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Meet Melissa McAuliffe, Shillington Graduate and Junior Designer for Disney

Working as a consultant in the design and construction industry, Melissa McAuliffe wanted to future-proof her job opportunities. So she took the plunge and enrolled in our Melbourne studio! 

Read on to hear more about her hybrid study experience, and current job as an exhibition designer for the National Gallery of Victoria!

Why Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?

I chose Shillington as I was looking for a short form style course. I was also attracted to the very hands-on and practical nature of the course—lots of real-world briefs, which was great as I knew once I graduated I’d have a great portfolio.

What have you been up to since graduation? How has your life changed after Shillington?

Straight after graduation I got a freelance role as a junior graphic designer, which was a great learning experience! After that I got a contract role with the National Gallery of Victoria. I also spent time developing more design skills by doing self-initiated projects in motion graphics and working on my photography.

You recently landed a job as a junior designer for the Disney! That’s wild, how did that come about? 

I did! I’m two weeks in and it’s pretty amazing. I saw the job ad listed on LinkedIn and just thought why not. It was a little nerve racking of course, cause who wouldn’t want to work for Disney, but the team is lovely and I couldn’t be happier.

What kind of projects are you most excited to work on in your new role?

I’d love to say, but everything that is worked on is pretty much secret. The projects are anything from social media posts to Disney+ content but everything is really interesting and exciting to work on.

You were previously working  as an exhibition graphic designer for the National Gallery of Victoria! What does a day-in-the-life look like as an exhibition graphic designer—can you share a favourite project you worked on?

Busy! There is a lot of multitasking and managing your time effectively. My time is split between typesetting, signage, wayfinding and managing exhibition graphic packages. Once designs are approved then there is managing installation, liaising with suppliers and other NGV stakeholders to get the design implemented. Favourite project so far would be working on the kids space for the Picasso exhibition—lots of fun, colour and always great to be behind the scenes.

What do you love about being a designer?

The variety of the role—I love that there is a technical side, learning programs and designing on the computer, but equally in my role I get to be hands-on, from picking paint swatches, testing materials to building relationships with suppliers, curators and walking around the gallery sans people which is always a treat.

What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you take the plunge and enrol?

I previously studied interior design and was using my skills from that to work in a consultative role in the design and construction industry. I have always leant towards the creative industries, but hadn’t found a role that quite fit.

I took the plunge as I wanted to future-proof my job opportunities. Graphic design is a broad umbrella and I knew that would give me flexibility and longevity in job choice.

(branding, UX/UI, digital, print) and flexibility in workplace (home, in studio or internationally).

Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skillset?

I had previous design experience from different disciplines—Interior and Costume design—but had very limited interaction or knowledge of Graphic design. The course slowly builds up your knowledge and skillset by introducing you to programs and briefs at a steady pace and the teachers support you through this learning curve, plus ‘The Guide’ is a wealth of knowledge!

What was your biggest challenge during the course? Why?

Probably the switch from on-campus to online during the lockdowns. I personally preferred being in class, I like the human element and being able to get to know my peers better. However, due to Shillington already having an online module the transition was pretty smooth and the teachers were helpful and understanding of the situation.

Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?

Yes definitely, I am still in close contact with some of my peers, we often go to galleries and shows together. There was such a supportive and fun vibe with the class I was in, which enriched the whole experience.

What was your favourite brief on the course? Tell us your process!

I really liked the micro website. I think because it showed me how much I enjoyed designing websites and it also introduced me to Figma—which is the bomb! In this brief, I also incorporated my own photography, which was a nice plus. I think it showed that I enjoyed this brief the most, as I tend to get the most positive feedback in interviews on it.

Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?

Continuing to build my skills and knowledge. I’m currently exploring no code/low code website building and would love to turn one of my designs into a functional website.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the Shillington course?

Go for it! You get so much out of your time at Shillington, not just a great portfolio and skillset but also friendships, connections and the confidence to pursue that graphic design role. Shillington helped prepare me for the fast-paced nature of the workplace.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions/opinions of both your teachers and peers. Make the most of in-class time and engage with the people around you, you never know what you might learn!

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us!

I was lucky enough in 2016 to quit my job and travel the world for 2 and half years! Best time of my life and sparked my love of landscape photography.

Big thanks to Melissa for sharing her creative journey with us! Make sure to check out her website and follow her on Instagram!

Like to follow in Melissa’s footsteps? Learn more about Shillington’s 3 months full-time and 9 month part-time courses Online or on-campus in New York, London, Sydney or Melbourne. 

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