Rhys Brennan was working a marketing job for a large Australian retailer, collaborating with creative agencies and designers. But he realised he wanted to be on the creative side of things, so he left his job and enrolled at Shillington Melbourne full-time. He then graduated, curated his career search and landed a job with multidisciplinary communications agency Romano Beck.
Now 6 months out in his graphic design role, he’s had some amazing opportunities—even working on a campaign for the Australian Open! We caught up with Rhys recently to chat about the cool clients he’s had a chance to work with since becoming a graphic designer, double life as a bass player and his time at Shillington.
Why Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?
I actually had a few friends currently studying/had graduated from Shillington who spoke very highly of the course. Other courses that I looked into seemed to run like more traditional university courses over longer periods of time.
I felt that I would get more out of learning in a more realistic studio pressure environment.
What have you been up to since graduation? How has your life changed after Shillington?
Life has changed quite a bit since graduating! I’ve been working as a graphic designer for nearly 6 months and am absolutely loving it. I take a lot of pride in what I do for work so any downtime I get I’m usually trying to learn more about design and expand my knowledge.
You recently landed a job as a Graphic Designer for Romano Beck! Congratulations, how did that come about?
After graduating, I put a lot of time into searching and applying for positions that I felt that I’d enjoy. I was really after a role at a small-mid size agency where I could be working on multiple clients so that I could familiarize myself with the ins and outs of different brands and the unique challenges that come with each of them. Romano Beck hired me as a Graphic Designer in August 2021 and since then I’ve had some amazing opportunities to work on some great clients including Piper-Heidsieck, L’Oréal, Chadstone, Crown, F45, DoorDash and more.
You recently had the opportunity to work on an amazing campaign for the Australian Open, can you tell us more about that?
It was so surreal to be able to get the opportunity to work on Piper Heidsieck’s Australian Open partnership campaign. The campaign was called ‘Melbourne Uncorked by Piper-Heidsieck’, and leveraged Piper’s AO partnership by celebrating emerging artists who were deprived of a stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working on the campaign itself was a huge challenge due to how massive it was, and the nature of working in PR means that things are continually evolving and changing. I loved every moment of it though, and I had some huge milestones during the campaign including designing a 25 x street poster series that was displayed in AC/DC lane, a double-page spread in Harper’s Bazaar, a digital ad takeover that appeared on Broadsheet and a social media takeover on Piper-Heidsieck’s social accounts.
What do you love about being a designer?
The thing I love the most about being a designer is that the nature of everything that you do is creative. Whether you are designing a flyer or developing a brand identity, it is creative work 9-5, and I find that so inspiring!
I also really love that in the design industry you can continually learn and develop your skills. Whether you want to learn more about illustration, animation, typography, or just refine your current skill set—there are always more areas that you can grow in.
What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you take the plunge and enrol?
I was working in a marketing job for a large retailer in Australia. I found that I really enjoyed working on big campaigns that required creative thinking, but I wasn’t that inspired by what I was doing day-to-day. After working with creative agencies and designers on marketing collateral and brand refreshes, I definitely developed a strong interest in branding and the way designs are engineered to communicate a message. I eventually left my job and enrolled to study at Shillington full time.
Did you have any previous design experience? How did the course build your skillset?
The only design experience that I had prior was working with creative agencies in my marketing role.
I had never touched any of the Adobe programs and hadn’t ‘designed’ anything prior. The course built my skill set by teaching us the design fundamentals and working through specialised areas of design bit by bit, eventually combining those skills to respond to larger design briefs.
What was your biggest challenge during the course? Why?
The biggest challenge during my time at Shillington was definitely being able to have the confidence that my work was good enough.
I think every designer, no matter how experienced, goes through periods of being self-conscious about their designs, but I think especially when you’re learning this is amplified.
I definitely needed to remind myself quite a lot throughout the course that I had only been a graphic designer for such a short period of time, and that making mistakes is actually a really good opportunity to learn.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
Absolutely! I had such a great time in the course on a social level because all my peers were amazing people, and going through the design journey with them was something I really enjoyed. My teachers Kim Melvin & Annette Dennis were brilliant, they continually pushed me to learn more during the course and were always more than happy to answer all my questions.
What was your favorite brief on the course? Tell us your process!
I really enjoyed the branding briefs that we worked on in the course as I have always been passionate about branding, but I think the most enjoyable brief I worked on was the handmade brief. The handmade brief requires you to create a design out of physical elements and photograph the final composition, which is something that was very much out of my comfort zone. I created an alternate artwork for the Alice In Chains record ‘Dirt’, which is one of my favourite records of all time.
The album has heavy themes of drug abuse and being a slave to addiction, so I created a concept of photographing a statue head with a black ink tear seeping from its eye, whilst being consumed from below by a powdery drug-like substance. After photographing the composition and putting the final design together, I was so ecstatic about the outcome, especially having gone into it with lower confidence than some of the other briefs.
Where do you see yourself in 12 months’ time?
This is quite a boring answer, but I see myself continuing to work as a graphic designer and learning as much as I can. I’d love to start my own agency or freelance one day, but still being so new to design I’d like to learn as much as I can during the first few years so that I have the skills to succeed long term.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the Shillington course?
All you need to do is look at the graduate work to see the high-quality design skills that you will develop by studying at Shillington.
I think the short-time format of the course sounds unachievable at first, but by the time you’re working on your portfolio, you really get the perspective that you have all the skills needed to work in the graphic design industry.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?
You will only get out of the course what you put in. Shillington will provide you with everything you’ll need to achieve what you want but to truly get great results you have to put in time and commitment (and keep it up after you graduate).
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us!
In addition to design as a big passion of mine, I’m also a very passionate musician! I’ve played guitar for around 20 years and I’m currently playing bass in two bands—Treebeard which is a 4 piece post-rock band, and KVLL which is a 3 piece doom metal band. Sonically they’re on completely different ends of the spectrum hahaha, but I love touring and playing live, and also using my design skills to give each band a strong visual identity.
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