New York graduate Simon Fréour worked as a software engineer in France for seven years before transitioning to graphic design, with a little help from Shillington. Our course was the perfect fit—Simon wanted to become a designer quickly as possible, but didn’t have the time or money to go back to university. In 2021, he enrolled in our full-time three month course and now, 18 months later, Simon is currently working as a graphic designer for branding studio Sunday Afternoon in New York City.
We had a great catch-up with Simon to find out how the Shillington graphic design course prepared him for working life as a graphic designer.
Why Shillington? What were you up to before Shillington? You previously studied science and engineering—what inspired you to take the leap to design?
I studied engineering in Paris, then worked as a software engineer in startups for about 7 years. I loved working in that field. It taught me how to be analytical and methodical and I’m sure this will always come in handy. I did however realise after a few years that my day-to-day was lacking an emotional and aesthetic aspect that would make it more fulfilling. I also wanted a change from the startup world.
I had dabbled with a variety of design disciplines for some time: mostly UX, but also UI, typography and illustration. I felt that studying UX and UI, even though it felt quite natural, wasn’t going to take me to entirely new places. Instead, I started studying more traditional graphic design on Coursera and it confirmed my hunch. I looked for ways to dig deeper, become a professional and maybe even travel in the process.
I didn’t have the time and budget for several university semesters but I did want to be on campus with other students. Shillington was the perfect deal.
What was your experience on the course like? How did studying full-time benefit you?
Moving to a city like New York from France is already very exciting in itself. Doing so to learn a whole set of new skills, almost from scratch, in such a short period of time adds to the experience. Somewhat paradoxically, the intensity of the full-time course is liberating in the way it structures your time and frees you from existential questioning. You’re here to learn as much as possible and build a great portfolio within the allotted time; you can think of what comes next later.
I loved being able to focus entirely on something new and exciting for three full months.
How did the course prepare you for your current role as a Graphic Designer?
The process: I feel confident that whatever I am asked, I’ll be able to figure something out in due time by following the recipe. Finding references, generating ideas, presenting them etc.
From what I’ve seen, Shillington grads have a structured, no-nonsense approach to getting things done.
The tools: The course gave me enough knowledge of the Adobe suite and Figma for everyday design work, and I know how to learn new things quickly whenever I need to.
The culture: A general understanding of the graphic design world, the big names in the industry, the history of the discipline and the way studios and agencies operate. Three months only let you scratch the surface there though—you have to keep building on it through the years. University grads might have an edge here.
You freelanced after graduating as a graphic designer before your current role at Sunday Afternoon—how did the course prepare you for that?
Working alone is a different game—a harder one if you ask me! But, knowing that you were taught a proven way to do things gives you the confidence you need. Following a standard process and using all the tools that come with it prevents you from getting lost in projects that could easily last forever. I still found it hard not to have anyone to bounce ideas off, and to help me know when the work was good enough to show to the client.
Did you make any meaningful connections with teachers or fellow students during the course?
Studying on campus made confronting ideas with experienced teachers and budding designers easy. It would be hard not to make friends in the process—the intensity helped! We hang out as friends and we helped each other out on design-related matters.
How has your life changed after Shillington? Any recent professional projects you can tell us about?
I have been working as a graphic designer at Sunday Afternoon for a few months now. Landing a job wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, especially since I needed help to get a visa. But now I can definitely say I’ve reached my goal of becoming a graphic designer and working at a great studio with some of the very best designers in the city. It’s all radically different from anything I’ve done before.
We just revealed the identity for Colorful, a worldwide portfolio competition for BIPOC creatives that works as a prelude to the Young Guns competition. This project was a wild ride, and the result is just amazing. We’re all super proud of it.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to make a career change to the design industry, what would it be?
Start making things, and show them to the world. I felt shy at first but there’s no way around it. Reading, watching documentaries, going to exhibitions is essential—and a nice breather. Working on real-world projects instead of fake briefs is definitely helpful too, so designing for friends or a charity is a great way to get started.
Shillington will definitely fast track your progression and help you get hired or handle your own clients.
Anything else you would like to add? Tell us something surprising!
I think most of the best things I made so far felt like bad ideas at first. So the fewer mental barriers the better! Unhinged ingenuity is definitely more valuable than restrained lucidity. In that sense, trying new creative outlets helps, even if you can’t tell how at first. These days I’m taking a risograph and zine class at SVA. It’s super fun, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it for work soon. Worth it!
Find out all about Shillington’s innovative graphic design course and become a graphic designer in just three months full-time or nine months part-time.
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