• 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. List

    In the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at why Shillington College was founded to offer a different kind of graphic design education and heard from some of the teachers at Shillington campuses around the world about how they make this happen in practice.

  2. List

    It’s been a couple of years since we last featured Melbourne-based studio A Friend of Mine so the launch of their brand new website was the perfect chance to celebrate their talents again. Suzy Tuxen and her team were commissioned by new art and design fair Supergraph to create a “strong, industrial and friendly” identity and needed a graphic solution that stood on its own two feet without overshadowing the creative work featured at the event.

  3. List

    This year for the first time ever Istanbul is to be included in the Venice Architecture Biennale, and will showcase the work of five contemporary Turkish artists as curated by Murat Tabanlıoğlu. So how do you go about celebrating your country’s participation in one of the greatest celebrations of architecture? If you’re anything like graphic design studio Future Anecdotes Istanbul, you put together a glorious identity and accompanying publication to celebrate the event.

  4. List

    Marcello Velho is one of a school of graphic artists subverting the forms of internet art that we’re becoming used to seeing, and doing something completely unanticipated with them. His abstract compositions are experimental and ambiguous, but that’s exactly what makes them exciting. He’s a pretty dab hand at design too, working on magazine covers, art directing features and just generally applying his magic touch wherever it’s needed. It’s only a matter of time until a global fashion brand with a wildly cool following happens upon his work and immediately has him applying his learned eye to look books, textile design and event invitations. Just for the record though, we got here first, yeah?

  5. List

    Behold! Dutch illustrator and designer Julian Sirre has a portfolio packed to the gunnels with beautiful futuristic design. His posters and prints take inspiration from 1980s sci-fi, Japanese printmaking and superhero comics, all amalgamated into a wholly unique visual language. He’s worked for Dutch science fiction magazines, London venues and a variety of extraordinary exhibitions including a group show with Jordy Van Den Niewendijk, Viktor Hachmang and Robin van Wijk – all exceptionally cool dudes.

  6. List

    Battersea Power Station is one of my favourite buildings in London (you can add that to the list of things-you-don’t-care-about-which-I-tell-you-anyway-in-these-posts if you like). Anyway this summer it’s hosting the Everyman Cinema and east London’s Bread Collective was brought in to create the branding and hand-paint all the on-site signage. Bread has previous experience when it comes to large scale design work that packs a personality-filled punch and it’s great to see them unleash their talents on such a famous landmark. The bright and lively visuals juxtapose neatly with their industrial surroundings and there’s a consistency that ties the site together without feeling sterile.

  7. List

    My favourite thing about Paris-based design studio Twice is that they continually combine texture and colour in such a way that I’m practically banging my hands into my computer screen with wanting to hold their publications in my hands. That’s the trouble with tactility – it’s not practical – but that shouldn’t mean designers abandon it altogether in favour of a wipe-clean, stark, sterile aesthetic that makes us lose all hope in print.

  8. List

    I was lucky enough to visit Istanbul for its inaugural design biennale back in 2012 and although I was blown away by its creative scene, I didn’t come across too much graphic design. Rummaging through Studio Sarp Sozdinler’s website this week, I had the nagging feeling that I might have missed out.

  9. List

    Belgian graphic designer Broos Stoffels has it all; great poster designs, great typefaces, great Dance Organ-powered drawing machine for the creation of custom vinyl sleeves – no really! The young designer is a former student of Sint Lucas in Ghent, a institution with proven design pedigree, and has spent the last few years honing his practical and conceptual skills into a fantastically coherent body of work.

  10. List

    If you aren’t familiar with The Casual Optimist blog about publishing and book culture then it’s well worth checking out (I’ll wait). Anyway last week its author shared these amazing posters created by the leading German graphic designer Gunter Rambow for the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house back in the 1970s. What’s interesting is that some of them tiptoe right up to the edge of being gimmicky, but always stay the right side of the line thanks to Gunter’s unerring image-making brilliance. I really can’t get enough of these.

  11. List

    When a studio does everything it can to get to the very root of a client’s working philosophy, it often leads to the most interesting and effective identity design. This is definitely true of Toronto-based studio Blok Design’s work for Dallas film production company Lucky 21. Created to mark the company’s new venture – “taking on the highly competitive LA market” – the identity takes into account the brand’s character, which the studio describes as “full of humour and fiercely passionate” to create a set of visuals that fall close to home.

  12. List-2

    Illustrator and longtime mate of ours Michael Willis is straying away from illustration and into something altogether more design-focussed. The elements at the heart of his images are the same; placing retro and contemporary influences side-by-side to create something so contemporary that it feels ahead of its time. He’s been working recently with Mood NYC, providing photographic manipulation and graphic treatment for their look book as well as helping create an overarching aesthetic for the brand, one which evades the recurring trends and repetitive styles that seem to permeate many designers’ portfolios.

  13. List

    Three years ago Milan studio Leftloft were commissioned to help iconic Italian football club Inter Milan with a ticket sales push, but the relationship developed into something much more comprehensive. Here art director Francesco Cavalli tells us how they came to lead an extensive rebranding of the whole club, from a new crest and a bespoke serif typeface to an exhaustive style guide for use across print and digital.