Sylvan Hillebrand is a Dutch conceptual designer with a background in branding. After discovering Shillington, he became curious about the 3 month course in New York and decided to enroll since he wanted to refine his creative process. Since graduating in 2018, Sylvan has been working as a Midweight Creative on design projects for lifestyle brands like Nike and Jordan at HarrimanSteel. He’s also won the AdobeEdu 2019 Top Talent and 2019 Adobe Design Achievement awards last year!
Watch Sylvan’s student portfolio video that he created in only 3 months, discover The Found Tapes project he worked on after Shillington and learn how the course helped to elevate his skillset as a designer, further developing his bold, expressive and innovative style.
You’re originally from The Netherlands, where you studied design and also worked with companies on branding projects since 2013. How did you find out about the course and why did you choose to make the move to study at Shillington?
During and after four years of design school and freelance gigs, I still felt like my workflow and creative process wasn’t really defined yet. Every project began with the question “where do I start?”. I knew I needed to search for something out of my comfort zone. So after my graduation, I decided to look for something exciting and I basically found out about Shillington through a Facebook ad! One of the rare times I wasn’t annoyed by Facebook ads, it seemed interesting knowing the situation and I clicked it.
What was the best part of studying in New York? Any tips for applicants interested in studying abroad?
I’ve always dreamt about living in New York because it seemed so surreal, interesting and refreshing. The people, the energy, and everything that New York has to offer motivated me. It changed me for the better. Tips? Go for it, go all in!
How did you find the overall Shillington experience?
Overall it’s been amazing. I’ve met some of the best people ever, learned a lot about design, New York and myself. The briefs were diverse and touched every aspect you need to know. I found it intense, a lot of fun and really something that challenges you.
Besides skill-wise, I think the most important part is about what you’re doing with the information you receive, how much work you put in and if you’re open for your perspectives to adapt.
With your extensive design experience, how did the Shillington course elevate your design skillset?
The biggest part for me is the creative process that I’ve learned to develop at Shillington. Through the years I’ve experienced a lot of projects where I didn’t know where to start, even if you think you know where to start, there was no defined process. At Shillington, I really developed a process that helps me tackle any project that comes my way. Of course, every project is still challenging but it helps you to see the next steps, opportunities and gives a better perspective of the total picture.
What was your favorite student brief in your portfolio? Tell us about your process and solution.
I think I have two favorite briefs. One, of course, being the campaign project. And the other being the handmade project because it was so much fun to come up with a concept that had to be made physically. It makes you think in different ways to get the desired result and I’m really happy with the result. And at Shillington, handmade day is one of the best days at school.
You were awarded the 2019 Adobe Design Achievement Award for the concept ‘Nike—Do it For NY’. Congratulations! Tell us about this project.
Thanks! At Shillington, we had to choose an organization, group, business or institution that you think might benefit from having a fresh campaign to help increase awareness, change the perception or promote an existing product/service in a new light. My dream client had to be Nike since I’m a big Nike fan and I’ve always wanted to work with them. So my campaign was about Nike being more involved in local communities and service projects. A set of unique shoes will be created that are inspired by these small communities in NY. Profits of each area will be invested in Community Service Projects of the selected areas. Creating a campaign from scratch based on a dream client was intense but came out to be one of my best projects to date. After uploading it on Behance it got picked up by Adobe and they awarded me a Design Achievement Award!
Last year you also got the AdobeEdu 2019 Top Talent Award! Can you tell us more about this?
This was definitely one of my highlights in 2019. How to become a Top Talent? It didn’t take much because it’s basically submitting work you’ve already done! Of course, you have to put a lot of work in presenting your work with a good underlying concept otherwise nobody’s able to interpret it the right way. Anyone who has projects on Behance can participate. It’s a new initiative from Adobe where you’re able to submit three projects you’re proud of placed in various categories. I’ve submitted three projects where two of them were projects made at Shillington!
You’re now working as a designer at HarrimanSteel. What kinds of projects are you working on and what does a typical day look like?
Yup! When I turned 23, I started as a Mid-Weight Designer at HarrimanSteel in Amsterdam. After graduating in New York I went back to The Netherlands and went looking for an agency where I really wanted to work. I saved up some money and decided to move to Amsterdam to look for an agency with clients that I have passion for.
I wouldn’t have gotten the job without the work I’ve done at Shillington!
Every day is different, sometimes I spend a lot of time looking for references or coming up with concepts, while days I’m designing graphics for products, retail experiences or doing campaign design work. I am having a lot of fun!
Does your Dutch background influence your creative aesthetic?
I don’t think it necessarily influences my personal creative aesthetic, but I do think that I’m subconsciously inspired by people I’ve worked with and the work I’ve seen around me in The Netherlands.
Where do you go for inspiration? Are there any creatives that you admire?
Music, my surroundings, my feelings and the internet!
What have you been up to since graduating? What’s on the horizon?
I noticed during the handmade project at Shillington that I had an interest in creating work with a physical aspect. So when I came back I did this project in my spare time called The Found Tapes which I’m really proud of. It’s a project where I capture old media, containing content from now, found in the future.
During and after that I started working at the company where I worked before Shillington, saved up money and went to Amsterdam! The horizon? Push my boundaries, learn and eventually own a small studio before I’m in my thirties.
Would you like to upskill as a designer and transform your career? Learn more about graduate stories and check out the city guides for the Shillington campus locations in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.