• Main
Graphic Design

Shillington College teachers talk us through their design education approach

Sponsored Article,

In our first feature on Shillington College we looked at why its founder was compelled to create a new kind of graphic design education to better prepare graduates for the working world. But how does the college pursue this aim in practical everyday terms, achieving what can take several years into other institutions in a matter of mere months? To find out we asked the people who make it happen– the teachers themselves. So we quizzed US director Holly Karlsson, Melbourne lecturer Carlos Chavez, Manchester lecturer Jeffrey Bowman and senior London lecturer Corrie Anderson. Here’s what they had to say…

Can you sum up in a couple of sentences the Shillington approach to teaching graphic design? 

Carlos Chavez: Our approach is centred around pragmatism and a practical approach to creative problems. Right from the word go we focus on solving problems creatively in a hands-on way.

Jeffrey Bowman: We approach teaching in a real time kind of way. It’s got the dynamics of being in a studio while formalising design theory and building on a students practical skills through briefs. It’s open, honest and always really fun. 

Corrie Anderson: We work in the classroom similar to how a Creative Director would work with juniors in a studio. Teaching practical skills of course, but encouraging the students to present their ideas and working with them to push their ideas further. 

  • Carlos

    Carlos Chavez

  • Holly

    Holly Karlsson

Apart from time, what are the main differences between studying at Shillington and studying graphic design at art school or university?

Holly Karlsson: Shillington is run like a studio; you are given industry recognised deadlines and work to a brief with specific sets of specifications and target demographics.

Carlos: While university courses do a fabulous job at immersing a student in the history of design, and allowing them to conceptually gestate for three years or more, our focus is on producing industry-ready graduates with matching portfolios.

I’ve worked with many interns and juniors that might have been conceptually brilliant, yet technically under-prepared. It’s a huge problem that universities have been avoiding since I’ve been in this industry. Most graduates aren’t awarded positions where they are able to work on large conceptual projects on their own, hence the need for a high degree of technical proficiency. A graduate that hasn’t been suitably prepared for this will find it difficult to compete.

Since running my own studio, I’ve received a lot of folios from university students where an idea has not been executed as well as it could have, or lacks a certain professionalism. This is why, with my students, I stress the need for both concept and execution in equal amounts.

Corrie: I have experienced both angles of education, being an ex-student from Shillington and also studying at design school in Sydney. I found the Shillington approach was more practical and holistic. We do teach design theory, but we don’t separate for example learning the wonders of typography and the practical application of it. I found that was one of my struggles when at design school; I was learning all these wonderful things about colour and typography but not totally understanding how to apply those skills practically into my layouts with all of the confusion of what Quark (shudder) was.

“Most design businesses don’t have the luxury of having several weeks to develop a single concept. In my opinion, this is something most tertiary institutions are yet to catch up to.”

Carlos Chavez

How do you prepare students for the real demands of working as a designer?

Holly: We ensure that every minute of a working day is jam packed with briefings, technical demonstrations, critiques, lectures and of course designing. With the tight deadlines, and focused designing we prepare junior designers to what is expected in the industry.

Carlos: A lot of people only think of design as the realm of creating aesthetically-pleasing work. Design – and visual communications as a whole – is about the art of conveying meaning or ideas.

Every single brief we deliver to our students is looked at in this fashion to ensure that our student creates work that answers to the needs of the project. Creativity is about enabling, or increasing the effectiveness of communication, not supplanting it. 

Jeffrey: We cultivate a studio environment throughout a student’s time here. We try to replicate the timescale of a brief, working to deadlines from two hours to two and a half days. We start at 8am and finish at 5pm, so the rhythm of a working day is pretty similar to that of a studio which I think sets them up really well; it’s no big shock when they land their first job.

Corrie: From the second day of the course we’re briefing our students in the same way they would be briefed by an account manager or a client. We encourage our students to draw all of the information out from us and ask as many questions as possible. Nothing in the design process is missed — our students are critiqued on their research, brainstorming and thumbnails (or scamps) before they start getting things roaring on the mac.

  • Corrie

    Corrie Anderson

  • Jeffrey-bowman-%e2%80%93-by-anki-grothe-

    Jeffrey Bowman (Photo by Anki Grothe)

How is the teaching tailored to the current design marketplace and how do you keep up with what those demands are?

Holly: We are consistently consulting with the industry to ensure that what we are teaching is current and expected. The digital components of the course have increased exponentially in accordance with what employers and the industry and clients are expecting from designers.

Carlos: Now more than ever do studios need to turn over work quickly to meet market needs and to order to run viable businesses. Designers who can think on their feet, manage their time effectively and are technically-proficient are highly sought-after.

Most design businesses don’t have the luxury of having several weeks to develop a single concept. In my opinion, this is something most tertiary institutions are yet to catch up to.

Jeffrey: We are always in communication with the industry across all the colleges; we regularly invite them in to speak to the students, run briefs and give us critical feedback on the course and experience of the students they may have employed. Because the course is three months long we can tweak and implement small changes per course to keep up with the pace the design industry moves, but always with an overview of the bigger picture – to ensure quality design education.

Corrie: We’re constantly in touch with the industry, asking what they need in junior designers. As a private college we are constantly updating the course and tailoring it to industry needs. I have taught ten courses now and not one has been the same! It keeps me on my toes and the students’ work fresh.

The focus is on practical relevant design skills but how much design thinking, design history, concept creation etc is taught?  Do you agree that well-rounded designers need both these skill sets?

Holly: We totally agree that a designer needs to be able to have these fundamental attributes within their arsenal of skills to be able to create unique work that is commercially viable. At Shillington we do not accept “I chose this colour/typeface because I liked it” – either it is answering a brief and targeted at a demographic or the client won’t accept it.

Carlos: Absolutely. This could not be more important to me as a working creative and as a teacher. The fast-paced nature of the course necessitates a lot of hands-on work, but we make sure to provide a solid knowledge and skills base to our students.

Jeffrey: It runs parallel. We introduce the practical part of the course at the same time as the history, idea generation and concept development. We can do this because the briefs are where they run. I completely agree that a well-rounded designer should have both practical and conceptual skills, because the students leave here functioning at quite a high level practically, this gives them the freedom and time to develop even further their creative side when they are in a studio environment. 

Nice_bigger

Sponsored Article

It’s Nice That works with selected brands to create and deliver bespoke content solutions. To find out more about these sponsored articles or to request a media pack, contact our sales team using the address below.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Emptyfilmposters-itsnicethat-list

    Sure this isn’t the kind of thing we usually post, but the sun’s all blazing and glorious outside our windows today, so we thought we’d be kind and give you something to stare at for the next few hours until it’s time to make your way to the closest beer garden available. You know what these images are don’t you? They’re iconic film posters with all traces of branding and characters removed – the bench without Forrest, a sunset with Simba removed and a deep blue sub-aquatic fade that’s one shark short of of a multi-million dollar blockbuster franchise. These posters are the result of hours of hard photoshopping by French art director Madani Bendjellal, and for making our afternoon pass that little bit faster we owe him our thanks. Thanks!

  2. Faber-modern-classics-itsnicethat-.list

    A couple of months ago, we spoke to a number of book designers about whether they felt you had to read a book to design its cover. Whichever camp you sit in, it’s clear that with something as powerful and evocative as a piece of literature, summing up complex and emotive ideas in a single cover is no mean feat, so we were keen to hear more about how the process worked when designing for Faber’s new series of modern classics. The series launches this week with ten books including Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, TS Eliot’s Selected Poems and Self-Help by Lorrie Moore. A further six titles are to be released in June.

  3. Production-type-itsnicethat-list

    It seems to me that half the job when you work at a type foundry is finding the best way to showcase your wares. In an industry now bubbling with interactive websites, weird apps and even the occasional trailer, typeface specimens are an old fashioned means, but as Paris-based digital foundry Production Type proves, they’re often the best.

  4. I-give-an-xpentagram-itsnicethatlist

    Where an “x” was once a kiss, it’s now something rather different – a mark that signifies your voice in the election. This little but very powerful symbol is at the heart of a new non-partisan project by Pentagram, I Give an X, which saw Marina Willer and the team create hundreds of different x marks which they hope people will use as their online profile picture.

  5. Wardheirwegh_itsnicethat-list

    Some graphic design projects seem straightforward; a lovely foil, and Bob’s your uncle! Others demand a bit more attention, however, and for those we call in the likes of Ward Heirwegh. Based in Antwerp, Ward specialises in design for exhibitions, translating complex, abstract concepts into coherent, understandable printed accompaniments. In my opinion this branch of design requires a very specific and quite elusive skill for compressing and transforming information.

  6. Hightide-itsnicethat-list

    If there’s one thing New York design studio High Tide knows well, it’s how to brand a luxury startup. Danny Miller and his team have worked with brands like Warby Parker since they were just a glint in the lens of their founder’s spectacles, then subsequently with all manner of high-flying fashion brands. As a rule they opt for effortless minimalism, but the selection of work below demonstrates the studio’s tailored approach to every new client they take on, whether it’s footwear or fragrance they’re peddling.

  7. List-innocent-sorcerers-image006

    Posters for Polish film never fail to excite; the strange, b-movie quality they have, the bold cut-and-paste aesthetic and the unabashed melodrama make them utterly captivating. So it’s always exciting when Kinoteka Festival rolls around in London, not just to have a chance to see the movies the posters promote, but because of the ace satellite shows of Polish cinema visual ephemera. This year, the festival boasts an exhibition of posters for director Andrzej Wajda’s films. As well as work by Polish artists, international designers such as Peter Strausfeld, Dominique Guillotin, Otto Kummert, Milan Grygar and Erhard Grutter all have posters on show. It’s a gorgeous spread of work, all on loan from the archives of the Film Museum in Lódź.

  8. List-respect_byd_ad-itsnicethat

    D&AD has commissioned a rather playful campaign to promote 2015’s Judging Week, created by design agency The Oldham Goddard Experience and illustrator Marion Deuchars. Marion’s signature off-kilter typographic approach makes a great counterpart to the instantly recognisable black and yellow of the D&AD brand, used across a number of tongue-in-cheek slogans. All in all, it’s a simple, smart and effective solution to what must be a rather daunting brief.

  9. Milton-list

    “I knew that I was obsessed with drawing as a child, and that it was a source of my greatest pleasure. There was nothing else I would prefer doing than drawing. Actually that is persistent to this very day.” So begins The New York Times’ short film looking at the spectacular life and career of Milton Glaser, and if this wonderful clip doesn’t restore your faith in design (and in the same amount of time you’d spend making a coffee, too!) then I don’t know what will.

  10. Atelier25-vagamodes-itsnicethat-list

    Sunny graphic design for a bright Monday morning? Consider it done. Atelier 25 are a Parisian pair of designers – Capucine Merkenbrack Tercé and Chloe – making work for cultural institutes, festivals, record labels and publishers; always with an emphasis on strong conceptual foundations. The duo take a hands-on approach to their practice, often working in physical media instead of heading straight to the computer. This leads to some seriously tactile results and projects often bear the marks of the process that spawned them. This is particularly true in their work for Vagamondes festival, where a moiré of intersecting diagonals is layered colour by colour, highlighting the physical process of lithographic printing.

  11. Cooperhewitt-howposterswork-itsnicethat-list

    We feature a fair amount of poster deign here on It’s Nice That but in the pell-mell rush for aesthetic appreciation it’s rare to take time out to consider how this particular design discipline works. Luckily the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York has forced our hand with its new show How Posters Work. Displaying 125 of the museum’s 4,000-strong collection, the aim of the exhibition is to illustrate how poster designers go about maximising the potential of the medium.

  12. Secret7-itsnicethat-list

    The annual Secret 7” show is always eagerly anticipated and this year’s exhibition – which opens today at Somerset House in London – looks like it lives up to our high expectations once again. The brainchild of Kevin King, the format’s success is tied to its simplicity with seven tracks from seven well-known musicians offered up to creatives from around the world. This year’s songs include Underworld’s Born Slippy, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers and St Vincent’s Digital Witness and the artists and designers taking part range from big names to young talents. For the time being whose sleeve is whose is kept under wraps, but we’ve spotted a few styles that we can immediately identify. After the show all the sleeves will be sold off for the same price with proceeds going to music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.

  13. List

    South Korean creative Bohuy Kim splits his time between filmmaking and graphic design. Having trained in film, TV and media at the Sungkyunkwan university in Seoul he’s now the proprietor of his own studio, Printlab where he produces visually arresting work for the likes of Samsung, KIA and local creative enterprises. His impressive portfolio is the result of “rigorous creative exploration,” and, let’s face it, a great sense of colour.