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Meet Steph Ermer, Shillington New York Graduate

Steph Ermer always dreamt of being a creative in New York City, and we were thrilled to help make her dream a reality.

Before studying at Shillington, Steph managed a Soho cosmetics store and had no formal design training. After our three month intensive course, she learned the fundamentals of design, created a super slick portfolio and landed a job at Sette Creative. Nowadays she’s (literally) working in the Empire State Building. It doesn’t get more NYC than that!

Read on to hear about the New York job hunt, her favourite student brief and why deciding to study again was a “scary” but smart decision.

Tell us a bit about the job hunt after Shillington.

I had no formal design training or experience before Shillington, so when I graduated I was really nervous to see how my portfolio would be received and if I would be able to compare to other candidates with a four year degree. Job hunting in itself was a full time job and I must have applied to 30 places a day, but pretty quickly I started getting interviews and positive feedback on my portfolio and I remember thinking like, “wow I can actually do this.” It only took two months after graduating to get my first paid freelance project, and I ended up getting pulled on board after that to continue working with the team on other projects which was really exciting. 

What’s it like working at Sette Creative? 

Sette is amazing! It’s a super small company right now, just myself and two other really rad girls. Our office is actually located in the Empire State Building which is pretty much the most New York thing ever. We do mostly branding which is what I’m most passionate about doing. It’s honestly a dream job. We all have different strengths to bring to the table and work really well together, everyone is really positive and encouraging.


Tell us about your design that’s launching at Whole Foods. How exciting!

The project I was hired for with Sette initially was to create labels for a new product launch from this Brooklyn based juice company called Rawpothecary. They just released a line of probiotic waters which are super delicious and recently launched in stores! From there we had to rebrand their line of existing products and juices which came out really colorful and fun, those are getting printed now and should be out in stores soon as well. I actually saw the probiotic waters in Whole Foods last week for the first time, and it was such an exciting moment to see all the hard work the Sette team and I put into them as a physical product now existing in the real world. I’ve already had friends texting me photos of them when they spot them in different stores, it’s a really cool and rewarding feeling. 


Why is New York City an incredible place to be a designer?

New York City is an incredible place to do anything you’re passionate about, there’s so much opportunity here. It’s the center of everything, plus we have some of the best museums in the world! In terms of being a designer, I think the most unique thing about New York City is that you’re constantly surrounded by inspiration. I’m always spotting interesting typography and illustration everywhere from graffiti, to subway cars, to flyers being handed out on the street.

Do you have a favorite project from your Shillington portfolio?

My favorite project was my campaign project. We got to choose a demographic that had an image problem and create a campaign around that to help solve that problem. I chose the Hells Angels and created a family airshow event to pay homage to their roots, since the name itself is derived from the name of a fighter jet from WWII. I feel like this was the biggest project and also the one where we had the most creative license, getting to roll it out in as many different platforms as we wanted and having to think about what those platforms would be and why.

It’s definitely the project that made me realize I love branding so much and helped me to shape my career path towards this specific area. 


What were you up to before Shillington? Why did you decide to study design?

Before Shillington I was managing a cosmetics store in Soho. I had a film degree that I wasn’t doing anything with, and felt very stuck. A friend of mine who’s also a designer kept pushing me to try design, so I started taking night classes at SVA. I ended up really loving it and found out about Shillington through a friend who attended the program, so I left my retail job and enrolled full time.

It was probably the scariest decision I’ve ever made and also hands down one of the best.

Any tips for incoming design students?

I would definitely tell new students that you’re going to get out of the program as much as you put into it. I didn’t have a social life during the program much less a healthy sleep schedule, but it was all super worth it in the end. All of your classmates and even your teachers become like your family and the ones that keep you going on those days you want to curl up under your desk. Watching tutorials and practicing outside the program are really important also, I can’t tell you how many helpful tips and tricks I’ve learned from googling that have saved me so much time and I’ve been able to teach to classmates and co-workers. 

Big thanks to Steph for sharing her story! Check out her website to see more work.

Do you want to become a designer like Stephanie? Study 3 months full-time or 9 months part-time at Shillington! Learn more –> 

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