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The techniques and processes you’ll learn are hugely valued in the real-world of graphic design. I use all of the skills that I learned at Shillington every day in my role now.

Junior Designer, NU Creative

Em Storey

You were working in the industry as an account/project manager for 8 years before enrolling at Shillington! Why did you decide to take the plunge and become a designer?

I really enjoyed my time working in account management. I learned a huge amount about how agencies function, how to get under the skin of what clients need from a creative team and how to deliver this for them. During this time I was also lucky enough to work closely alongside designers and creative directors and my admiration for the creative process grew and grew. As time went on and I became more senior, I felt I was becoming more removed from the creative work and was missing it hugely. I spent some time reflecting on the areas of my work which I enjoyed most and what gave me the most satisfaction. And, quite naturally, this led me to consider the wild idea of shifting my focus entirely and seeing if I had what it takes to embrace a fully creative role. Honestly, it was a terrifying prospect to consider retraining after having built a career in client services, and I had no idea where to start or if it was even possible. That’s where Shillington was the perfect fit for me.

Back in 2009, you studied for an MA in Graphic Design. How did the Shillington course differ from a more traditional university setting?

The MA was a very different learning environment to Shillington. I think traditionally students doing an MA would have already studied a BA in Graphic Design, but (again) I had taken a slightly different route in. The MA was a great place to explore high-level conceptual thinking and also to experiment and play, without restriction, with your own personal creative practice. I got a huge amount from this, but I felt like I came away without the fundamental technical skills that I needed at that time to become a designer. This is where Shillington really stands out, in that there is a huge focus on developing very practical skills and learning how to apply these in an studio-like environment.

How did the Shillington course build on any existing skills you already had from your time in the industry?

From my time working in project management, I already had a pretty good understanding of how to interrogate a brief, how to approach a creative challenge and the processes that take you through a project from start to finish. The Shillington course really helped me build on that knowledge, but from a designer’s perspective—enabling me with all the skills I needed to fulfil the brief.

How was your Shillington experience? Did you form any close bonds with your classmates in the three months you studied with us?

I absolutely loved my time at Shillington. It was immensely challenging, but every day it felt like you had achieved something huge, which is so important when you’re so far out of your comfort zone.You also meet people from such varied backgrounds and walks of life and everyone has very different reasons for coming to Shillington.

You collaborate with classmates a lot throughout the course, so you get to know everyone very well, and by the end you really get close with everyone and very much rely on their support and encouragement! It very much feels like you’ve all gone through a huge life-altering experience together, as a team, so the connections you forge are sure to last!

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about studying at Shillington? Any tips?

I would say that if you’re considering the transition into becoming a designer, then Shillington is absolutely the way to go. For me it was perfect as it allowed me to completely shift my career in a very focused way, over a very short period of time. The techniques and processes you’ll learn are hugely valued in the real-world of graphic design. I use all of the skills that I learned at Shillington every day in my role now.

I’ve also been told on numerous occasions that Shillington graduates really stand out from the crowd in what is a hugely competitive market for junior designers, so that’s a huge advantage over other programmes.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge, then my advice would be to throw yourself in and fully embrace the fact that at times it will be hard, but the reward is so worth it!

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