Britta Fuchs found out about Shillington a pretty funny way—as a 16 year old exchange student from Austria, she lived with founder Andy Shillington and his family! Back in Graz, Austria, she studied journalism and was working in publishing, but her love of magazines led her to a natural interest in design. She decided to move all the way to America to study at Shillington in New York City.
Read on to learn about Britta’s decision to switch careers and study at Shillington, what she loves about being a designer in Vienna and how mountaineering plays a role in her creative practice.
What were you up to before Shillington?
I had finished my BA in journalism and public relations and left Austria to work for different fashion magazines in Germany. As editor as well as styling assistant. I always loved magazines and still do. While I enjoyed the work I was doing, I still felt the urge to explore different aspects of magazine publishing. It fascinated me how design influences the buying as well as the reading behaviour. I actually wrote my bachelors thesis on that topic.
Design felt like something really powerful and I was curious to learn more about it.
Why did you decide to study design? Why Shillington?
I attended a school with a focus on artistic activities and handicrafts. I really liked art classes. Especially working with my hands and with different materials was something I enjoyed doing and would like to do more again. Design however was a new world to me. I always thought I couldn’t be a designer. That I wasn’t that creative. But I had actually never tried.
Shillington had been in the back of my head since a six-month stay in Australia at 16, where I happened to stay with the Shillington Family and first learned about the college. I liked the concept of a condensed, accessible and lifelike education and was impressed by the quality of other graduates’ work.
Could you walk us through all the jobs you’ve had since graduating?
After graduating from Shillington NYC I started at moodley brand identity a branding agency in Austria. I wanted to return to NYC, but moodley felt like a great opportunity, so I took the job and stayed there for almost three years. I had never planned to work for a design agency (or return to Austria), rather wanted to go back to publishing and work as a designer for an independent magazine. Life doesn’t always go as planned though 🙂
The decision to leave moodley came hand in hand with the need for a bigger change. I moved to Vienna, made a brief stop as editorial designer at a fashion magazine, but I couldn’t get the idea of working freelance out of my head anymore. It grew bigger day by day. It was on a ski touring trip to the Western Alps where I finally decided to start my own business. And I never looked back.
Now you run your own freelance design business. What is the best and worst part of working for yourself?
The best is definitely the freedom that comes with it. Living a self-determined life is so important to me. You decide how you plan your day, how you do your work and from where. Design, to me, is about personality. My work feels more authentic and me since working for myself. I listen more closely to my intuition, reflect on what I want to do and in what way I want to develop further. I am extremely happy and thankful for the possibilities I have through this way of working and living.
A downside—I am happy to accept—might be, that the line between work and free time often blurs. A holiday is not always just a holiday and weekend not always a weekend.
Could you share the process behind a recent client process?
My work focuses on branding. Before I open any program, I do a lot of research. Maybe that’s where my background in journalism comes through. Branding is about creating a new world. That’s what I love so much about it. It’s not just a logo. It’s the typography, imagery, colours, grid, choice of paper… all of it needs to tell the story of the brand. To get the essence of it, I need to know the background and above all get a feeling for this world I am then trying to visualise through my design.
What’s the creative scene like in Vienna? Any tips for people thinking of visiting?
Vienna is so rich in history and culture. It might not be as fast and forward thinking as NYC for example, but I like the pace of Vienna. A lot of my friends are creatives working freelance which I find very helpful since we exchange experiences and support each other.
When visiting, make sure to experience the historical side of Vienna as well as the new. There are numerous great museums, restaurants and so on and in summer a lot of cultural events take place—outside and often for free.
The only thing I miss here are the mountains.
We read you also like to mountaineer. How cool! How does that hobby influence your creative work?
Mountaineering has a big impact on me personally which ultimately reflects in my work. Being creative affords a new way of looking at things. That is exactly what happens when being in the mountains. You gain a new perspective on things (and the world quite literally). Mountaineering inspires me to new approaches and ways, it creates freedom in the way I think, empties the mind and makes room for new ideas. It helps to focus on what is essential. I can switch off and connect with myself. It is also a lot about pushing my limits and getting out of my comfort zone.
I come from a family of avid mountaineers. I started climbing at age 6 and have been on many hiking trips with my family and later my friends. In the course of time new disciplines like (high-alpine) ski touring or paragliding added to it. So it’s always been part of my life somehow. And up until this day, nothing makes me as happy as being outdoors.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking of studying at Shillington?
Go for it. It will open many new doors and might change your life in a way you didn’t think was possible. It sure did for me.
Any tips for fresh design graduates on the job hunt?
Be yourself and be authentic! Your personal approach is what differentiates you from others. Simple as that 🙂
Anything else you’d like to share?
Travel a lot, go climb a mountain every now and then and do what you can’t!
Huge thanks to Britta for sharing her story! Be sure to check out her website, and follow her on Behance and Instagram!
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