in the industry through classmate presentations helped me gain more of an understanding of the profession, as well as an understanding of how design has evolved because of these great minds. Having had a strong foundation in the programs prior, learning the design ideation process was the most critical piece as I now have a trusted process to tackle and design/branding problem I encounter.

I keep in contact with some classmates. We still have our group chat from a couple years ago. We share opportunities and work here and there. In addition, I keep in contact with a few of my closer friends and teachers from the course.

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

If I could give one piece of advice, I would say to take risks and try something that is unfamiliar. As a designer when I feel like I’m stuck, I revert to designing something “safe” or reverting back to “my style.” During portfolio time, my teachers noticed that I wasn’t taking risks with certain projects and wanted me to push myself. Although it was a little scary at the time to start a project over from scratch under a time crunch, I was very happy that they pushed me.

Reviewing the new work with them a couple days later, both my teachers and I were excited about it and it ended it up as one of my favourite projects. Although, the most important lesson for me from that experience was learning that it is important to push myself when designing. It helped build my confidence overall as a designer.

What tips do you have for new designers entering the industry?

Continuously seek ways to grow. Early on in your career, I’d recommend seeking a mentor or take on stretch projects if you can. Mentorship and challenging projects will continue the learning journey you’re on!

Vanessa Castiglione
eCommerce Designer at PepsiCo Foods Canada

Rob Key
Founder of Studio Change and Change Space

Carl McBride
Junior Designer at Toyfight

Melody Yee
Lead Designer at
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Darsh Seneviratne
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Matt McKay
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Robyn M-C
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Will Batrouney
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David Scott
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Rachel Lee
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