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Interview with Dan Villalobos, Junior Graphic Designer at I-AM

Dan Villalobos started tinkering with Photoshop and creating DIY banners for websites when he was a musician—which inspired him to study graphic design at Shillington London in 2016. Since graduating, he completed an internship at Dazed, before landing himself a Junior Designer job at I-AM creative in a surprising way.

Read on to find out how Dan got his job at I-AM, how his music and design careers complement each other and some of the amazing designs he’s been working on since he left Shillington.

So you graduated from Shillington in 2016. What are your best memories of your time spent with us?

So many! I have fond memories of the teachers and the supportive environment they provide. Making new friends—meeting so many people from different backgrounds was great.

I loved the quick ideation sessions, sketching thumbnails, coming up with a brand name, and the handmade project was really fun.

What did you do after graduation? Did you immediately get a job?

I looked for work in a studio or agency—somewhere that could allow me to work in a range of projects as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on. After a month or two of searching, I got a 4-week internship at Dazed Media where I worked alongside the digital team, making assets for its website as well as some internal projects. The rest of the time I helped with some typographic design concepts for the forthcoming issue of Dazed.

You won I-AM creative’s 2017 Graduate Competition ‘Push the Envelope’—can you tell us more about thhis and your winning entry?

Around the same time I applied for the Dazed internship, I entered I-AM’s graduate placement competition. It was the first time I-AM ran the competition and it would see two winners—a 2D designer (graphics) and 3D designer (interiors)—work alongside their respective departments over 12 months. The brief was to re-imagine what an envelope is or could be, in any way you wanted. I created a conceptual, foldable envelope that transformed into a disposable VR headset, and created a video to demonstrate it. I found out I won a few weeks later!

You’ve stayed on with I-AM and are now a Junior Graphic Designer there. Can you give us some details about some of the projects you’ve been working on?

I’ve been involved in a range of projects, along various stages of the design process. Internal pitches and presentations, signage packs and manuals on one end of the scale and name generation, creating mood boards, route development and motion graphics at the other! I’ve been involved various sectors, including finance, hospitality and food & beverage, working with brands like Ben & Jerry’s, KFC, Enterprise, Danske Bank, Haz restaurants and Wall’s.

What’s been your favourite project you’ve been a part of so far?

Being involved in the creation and direction for I-AM’s trends and insights web portal, I-AM Shift, has been fun as it’s been digital and has elements of motion graphics as well. Also working on the rebranding for the Enterprise Center in St. Louis was great because it’s one project that was finalised pretty quickly. It’s amazing to see the signage I worked on installed on a big venue like that!

You were making in music production before the course. Why did you decide to add graphic design to your repertoire?

I had always been interested in design in some way and musicians/producers are very DIY, so I was always making web banners for websites, and generally enjoyed using photoshop and editing images. So, I guess I wanted to learn and improve everything I had been doing. I had been eyeing Shillington for around four years and, in 2016, I had the opportunity to take the 3-month course so I went for it!

Are you still making music now? Do you have any other personal passion projects?

Yes! If I’m not designing, I’m making music. Amongst other things, there’s a podcast coming out soon that I produced music for, I’ve got instrumental music I’m re-working and releasing in the new year… I’m also making animations when I can and sharing them on social media, with bespoke sound design or music.

Is there anything unexpected that influences you or your work?

I have mild synesthesia, so I guess sound can influence some of my personal work. I’m looking at some animation exploration that deals with sound interaction, so both have to compliment each other.

Are you still close with anyone you met on the course? Have you encountered any other Shillington graduates out in the big wide world?

I met my girlfriend on the course… so we’re always talking about some creative idea or another! I’m generally still in touch with quite a few graduates from my course, which is really nice. I’ve also randomly bumped into some of them on the street, which is always a pleasant surprise. It’s great to learn what kind of work everyone is up to after Shillington.

What would your top three tips for Shillington students be?

1. Don’t be afraid of anything. Ask questions, be open to push your design ideas constantly, and really go for it!

The more work you put in early, the easier compiling your portfolio will be at the end.

2. I think it’s important to value the people you meet along the way. You never know where things will lead; you could end up working with or for each other!

3. Sharing any side passion projects is a great way to showcase additional skills and personal interests. It’s also a great way to stay inspired. Try and document some of the process, and you never know who you might inspire in return!

Anything else you would like to add?

The Shillington experience can feel like a lot of work (which it is!) but the real work starts when you complete the course. Never stop learning, try to have a clear goal of what you want to achieve, and be determined.

Big thanks to Dan for sharing his adventure with us! Keep in touch with him via Instagram or his website, and check out his music on Spotify.

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