Frustration can be a powerful creative force. So it was for Australian graphic designer Andrew Shillington who increasingly struggled to find designers with the rights skills for his Sydney-based studio Shillington Graphics.
In his experience candidates lacked the technical software skills, the ability to practically apply design theory and the nous to survive and thrive in an intense, deadline-driven environment. So Andrew decided to do something about it, and in 1997 Shillington College was born.
The idea was to establish a new kind of design school which would give students with no previous experience the real-world skills they would need to get ahead in the graphic design industry on either a three month (full-time) or one year (part-time) course.
The Shillington course is built on two key tenets – that graphic design education needn’t take forever and that the portfolio is paramount. With everything geared towards practical preparation, the classrooms are run as studios. They combine state-of-the-art equipment with the culture of a professional design setting, overseen by teachers who’ve been there and done that in the design world.
Now one man’s frustration has grown into a worldwide education alternative with campuses in London, Manchester, New York, Melbourne and Brisbane alongside the original Sydney base. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at Shillington in a little more detail, talking to the teachers, the students and those who employ its graduates. First up we chatted to Sarah McHugh, the Director of Shillington College UK.
How (if at all) has Shillington’s mission changed since it was founded in 1997?
Our objective hasn’t changed at all since Andrew Shillington started up Shillington College 17 years ago.
We aim to create a positive and inspirational learning environment where students are taught relevant industry skills, ensuring they have the best possible chance of employment as a graphic designer.
You don’t need to sit an interview or submit a portfolio of work in order to enrol. We teach graphic design: no experience necessary. And a world-class design education shouldn’t take forever! Our Graphic Design Course takes just 3 months full-time or 1 year part-time.
We believe the portfolio is paramount. Everything we teach technically leads to a deadline-driven, commercially relevant brief, which will then contribute to part of the student’s portfolio. It’s this portfolio – showcasing their technical skills, their design thinking, and ability to work to deadlines – that will give them the best possible chance of securing a position in the graphic design industry.
What is the employment rate of Shillington College graduates and what kind of studios do they go on to work for?
While we don’t have exact employment rate stats (unfortunately we can’t always keep track of our graduates!), we have an excellent track record. Our students graduate from Shillington with polished portfolios and relevant, practical skills, which sees them go on to work for a variety of studios. These range from big-name companies to small design studios, from working as in-house designers at large-scale firms to setting up their own freelance businesses. Our graduates work for the likes of the BBC, Retrofuzz, LOVE, Sony and Interbrand – just to name a few.
Who are the courses aimed at? (Age ranges, backgrounds.)
Our courses are aimed at anyone who wants a career in graphic design. It’s as simple as that. The average Shillington student is in their mid-20s, and probably comes from a background hardly related to design at all – we’ve had solicitors, tree surgeons and even pilots who have bravely decided to change to an all-new creative career. Most students have never touched the design programs before, but in 3 months full-time they’re technically efficient and effective, able to think laterally, and graduating with a portfolio showcasing their very best work.