When she moved to the city in 2019, Shillington London graduate Iuliia Iatsenko wasn’t sure where her path would lead but she quickly found her way to Shillington. After a recommendation from a friend, she applied for our part-time Sunday course and nine months later emerged as a fully fledged graphic designer. A few months later, she got a job as a Junior Designer at Dirt & Glory during a tumultuous time in Ukraine, her homeland. Now, she’s thriving in her role and loving life as a designer.
We caught up with Iuliia to chat about moving to London, her time at Shillington and everything since. Happy reading!
Why did you choose to study at Shillington? Why did you want to make the jump to graphic design?
I moved to London in 2019 and was on a journey of finding the job I would really love (or at least like). I was always drawn towards movie posters, books, logos etc but didn’t pay much attention to who created them. After a short exploration into graphic design, I was recommended Shillington by a girl who graduated from Shillington herself. After some thinking, I enrolled myself.
What were you up to before the course? Did you have any design experience?
Before Shillington, I lived in New York City where I was working all sorts of jobs. I was cleaning apartments, waitressing, nannying, photographing and gardening. The closest I had to design experience was gardening—my boss let me design some flower beds or window boxes for our customers.
And what have you been up to since the course? Tell us about your first year as a graphic designer?
First, I had the process of several months ‘looking for a job’. It included reaching out to and meeting new people, portfolio reviews, rejections, tears and laughter. In February, my classmate Dana messaged me saying that she was leaving her job and wondering if I would potentially be interested in her position at Dirt & Glory agency. I mean.. Of course! Luckily her bosses liked my portfolio and after a couple of interviews I was hired. Again, thank you Dana for thinking of me!
Unfortunately, I didn’t spend a month at my new job when Russia invaded my home country, Ukraine, where my parents, family and friends lived. I couldn’t work properly for a couple of months. I am very grateful to the Dirt & Glory team, my bosses, Nigel and Ben, who were very supportive of me in that extremely difficult time. Now I am fully working, remembering my plans and creating even more goals.
What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for you?
In the morning I can choose where I want to work from—my home or a coworking space. I have two cats who climb all over my head and my computer making it harder to concentrate at home so I usually go to our coworking space. I check if anyone from work has asked me to do something new and continue working on what I was left with the day before.
I feel very lucky that my job has a lot of flexibility. I could work from other places, I could start a bit later but stay a bit longer, I could have lunch whenever I want. I really appreciate it because I didn’t have this kind of freedom at my previous jobs.
What inspires your design work? We’d love to hear about any particular experiences or influences on your practice!
I think I get inspired, like many more, by other people, museums, old books etc. I have a friend who is an incredible illustrator and now I’m taking my first ever drawing classes. I get inspired when something is bothering me and I want to bring it up to the ‘world’. I have several campaigns in my head I want to do for fun because one day I noticed a ‘problem’ and I am inspired to make posters or something about it. For example, I got annoyed that a lot of people in Ukraine, according to my own poor research when talking to shelters, didn’t understand why it’s important to castrate or sterilize their cats. Ukrainian streets are full with sick, hungry and homeless animals so I made educational posters. My cousin printed and placed them in his pet store and I also sent them to shelters.
I was recently inspired by an Old Ukrainian advert for a pack of cigarettes (by Vasyl Ermilov, 1925) and its sign. I am working on a typeface now based on this design.
Honestly, a lot of things inspire me but like many I am still fighting with my laziness and lack of concentration.
Back to Shillington, what was your experience like? You studied on our London Sunday part-time course, how was that?
For me, it was extremely interesting and hard.
As a complete beginner I didn’t know any of the programs, I didn’t have any creative education and I was new to the country so was still getting used to the British accent. On the course I was surrounded by very talented and really nice people. Yeah.. People that made it easier and fun!
The middle of the course was especially hard as you have gained enough knowledge, you’re not quite there yet as a designer. Portfolio time was also intense!. I’ll tell you that my work is less intense than Shillington. But I prefer it that way around.
I liked part-time because I had some time during the week to process the information and prepare. I think I needed that because it was so new to me.
Did you have a favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
If I have to choose one I think I would go with my campaign. We had to create a campaign about a topic that was important to us. I liked this particular brief because it was something that I got to choose myself. It was a hard one however, I remember that I redid it 2 times.
My topic was vasectomy and the aim of my campaign was to debunk the myths about it. I tried to make it clear to myself exactly what I was trying to say and what I wanted others to get out of it. I created a call of action “split reproductive responsibility”, found my intended audience and the keywords for visual presentation. After some research and shaping up the brief the fun part began—choosing fonts, colours and other graphic support.
The first attempts were not very successful, I made it too ‘medical’. The second turned out to be a bit dated. I ended up with this and maybe I would come up with something totally different if I did it again. Two lessons here: firstly, make the brief clear and, second, learn how to let go of things. It will save time and nerves.
What was the most surprising thing about the course?
If I must name one thing I guess it would be that it’s a surprise how quickly you can grow under pressure.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the Shillington course?
The best thing about Shillington is that you end up with a real portfolio.
This portfolio will help you meet people by asking more experienced designers to critique it and is extremely helpful with getting you a real design job. Also, it’s totally replicating the industry environment—pressure and joy.
Anything else you would like to share? Surprise us!
For me Shillington was the first place where I met people in England and made friends and the first place where I started to learn about design. I had a great teacher and lovely classmates and I am grateful for this experience. It sounds very cheesy ha but well… It is what it is.
Want to follow in Iuliia’s footsteps? Read all about Shillington’s innovative approach to design education.