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6 Years Since Shillington: Emily Somers, Founder of Bravery Co.

Emily Somers studied design at Shillington six years ago, but a lot has happened since then. She’s worked as an Art Director at a major advertising agency, travelled, freelanced and most significantly … founded Bravery Co. after beating cancer not once, but twice. Bravery Co. is an award-winning a headscarf retailer “helping young cancer warriors feel stylish and confident at a time they need it the most”.

We were thrilled to reunite with Emily at the 2018 frankie Good Stuff Awards, where Shillington sponsored the Design Category and Emily walked away with not one, but two (!) big awards.

**Special note** If you’re inspired by Emily’s work, please pledge to Bravery Co.’s ING Dreamstarter campaign before 18 July.

Congrats on taking home both the Small Business and People’s Choice Award at the 2018 frankie Good Stuff Awards! How does the big win feel?

It feels surreal! I had my socks knocked off me when I won the Small Business award and then to win the People’s Choice was really touching. Starting up your own business can be really tough and lonely at times so when things like this pop-up to show you people are digging what you’re doing it’s really, really nice. I’m incredibly grateful for the support.

Tell us more about Bravery Co. How we can follow and support your important work?

Bravery Co. is an online scarf retailer for scarf lovers and cancer haters.

You don’t have to have cancer to shop at Bravery but each scarf has been chosen with a cancer patient in mind. And 10% of profits goes to Peter MacCallum Cancer foundation to help end this stupid disease. They’re super soft, big enough to tie knots and turbans around your head, and they all have a colourful fun print.

I started Bravery after I had cancer the second time. I got sick of wigs and was frustrated that there were no cool and stylish headwear brands for young people when I needed it the most.

Check out Bravery Co.where you can subscribe to the cancer blog and buy yourself some scarf treats. And follow us at @braveryco on insta.

At the moment I’m running a crowdfunding campaign to give every young woman kicking cancer’s arse at the Peter Mac hospital a Bravery Co. scarf. That’s over 200 scarves to give to the people that need them the most. The money raised will pay for the production of Bravery’s new scarf collection illustrated by myself and some of Melbourne’s most talented designers (Beci Orpin, Luci Everett, Amber Somerset, Sacha Kreeger) as well as packaging, the writing of blogs and brand development.

Support during the campaign by pledging or sharing the word would be hugely appreciated. Guaranteed good karma for everyone.

In addition to Bravery Co., you’re a freelance art director and designer. What career stepping stones lead you to going freelance? 

I worked at DDB in Melbourne as an Art Director for 3.5 years before going freelance. This was a great place to develop my creative skills – there was a really supportive team and a friendly, fun environment. I think it’s important for a young creative to learn the ropes somewhere first before they go off on their own. I then spent a couple of months in various agencies in Melbourne before I joined Remote Year and worked freelance for my own clients while travelling the world. It was the dream! I also launched Bravery Co. while traveling on the program.

What are your biggest challenges as a freelance designer? Any tips for designers wanting to make the change?

The biggest challenge as a freelance designer? Remembering everyone’s name!

And being confident with my design and art direction skills while in a new environment with new people. It’s sometimes easy to become a bit intimidated and let self-doubt take over when you don’t know the client, the brand, the brief, your fellow work buddies or where the toilet is. Often you’re brought in at a time when the place is super busy and people don’t have time to take you through things properly. So you have to have a calm approach and be quite proactive in figuring things out yourself. But you get better at this as you freelance more – and sometimes nerves are a good thing.

Freelancing while working remotely actually takes a hell of a lot of focus and self-discipline. It was something that had never really crossed my mind when I started and a skill I’m still working on. Sometimes sunshine or offers of coffee/brunch/wine are really hard to say no to!

Could you share a recent professional project (with pictures!)? Walk us through your approach and the result.

I’ve done all the brand work for Bravery Co. I found it a lot harder designing a logo for my own business than someone else’s. I think because when you design for your own company there’s no written set brief—it is all in your head and you know the design possibilities are endless. I spent a good couple of months filling pages upon pages up with sketches and ideas. I was torn between wanting something with a script font, vs a strong bold slab serif font. I had originally thought it would be easy to handwrite the script font myself and spent ages trying to get it right. Turns out it’s really hard and my handwriting is not consistent. So I found a font I loved and handwrote the ‘B’ and I knew straight away that I’d finally nailed it. It felt strong, bold and contemporary. Two years on and I’m still super happy.

Since then I’ve art directed shoots, designed the website, packaging, flyers, brochures, posters, Instagram feed and now I’m designing scarves. It’s been a project I’ve loved creating because I truly believe there’s a need for it.  

I’ve also been working on quite a few small business and start-up branding. I love working directly with the business owners—they’re more passionate and you get the story of why they started the business. It feels satisfying to deliver something that is going to impact that person and their business so much.

Emerald Medical Centre was a project I worked on last year. Like many rural businesses, their branding needed a bit of a facelift. I drew inspiration from the newly renovated building. The new space meant they could provide their patients with a more comprehensive and holistic style of health care by including new teams of health professionals, so using the triangular structure symbolized a lot for them.  It also reflects the mountainous area they are located in so it felt really right as a starting point. I like to create things that have a meaning behind them—I think design is always a lot more powerful when there’s a story behind it.

What were you up to before Shillington?

I was living in Melbourne, working in the client facing side of advertising. I had spent a couple of years travelling after I finished university where I studied Creative Advertising at RMIT.

Why did you decide to study design? Why Shillington? 

I was not loving my current role in advertising. After 18 months of working project managing hundreds of projects for Home Timber and Hardware (my client), I knew it wasn’t for me and I wanted to use the right side of my brain again. Having studied the creative side of advertising I knew I had the conceptual skills but my folio was already a couple of years old and I knew my computer skills were rusty. When I found the Shillington ad in Frankie magazine—I knew I had found the right path. After living in the UK and traveling for a couple of years, I didn’t want to take more time out of my career. If I’m going to do something—I usually throw myself in the deep end so Shillington’s 3 month intensive course was perfect.

You’ve crafted a really unique creative career for yourself. What role did Shillington play in your creative journey?

Shillington allowed me to jump back into the creative career I started at uni. It helped me refine my computer and design skills, and gave me the confidence and a good folio to apply for jobs as an Art Director.

With the support of great teachers and a tonne of good briefs, it fast tracked the whole job transition. I feel super lucky to have had Shillington as an option.

What would you say to someone sceptical about Shillington’s 3 month design course?

This course is a foot in the door of the design and creative world. It’s good to be aware that you will need to work extra hard to compete with those that have finished degrees but it honestly taught me more in terms of design and real life working than what my 3 years at uni did. You don’t forget any of the things you learn because you are in the classroom 5 days a week for 3 months. It’s ingrained into you. If you know you have the passion, dedication and drive to make it in the industry but are too impatient to take 3 years off to complete a degree—then this is for you.

Who or what is inspiring you most at the moment?

  1. I’m getting quite obsessed with patterns at the moment which has stemmed from designing scarves for Bravery Co. I will often stop in my tracks to take photos of anything that catches my eye. Chocolate packets, t-shirts, pottery or architecture. I think my boyfriend is getting quite sick of it. Ha!
  2. I’m in love with the patterns and designs of Beci Orpin, marimekko, Cassie Byrnes, Daisy Wattsanything Smack Bang Designs, and the greats Jenny Kee and Ken Done.

Anything else you’d like to share?

When you’re next looking for a gift or maybe a bit confused as to how to support a mate that’s undergoing cancer treatment, hit me up and you’ll find some blogs and some very pretty scarf treats.

Huge thanks to Emily for sharing her Shillington story! Be sure to check out Bravery Co., donate to her crowdfunding campaign and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Curious about studying graphic design at Shillington? Learn more about our 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time course in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane –>

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