Shillington London graduate Dana Gendler was steady working in marketing jobs, after being told that was the “safe track”. Though, she knew she always wanted to take a more creative route. So, in early 2020, she set up her own illustration brand Vitamin D and then a few months later enrolled on the part-time Sunday course at Shillington—a double whammy of creativity! She graduated in July 2021 and dived straight into the industry with a Junior position at Dirt & Glory and now a Creative Internship at powerhouse Landor & Fitch. We can’t wait to see where she goes next.
We caught up with Dana at the start of 2022 to talk about all things Shillington, design and her illustration business. Happy reading!
First of all, why did you choose Shillington? What made our course stand out from the rest?
I loved that the curriculum was about doing, rather than just theoretical stuff. I felt it was the experience and learning I needed to make a career shift and start working as a designer, in a short period of time.
Receiving a scholarship to study at Shillington also helped me financially, and gave me confidence that I had potential as a designer.
Why did you choose to study on Sundays? What were your experiences on the Sunday course?
I wanted to study part time so I could apply my learning to my work at the same time and have a longer period to digest and develop my design knowledge and skills, taking inspiration from the world around me. I liked the idea of dedicating my weekends to studying, as I was running a business and working part time Mon-Fri.
Studying on Sundays allowed me to come to class with a fresh mind in the morning and it helped me dive in deeper throughout the day.
What have you been up to since you graduated last year? How has your life changed after Shillington?
After graduating I freelanced as a designer whilst continuing my previous roles as an illustrator and a marketing manager. I even got to do design work with one of my Shillington classmates! I then moved on to a full-time role as a Junior Designer at an editorial studio called Dirt & Glory Media, and I recently started a creative internship at the leading brand transformation agency Landor & Fitch. I’m over the moon!!!
What were you up to before Shillington? Tell us why you decided to make the transition to being a graphic designer.
I was creative from childhood and in my teenage years, I really started to appreciate design, without realising the breadth of opportunities in the industry. Because of this and my lack of confidence in the creative route, I ended up studying Consumer Behaviour & Marketing at uni. I was also told it was a safer track. When I worked in Client Services and Strategy at marketing agencies & startups, I was blown away by what designers did, and with time I discovered I was a creative problem solver. I always loved drawing so started illustrating but wanted to take it further and become a graphic designer too. That’s when I applied to Shillington!
You also started an illustration side project on the go before joining the course. Can you tell us about this? Are you still illustrating now you’re a designer?
I set up my brand Vitamin D with the mission to brighten people’s day through vibrant, meaningful, comical illustrations. Commissions have included bespoke clothing, interior spaces, books and more, and I have also sold hundreds of prints in 17 countries.
I draw and doodle every evening in my sketchbook or iPad, as that is my hobby! My current focus is to grow as a designer whilst working at Landor & Fitch, and I hope to use my illustration skills within the role. What I will learn at L&F will also enable me to grow Vitamin D as a lifestyle brand, which is super exciting…
You’ve just started a new role as Creative Intern at Landor & Fitch. How have your first few weeks in the new job been? Have you got your teeth into any projects yet?
It’s been an absolute dream! I’ve already taken part in the art direction for a shoot, pitch design and more, for some of the world’s leading brands. I have a dedicated design mentor and get to learn from so many talented creatives. I just know I’m going to grow so quickly here.
Before that you spent a few months working at Dirt & Glory. What was that experience like?
I was very lucky that Dirt & Glory got in touch with me after reviewing my portfolio on the Shillington graduate showcase. They gave me a lot of confidence to kickstart my design career, as well as value my previous experiences in my marketing career!
I felt I was making a real impact through my creative skills as well as being client-facing and using strategic thinking behind my work.
Can you tell us about any of the projects you worked on at D&G?
I worked on a great variety of projects from social media and video content, to branding and digital design. I re-designed the social content for Shackleton, an polar extreme clothing and travel brand. I also worked with a film editor and motion designer to promote the first disabled person to trek from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole which was really exciting!
Back to Shillington, what was your favourite brief on the course? Can you tell us about your process?
I liked the variety of briefs, but especially enjoyed the branding briefs. One was for a Co-working space startup and one for a Space museum. I knew I had a passion for branding before the course, but also discovered my interest in experiential by working on these briefs. It was great fun to think how far I could push the rollouts and get an audience to interact with a brand; through technology, interior design and more.
Shillington provided us with a framework of the branding process, including research and analysis, ideation and prototyping through to designing and mocking up. These stages are broken down and reviewed in stages with teachers and other students, which is a really helpful way to ensure the work is well informed and inspired!
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
I really appreciate the teachers and students that I got to learn from. Even throughout lockdown we supported each other and made the most of it! Many of us have met up after and I’m seeing a bunch of the alumni again in a couple of weeks for food, drinks and experience sharing.
What would you say to someone who is sceptical about the Shillington course?
Shillington has helped me kickstart my design career quickly!
If you’re ambitious, ready to hustle and enjoy the process, you CAN land a design job after the course. It happened to me and many others!
Anything else you would like to add?
I am just so so happy to be doing something I love on a day to day basis. We all need to love what we do, and Shillington has helped me do this.
Feel free to check out my portfolio and get in touch if you have any questions about my experience.