Shillington Manchester graduate Carl McBride was managing a bar in his home city but had a constant creative itch that just needed scratching—and Shillington was the perfect place to scratch it. Joining our nine month part-time course, Carl kept working whilst studying until the pandemic turned the world upside down. He stuck to his guns, graduated online and very quickly bagged himself an internship at ToyFight. It clearly went well as he’s now working as a Junior Designer at the Manchester agency.
We caught up with Carl to chat about making the transition from beers to branding, his favourite Shillington project and loads more.
Why did you decide to study at Shillington? What made you choose our course over others?
I was managing a bar in Manchester and I had been thinking of a career change for some time. I moved to Manchester originally 10 years ago to study at university. After graduating from my undergraduate degree I began a career working in the hospitality industry but I always felt like I had a creative itch that needed to be scratched. A friend of mine who is a graphic designer had told me about Shillington. She encouraged me to consider enrolling—so I went along to one of the Info Sessions.
After speaking with the teachers and graduates, I was immediately taken in by how great the course sounded.
The teachers were friendly and engaging and they explained how the course would give you the tools and knowledge needed to become the type of designer that you wanted to be. Former students shared their experiences of how completing the course led them into their first design jobs and how they’d made great friendships along the way. I knew right then that, this was the course for me!
You were managing Port St Beer House (a bustling Manchester bar) before the course—why did you make the change over to graphic design?
I think I’ve always been creative in some way, from when I was young I can remember just wanting to draw and make pictures. It’s always what I wanted to do! Working in the hospitality industry was a lot of fun and did provide me with a creative outlet at times, however, in the Summer of 2019 I decided the time had come for a change in direction. After having given it some thought, I took a leap of faith and finally enrolled onto the Shillington course.
Did you have any design experience before the course? Or did anything else you had worked on help along the way?
I studied Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art. That was 10 years ago however and, although the tutors were great, the methods and mediums they taught were quite traditional. Any knowledge of digital programmes, such as the Adobe Suite, was entirely self taught.
That’s one of the things I found so appealing about Shillington is that it promised an in-depth knowledge of the programmes you need to succeed as a designer or illustrator.
What have you been up to since graduation? How has your life changed after Shillington? And what was it like graduating mid-Pandemic?
Despite the pandemic life has been pretty great since graduating. I started a new job as a junior designer with an agency called ToyFight, based here in Manchester which I love. It was a strange experience starting a new job remotely, now, 9 months later it’s nice to finally meet them all in person. We’re a great team!
With regards to the course, it was an adjustment at first making the switch from studying at Shillington in Manchester to studying at home but credit to all the Shillington staff. Especially our teachers, John and Mehul, for adapting quickly and making the transition as smooth as it could have been.
Graduating felt like such an achievement, it’s an incredible feeling seeing the fruits of your labour after months of hard work.
Having a finished portfolio and being able to call myself a bonafide designer was a very proud moment, especially knowing I’d achieved it through the pandemic!
You’re now working at ToyFight alongside some fellow Shillumni. Can you tell us about your new day job?
Working at ToyFight is great—it’s a small team of really talented, lovely people. We’re a digital agency that works with a range of clients from big multinational companies to small start-ups so the work is always varied and exciting. We actually just won a Webby award for the iWeigh site, so big up the team! Anastasiia Vinnichenko is one of the other designers there, she also studied at Shillington. Funny side note: she was one of the Shillumni that I spoke to when I first went to the Info Session!
Could you tell us about a recent professional project you’ve been working on?
I get to work on a wide range of projects which is great as it provides lots of varied experience. One of the biggest and ongoing projects I work on is Volvic. We do lots of design work for them ranging from social media posts, to website design and short animations.
I have also really been enjoying working on briefs from the Arts Council England. They came to us with some new initiatives that they required branding for. It’s been a fun brief to work on, from the concept phase to now producing different social media assets. It also feels nice to be working with a business that invests in culture and creativity.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course? Have you all kept in touch?
Yes, one thing about the pandemic meant that we joined groups on Whatsapp and Slack to message each other.
We’ve all kept in touch and we regularly speak with one another, whether it’s to share job roles we’ve seen, share something we’ve learned or even just to chat.
The groups are a really great source for advice, feedback and support! We’re all planning to meet up in person again now that we are able—post lockdown.
What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
I think my favourite brief would have to be the Corporate Identity brief. We were tasked with producing a concept, branding and rollout for a Museum. Mine was the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, a museum of Pre-Colombian gold artefacts. It was great seeing the brief come together from the initial concept phase right through to the finished project.
The process began by immersing myself in the subject, trying to learn as much about gold and the history of the museum as I could. From there, the initial concepts started to form. The logo itself came from combining the chemical symbol Au with a hieroglyph the ancient Colombian people used for Gold. The hieroglyphs planted the idea of “making your mark” and from there the project began to come together. It was a lot of fun producing the different collateral and having the freedom to take the brand where I wanted to.
Have you been working on anything exciting outside of work?
I have done a few bits of work for friends. I made a handwritten typeface for a friend’s new shop Bernie’s Grocery Store. And I also worked on some new packaging designs for a range of health supplements called Hello Pure. I also try to take part in different online briefs and challenges when I have the time. #36DaysOfType especially is really great for experimenting and try new things!
Tell us about your inspiration. What inspires you? And where do you go to find inspiration?
I think my inspiration comes from lots of different places. I’m always hungry for experiences and content, whether that’s new music, design books and magazines or random YouTube videos! But I feel like I’m most inspired when I’m feeling good and doing things I enjoy whether that’s going for a walk, meeting friends, doing some exercise or watching a show on Netflix. Once you’re in the right frame of mind it’s a lot easier to soak up inspiration and make something. Some of my favourite designers at the minute are Erica Anderson, Kenny Brandenberger, Alec Tear, Matt Willey, Dave Sedgwick, Jeremy Rieger—the list could go on and on.
What would you say to someone who is sceptical about the Shillington course?
I had high expectations for the course, and it surpassed all of them! It’s intense, but you have all the tools and the support you need to come out at the end of it with a portfolio you can be proud of.
If finding a career in design is what you want, then it’s without a doubt the best step you can take towards achieving that goal!
Big thanks to Carl for sharing his story with us! Make sure to follow his on website and Instagram.
A career in graphic design sounding like an interesting prospect? Learn more about Shillington’s 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time courses Online or on campus in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
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