Cait Dorombozo always wanted to pursue a creative career—a serendipitous meeting in a dog park was just the thing to push her in the right direction. We recently caught up with Cait to chat about how she landed her current job off the back of her Shillington portfolio review, her longest project to date and much more!
Why Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I actually met a Shillington full-time student in New Farm Park one morning walking our dogs, like a year before I started the course. She lit up talking about it, and my ears pricked up that there was a specialised graphic design college in Brisbane that wasn’t part of the regular Uni route.
Looking online, I got a feel that the course offered real fast-paced skill development, and they offered a part-time class in the evenings which meant I could still work full-time. Plus, there’s an option to pay as you go—massive gamechanger.
It was a huge risk (to me) committing to something I’ve always wanted to pursue, and I wanted to have an achievable career pathway. Every graduate becomes a part of the Shillumni network (graduates & other industry professionals). How brilliant is that. Reassuring to know there was something extra beyond the course itself.
I attended an in-person info night and was completely sold. Specifically by Mitch and Adam (who later became my teachers)—super chill and super passionate. They took us through a design process of a fish & chippery from start to finish, and I just couldn’t believe this was a real job. Like hearing someone speak the language you thought you just made up to yourself.
What have you been up to since graduation? How has your life changed after Shillington?
So much. My career completely changed—gone are the days of hospo and real estate. I’m completely humbled and happy to say I am a graphic designer (and getting paid for it haha).
I was really jazzed after graduation and kept the momentum going. I started an Instagram account to archive & share my design projects, I did some free projects for some close friends, put together some unsuccessful proposals (huge learning curb), and I started targeting a select few Brisbane design studios to introduce myself to.
Through an Instagram tag I ended up connecting with Brand Strategist Mark Pollard and chatted with him on Sweathead, A Strategy Podcast on Spotify. It was a chance to further workshop my Greyhound Adoption Campaign (from Shillington) and was very cool to do.
Now I work as full-time designer with a great team, and now they have to suffer my humour each and every day (sorry guys).
You recently landed a job as a Graphic Designer for DSR Branding! Congratulations, how did that come about?
It was super organic. All graduates spoke to an industry professional via a 15-min Zoom to share our portfolio to gain feedback and insights—I was fortunate enough to be paired with Dan Rowell.
I had a script ready to talk through all my projects, which completely (and immediately) went out the door, but turns out when you know your process and design journey then it’s far easier to talk about naturally. I think that’s why I could relax a little, and not worry about sounding too stiff. I just spoke how I speak in real life.
Dan invited me to the studio to meet Reuben, their Lead Designer, to share my portfolio once more. In February I joined the DSR team as a freelancer, and a few months later I was offered a full-time position. I’m grateful to be a part of a team that continues to adapt and evolve with every project, works only with like-minded clients, and champions (and nurtures) professional growth. I’m in the right place. Thanks again Dan.
What do you love about being a designer?
That your point of view & perspective is a superpower. It’s celebrated that you think differently. I love fussing over the finesse details with other like-minded people, and iterate and pressure-test an idea til you can’t anymore. It’s like speaking a language I didn’t know I knew. It’s fun. It’s satisfying to create off the screen. To kick around (good & bad) ideas without hesitation. Not all ideas are winners, but that’s the point to keep pushing through (some need to be nurtured into goodies). I love that you can be honest and vulnerable, not know the answers, and still push on. I love that there are millions of designers out there that create because that’s what they need to do – and I’m now part of that community.
What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you take the plunge and enrol?
I worked hard in hospitality for over twelve years, my main highlights being with the Jamie Oliver UK & AUS Group, Hamilton Island and more recently Harvey’s on James Street. I had a short (and unsuccessful) stint as a travel agent. Then I moved into the real estate sector for two years.
I remember enrolling and paying my deposit at midnight in November 2019 (to start in February). I was super frustrated with feeling stuck in what I was doing. I wanted to create. I actually read Mark Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**K. I asked myself, what can I lose from doing this, nothing (only more time-wasted). What can I gain? Everything.
Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skillset?
No previous experience. I had self-taught some InDesign bare basics the year prior in my old job. The course was phenomenal. It is designed to start you off from scratch, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve never touched Adobe, let alone a Mac.
My teachers were phenomenal. Inspiring. Supporting. Motivating. Constantly filling our design love buckets up and keeping them overflowing. Challenging and empowering us. I remember the first night they called us creatives, and I finally felt in the exact right place.
The short briefs were challenging but got us comfortable with sharing our work at the end of every class. We had a clearly defined process we could follow like a recipe, this became my mantra. To iterate fast. Problem solve. Group critiques became more comfortable and then completely normal. The whole course is designed to give us a taste of different briefs & styles across multiple design programmes, and then we could hone it in at portfolio time.
They teach you to work smarter not harder, to use keyboard shortcuts to be super time-efficient, to be exact and not just guess. I’ve found that processes can take shape and always evolve over time, but the foundation is always the same. P.S. Never forget your grid haha.
What was your biggest challenge during the course? Why?
Probably the enormity of everything you’re learning at such a fast-pace. I like to learn things in-depth, and it’s almost like you need to shift gears to absorb what you can and keep moving on. I had to let go of trying to be perfect and just try my best in the moment.
During the course, it became less about the finished design, and more about the way I could handle the process and develop an idea. I had to become far more disciplined and give myself limits and timings. It was so hard to do but incredibly valuable. Play & discipline – there’s a balance somewhere between the two.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
Tons. I’m so grateful to have met these fantastic people, no two the same. We try to meet up when we can. You end up bonding organically with your classmates, once everyone relaxes into the course, you support and learn from each other without realising it.
Our teachers Mitch & Adam are absolute legends. They are stuck with me for life now haha (sorry guys). A huge part of my design journey, and I will always be grateful. You also end up meeting loads of other graduates and teachers you come across in person or online. There are so many good people out there.
What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
It’s a close toss-up between Campaign and Handmade.
I created a campaign to encourage the adoption of ex-racing greyhounds (inspired by our two couch patatas, Deedee & Glover). It was a lot of fun, and the first time I used illustration (in Procreate) to carry out a project.
The campaign approach itself was an eye-opener that anyone can start with a good idea, but unless you can execute it well with a clear strategy, it’s really easy to get lost along the way.
We used Mark Pollard’s framework of problem, insight, and solution to reduce the campaign to a few key points. What’s the simplest form of the problem, and the simplest form of the solution. If you understand what you’re trying to achieve at the core, you’re able to stay focused and have a north star to follow.
Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?
I see myself with a stronger skillset in illustration and brand strategy. I see myself getting more involved in the local Brisbane community with design opportunities and events. Probably still being curious about everything design and watching loads of tutorials haha.
What would you say to someone who is sceptical about the Shillington course?
Just do it.
If you want to rekindle your creative side in any way, be nurtured, challenged, become a stronger designer (across any creative discipline)—then Shillington is brilliant. I would do it all over again if I could. It literally shaped my future and gave me the skills and connections to get there.
Trust in the course and trust in the process. Get comfortable with the idea of being vulnerable, because that’s when the real magic happens. Bad ideas lead to good ideas (you need both). It’s not about being perfect. Enjoy it and go along for the ride with a willing and open attitude and you’ll thank yourself later.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us!
I am about to finish my longest project to date. Been working on it for a little over 9 months now, and very excited to see it in the real world. We are expecting our baby girl to arrive March 21st, 2022.