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Study Design Abroad: Babeth Olde Hanter, the Netherlands to Shillington Manchester

Babeth Olde Hanter gave up a job working in a daycare in Oldenzaal in the Netherlands, packed her bags and moved to Manchester for three months to study graphic design full-time at Shillington—and finally realise her dream of having a job where she can express her creativity. Since graduating from Shillington in 2018, Babeth has moved back to The Netherlands and landed herself a job at SOV, a Dutch concept and design agency and continues to illustrate and take photographs when she can.

Keep reading to discover what Babeth thought of Manchester, watch the Dutch creative scene is like and the inspiration behind her popcorn-influenced typeface.

You moved to Manchester for three months to study graphic design at Shillington. Can you tell us about your story? What were you up to before Shillington?

Before I started my adventure in Manchester, I worked in a child daycare for a year, after finishing a degree in Social Work. I liked working with children and entertaining them, but what I missed in my job was a way to express my creativity. I have been drawing and crafting since I was little, and later I also got into photography. I really wanted to do more with that creative interest.

I also wanted to live abroad for a while. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, experience a different culture and speak a different language. So, I started to think about how I could realise it: turning my dreams into a plan! I didn’t know where to start at first, as I was not eager to study for another four years or go to a foreign country just for travelling. At one point, I saw a video of someone who had studied at Shillington, and I was immediately convinced. At Shillington, I could combine living abroad with an intensive three-month course that would prepare me for a job in the creative industry. After that, I didn’t need much time to decide when and where I wanted to go.

It felt like the perfect opportunity to focus on being creative, to learn a lot, and to go abroad.

In hindsight I made the right decision, because I have fantastic memories of my time in Manchester, and it changed my career!

What do you love about being a designer?

What I love about being a designer is that I get to work on creative visual concepts every day. In order to design concepts that clients like, I need to understand their needs and preferences. Being in contact with the clients can be challenging but is also very rewarding when you deliver a design that meets their expectations. For me, designing is all about finding solutions and thinking of how to convey the client’s message in a visual way. Listening to the client and asking questions is a very important thing but what you sure don’t need to forget is that you’re the expert and you need to take the client into your way of thinking.

You’re now back in the Netherlands working as a Junior Art Designer at SOV, a concept and design agency. Can you tell us more about your job?

SOV is a concept and design agency with a lot of expertise in packaging design. The fun thing about SOV is that I am not only able to design, but in my role as junior art director, I’m also involved in client contact. For me it really helps in the creative process, you get to know the client and it makes you more aware of what they do and what they are looking for. Last year, SOV had a restart and they continued in a smaller format. Currently, the team exists of 10 people. We are now focusing on a rebranding SOV to make sure we keep continuing on the right track. The competition is fierce in the design industry, but we are determined to keep amazing our clients with quality designs.

Can you tell us about a recent project you’ve worked on at SOV?

Right now, we are working on my favourite project so far, a corporate brochure for a hotel chain—they have ten hotels located in the Netherlands and Scotland. Each hotel has a unique style which we want to accentuate in the brochure. We got a lot of freedom in the design of the brochure, and it’s definitively not going to be an everyday brochure with a standard grid layout. Our idea is to take ‘collection’ as the keyword for the concept and to have that reflected in every detail of the brochure. We are still in the concept phase, but we already had lots of fun brainstorming all the possibilities.

Why did you choose to study in Manchester? And what did you think of the city—was it an inspiring place to study design?

When I started to think of where I wanted to do the Shillington course, I was not very familiar with Manchester. I began to Google and read about Manchester. It is not too big of a city but it has got lots of creative and inspiring places. When I came to Manchester the teachers told us about the best places to go and me and my classmates discovered new places every week. The Northern Quarter especially has a great creative vibe and got lots of nice cafes and unique shops.

How was moving back from Manchester to Ootmarsum? What’s the creative scene like back home?

Moving back to Ootmarsum after three months was a bit weird at the beginning. The three months in Manchester flew by because I had a great time at Shillington with awesome classmates and teachers. I made a lot of friends that I had to leave behind as I returned to my ‘normal’ life that remained unchanged from the moment I left. At the same time, it was nice to see my family again. It was also exciting, as I got to start searching for a job as a graphic designer. I was afraid I would not find a job quickly, but after a few months, I started at SOV. There are quite a lot of great graphic design studios in the Netherlands, and in general, the creative scene is great. There are also a lot of museums and places that I can take inspiration from!

Did you have any previous design experience before Shillington? How did the course build your skill set?

My experience in graphic design was very limited before Shillington. I had a little bit of experience with Adobe Illustrator, as I tried to make simple illustrations, and I used Photoshop occasionally because of my interest in photography. What I loved about the Shillington course is that we received lots of handouts with very useful tips and practices. In class, we had short moments where the teachers explained the handouts and we got lots of time to practice afterwards. We also did a lot of fun practices which helps you to think a step further. Shillington never really felt like school to me. Everyone was very motivated, and the teachers were very helpful and treated us like we were junior designers. They showed us their portfolio as well and came with lots of examples from their career.

What was your favourite brief you worked on during the course? Tell us about your process!

My favourite brief would be the typeface we had to create.

Shillington made me aware of my love for typography—designer’s first lesson: never use comic sans!

At home, I practiced hand lettering for a while, but creating a real typeface was something I never did before. I started, as we did for every brief, with brainstorming, making moodboards and sketching. I got inspired by the Bauhaus style and associated the style with the edge of a traditional popcorn box. During the course, I kept working on it at home and in the end, it was good enough to make it part of my portfolio.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad with Shillington?

If you are interested in design, willing to work hard and get as much out of the course as possible, then Shillington is the best place to go to learn graphic design. Studying abroad will be an unforgettable experience and you will definitely learn a lot from it.

It’s so much more than only learning the theory behind graphic design. You’ll learn the design thinking and how to turn that into a great visual design. The cool thing about studying abroad is of course discovering a new place and culture, meeting new people, sharing an interest and inspiring each other. It is all part of the adventure! The teachers are great, they make you feel at home and take your ideas and work seriously. The thing I loved of doing this course abroad, is that I got to focus myself 100% on it. I was surrounded with people who all had the same goal: becoming a graphic designer. You must work hard and go all in, but don’t forget to explore the city as well and have a lot of after-school drinks with your classmates!

Is there anything else you would like to share? Are you working on any personal projects?

Yes! Always keep pushing yourself and never stop learning, there are always new trends and developments to discover. I would love to do more with illustrating, combining it with typography. At the moment I’m trying to discover a unique and personal style. I’m practicing a lot in Procreate and I hope to share some of my work soon!

Massive thanks to Babeth for sharing her Manchester adventure with us! Make sure you follow her on Instagram to see her latest design and illustration—she’s also got an account dedicated to her photography. See the rest of her portfolio on her website.

Fancy learning graphic design and discovering a new country at the same time? Why not follow in Babeth’s footsteps and study design abroad in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne with our three month full-time or nine month part-time courses? —>

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