Despite a degree in physical geography, Robyn M-C always knew she was destined for a creative career. Gallery visits, lectures and a lot of reading eventually lead her to Shillington London and, knowing graphic design was the way forward for her, quickly enrolled. Three months later, she graduated and dived into a new career. Three years later, she is now at the top of her game and is working as a freelance designer—working with some incredible clients.
We caught up with Robyn about her time studying at Shillington, her amazing work both for clients and for herself and about what has been inspiring her lately.
Why did you decide to study at Shillington? What were you up to beforehand?
I was looking for the area within the creative industries that would excite me most. I visited galleries, attended lectures and read up on things to find out where I could use my ideas. At the time, I was working in fashion e-commerce, but not on the creative side and felt that there was more fun to be had. This led me to a Shillington Info Session.
I had no idea what graphic design actually was, but the teachers seemed really into what they did and when I asked if the course would give me the skills to turn my doodles into prints, they said yes. So, I applied.
Did you have any design experience going in to the course? Or was everything new to you?
It was all new. I’ve always drawn and painted but, despite taking art and design at school and nearly doing an industrial design degree at university, my final degree was in physical geography. I was well versed in the science of mud but had no idea about graphics.
Can you remember a favourite brief from the Shillington course? We’d love to hear your process.
One brief was to design a campaign event to change a brand’s image. Andrex is known for being very soft and cute so I rebranded them to start running their own techno nights to change public perception. Loo paper and parties. That was fun.
How have the last three years as a designer been? Tell us your story from graduation to today.
I had a few internships after graduating. My first was at ilovedust. The designers there make magic, through design and illustration. That really got me stoked to start merging my illustration with design. My last internship turned into a job at Studio Blup which I loved. The co-founder, Dines, was an amazing mentor and taught me to have more self-belief as a designer.
Whilst I was studying, my favourite posters were always from Oval Space, so when they advertised for a new Senior Designer I applied on the off chance and got it. The London music scene is a great place to experiment as a designer, especially as the brief there was usually “go as weird as you can”. After that I went freelance and moved to Berlin. As everyone knows, a freelance graphic designer in Berlin is a rare breed, same with DJs.
You’re now freelancing—why did you decide to make the switch?
I just wanted to see where I could push my skills. If it feels a bit scary then that’s usually my next step.
In the nasty little wake of Brexit I also wanted to work remotely and live in Europe whilst I still had the freedom to travel a bit.
Can you tell us about the kind of things you work on as a freelancer? Can you share a recent project with us?
Mainly designing and illustrating within the music, fashion and hospitality industries, but a lot with charities too. I usually do branding and logos, poster design, editorial and illustration commissions but this year I’ve branched into art direction as well as app and web design.
It was an amazing project to work on and getting to delve into Vans’ archive and 70s’ skate culture was a dream. Since meeting the Copson team last year, designing has got quite exciting.
Who else have you been working with/what else have you been working on?
A lot of the work I do is designing pitches for clients, which unfortunately I can’t show but there have been some exciting pitches to clients such as Nike and Missoni. I am really proud of a project I did with Doctors Without Borders, working with various experts and innovators to help design a safety manual for war zones.
Another favourite client is Bacardi, where I do the branding for the new Bacardi Legacy cocktails each year. I meet the UK finalists and getting to turn their ideas into a brand is amazing. Part of the process is trying all the cocktails to really understand the product, and I try them really well.
You were recently runner up in a competition for Law Magazine. Can you tell us about the competition and your entry?
Yeah the competition was near the beginning of lockdown. In my free time I’m often making posters to experiment with my style. Law Magazine is wicked and the competition came at a time where we all needed something positive. The idea was unity in isolation and I enjoy the process of daydreaming and trying to encapsulate those thoughts onto a page.
I met someone recently who had one of my final risoprinted posters in their apartment and that was a very fun moment—thinking strangers have my doodles on their walls.
You’re not just a designer, but an illustrator as well. Do you try and use your illustration skills in your design work as much as possible?
Yes, I love the freedom of using a pen. Drawing is what initially drew me to graphic design as I wanted a career based around what I do for fun. For my own personal prints, I like illustrating my ideas as a way of organising thoughts, creating little stories and ultimately making art that I would put on my own wall. This year I started selling my own prints and I’m pretty excited to announce the launch of my screen prints soon.
What inspires you in your design and illustration work? Is there anyone who’s work you’re loving in particular right now?
Anything that gets me thinking really.
Smells, music, restaurants, films, lyrics, personalities, landscapes… it could be anything from a bit of paper on the pavement to a pandemic.
I have loved Studio Nari’s work since day 1. It was an amazing experience getting to freelance in their studio a couple of years ago, surrounded by outrageously good designers; a real good vibe.
Women building up other women has been such a great part of this journey, getting to learn from sick female bosses whilst working for Vice and Copson, as well as Caterina. Other designers and artists I love are Ryan Haskins for serving up the weird with everything he does, Eike König, Maria Medem, Fisk, Cece Philips, Florence Hutchings and Jordy van den Nieuwendijk.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wanted to study Shillington, what would it be?
Do it. Have fun, hustle hard and your job will end up feeling like a hobby.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Shout out to the 120 bananas I ate during my time at Shillington.
Huge thanks to Robyn for sharing her story with us! Keep up to speed with what she’s working on over on her Instagram. And keep your eyes peeled for something Shillington has been working on with Robyn at the end of the year…
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