Shannon Lea first piqued our interest when we came across her brilliant and intelligent self-initiated redesign of three of Phillip Larkin’s most well-known works. Taking cues from the themes in the poet’s writing, the graphic design student and It’s Nice That Graduate’s publishing designs are as immaculate as they are well thought out, and translated Larkin’s disdain for children into a family tree-inspired trilogy of covers. During her time at the University of Leeds Shannon has built an impressive body of work – including a light-sensitive digital illustration – that showcases her smarts. We caught up with her to hear about saying yes to it all, important lessons and moving to London.
“When I was 14, I found out that you could be a graphic designer,” she tells us. “My high school only offered product design so, taking that, I had to satisfy the mark scheme by making everything before I could do all the graphics stuff on top. I loved it, and haven’t really looked back.”
Shannon tells us she’s a bit too close to university to sum up her time at Leeds, but she doesn’t need to think twice about how she feels about it. “I’m really sad to leave. Learning how to think, drink and draw here in Leeds is definitely something I’ll look back on as being some of the greatest times of my life.”
One of her highlights was her experience designing the branding for a fictitious brewery for part of her final year assignment. “Making big abstract drawings of animals, thinking up goofy beer names and then actually being able to get the stickers made was more enjoyable then I probably want to admit,” she says. “Unfortunately, the cleaners at our degree show thought these were just more empty beer bottles and they genuinely got binned.” It’s easy to see how her school studies in product design still factor into her work.
“For a while I looked at it like a lot of lost time; all those evenings and weekends wasted. But pretty soon I started to think about all the skills I’d made myself learn on the job and how I was probably a better designer for it, even if the project hadn’t come to fruition."Shannon Lea
“My worst project was one that got killed off,” she says. “Me and a friend created a really cool (well we thought so anyway) shop identity. We designed the signage, packaging, identity rules, everything. But in the final few months, as everything was being ordered and produced, it seemed we were expected to continue to be involved with the company on a permanent basis; something neither of us could commit to as we were returning to uni. As a result, all our work was scrapped, as was our money. A new company was brought in and my logo idea reappropriated. It stung.”
Finding her silver lining, Shannon still took something positive away from the experience. “For a while I looked at it like a lot of lost time; all those evenings and weekends wasted. But pretty soon I started to think about all the skills I’d made myself learn on the job and how I was probably a better designer for it, even if the project hadn’t come to fruition. Plus my partner on the project is a legend and we had a lot of fun.”
The person she’d most like to show her portfolio is Paula Scher, the graphic designer and first female principal at Pentagram. “I’ve loved her work for a long time and always think about her TED talk Great Design is Serious, Not Solemn. She seems to do what she loves, defining a style herself; then when people see it they just want to pay her to make the same thing for them. That’s pretty magic.”
With her can-do attitude, the most important thing Shannon has learned is to say yes to the brief. “Even more so if you’re bricking it and think that time, money and general know-how are just not on your side. Because the fear will kick in, you’ll get it done, and you’ll have a better portfolio, skill or method to show for it.”
Where would she like to be in a year’s time? “I’ve just moved to London, so I’d like to still be here – just with a slightly improved geographical knowledge of the city. As long as I’m designing and illustrating and enjoying it, then I’ll be pretty content wherever. One day I’d like to go solo, get a nice space for myself and hum without disturbing co-workers. But I’ve got a helluvalot of learning to do first, so we’ll see what happens in the meantime.”
We are very pleased that The It’s Nice That Graduates 2015 will once again be supported by Represent Recruitment. The graphic and digital design recruitment specialists have developed a peerless reputation working with designers of all levels and matching them up with the right positions in some of the top agencies around. Represent’s support has helped us grow the Graduate scheme over recent years and we are thrilled they have partnered with us again in 2015.