Hear straight from our graduates.
The glowing reviews I read online, as well as my in-person visit, only made me more certain I was making the right decision. I think I learned more during my first week at Shillington than in all of my prior years of dabbling in design.
Junior Graphic Designer, Neoscape
Why did you decide to study design? Why Shillington?
Before Shillington I worked as an Online Product Marketing Associate for Brilliant Earth, a sustainable fine jewelry company. And right before that I was studying Sustainable Business and Cultural Studies at McGill, in Montreal (my favorite city in the world).
I’ve been interested in all things design since I was pretty young—I remember watching HGTV makeover shows with my mom on weekends, and as a teenager my dream job oscillated between interior designer, architect, art teacher, and concept store owner (amongst others). My high school didn’t have a big focus on visual arts, but I was fortunate to have had two great art teachers there, who encouraged us to look for inspiration outside the classroom and collect our findings in visual diaries (just like we did at Shillington!).
At that point, I still had no idea graphic design was a thing, until my college friend Saj invited me to join the Design Cooperative at McGill. In this club, students taught other students the fundamentals of graphic design. What made the experience unique was that in addition to learning the basic design principles and how to use the software, we also spent time discussing the ethics involved in the design world, such as accessibility, cultural appropriation, gender norms, and diversity. As a Cultural Studies nerd with a strong moral compass, I love having to think about the greater implications of the work I put out.
I was able to apply my design skills at my first job, which is actually where I started seriously considering making graphic design my profession. Because I lacked a formal education in design, I didn’t have the confidence to apply for graphic designer positions without having a much bigger design skillset and a strong portfolio. I did some research online and found Shillington, which was the only 3-month full-time graphic design program offered in New York. I knew I didn’t want to spend two/four more years in school, plus an extra year to make up for my non-existent visual arts credits. I was also really drawn to the quality of the work produced by Shillington students, and to the fact that its curriculum is updated much more frequently than programs at design schools, which means everything that’s taught is relevant to the design job market. The glowing reviews I read online, as well as my in-person visit, only made me more certain I was making the right decision (and I did).
Where do you work now?
I work as a Junior Graphic Designer at Neoscape, a real estate marketing agency. As a member of our Design department, I get to work on creating branding, brochures, and other marketing materials for real estate brokers. I love handling multiple projects at once, especially since every project is different.
Coming out of Shillington, I knew I’d be happier at an agency rather than in-house, because I like working on a variety of brands rather than be limited to the same brand identity every day. I also knew I would thrive in an environment where I’d be surrounded by other designers, not just because I use others’ feedback to grow, but also because I enjoy the creative energy I find almost contagious in such environments. That meant that freelancing was not something I considered. I applied to mostly agencies, as well as to some in-house positions if they were for brands I respected. I must have sent my application to over fifty places, and interviewed with five or six (so don’t despair!).
The day I went in for my interview with Neoscape, I was actually still stalling on responding to an offer for an in-house position I wasn’t exactly excited about. I came into Neoscape with my portfolio, walking my interviewer (now supervisor) through it, and talked about my background and interests. I really appreciated the fact that the interview was interactive—I was able to flip through some of the company’s past projects, which made it feel like a genuinely two-sided interview where we got to know each other. We also had great chemistry, which is very important when working closely with someone. Coming out of the interview, I had a strong sense that Neoscape could be a place where I could grow and feel fulfilled, two things I value greatly. I received an offer after another round of interviews (a video call my cat decided to participate in), and gladly joined the team a few days later.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical about Shillington’s fast-paced course?
If they’re skeptical that they can become a graphic designer in three months with no prior experience, I’d recommend looking at some of the portfolios of past Shillington students as evidence. I happened to have had some experience with Illustrator and Photoshop before the course, but that was not the case for the majority of my classmates. And they all produced incredible portfolios. For what it’s worth, I think I learned more during my first week at Shillington than in all of my prior years of dabbling in design. Eight hours a day, five days a week, for three months — that’s nearly 500 hours of being immersed in graphic design. And lectures represent only a small fraction of the course, as the majority of your time will be spent actually applying your new skills through projects, which I believe is the most effective way to learn and retain.
As for employers’ view of Shillington, many of the people I interviewed with had actually heard of Shillington before, and responded positively to it. Once I briefly explained that the course was essentially a condensed equivalent of a four-year graphic design degree, and underlined the fact that Shillington is a studio-based environment, my interviewees seemed more than satisfied. I’d say employers are more interested in the quality of your portfolio, in the thoroughness of your process, in your ability to speak about your work, and in your willingness to learn and grow, rather than in your degree.