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Study Design Abroad: Ximena Jimenez, Peru to Shillington Melbourne

Shillington Melbourne graduate Ximena Jimenez’s LinkedIn bio states “Born in Trujillo, Raised in Lima, Shaped in Neumünster, Fashioned in Bangkok, Based in Melbourne” and we think that’s a great way of summing things up. The Peruvian designer started her design career with an Arts and Business Design degree in Lima before travelling round the country designing and collaborating. Though she soon realised that she needed to build her practice back up from the very basics. That’s where Shillington came in. A short hop to Melbourne and three months studying with Shillington, Ximena is now on the top of her game—working for Blackmagic Design and designing and illustrating on the side.

We caught up with Ximena to chat about her Shillington experience, moving to Melbourne to study design, her illustration practice and more…

Why Shillington? What made our design course stand out from the rest?

A friend of mine did the course in Brisbane and he highly recommended it to me. After browsing through some graduates’ portfolios from Shillington I knew that was the direction I wanted my work to go in.

My previous education was a good foundation but I liked the idea of starting from scratch—Shillington’s course was a great way for me to come back to the roots of graphic design.

What were you up to before the course? Did you have any experience in design?

I studied Arts and Business Design in Lima. After graduating I decided to travel around Perú and learn more about hand-printing techniques. I worked as a graphic designer and collaborated with local musicians. I don’t play any instruments but I love music and I feel that I can make music with my graphics! Musicians are some of my favourite people to work with.

What was the course like? Did you make any lasting connections with your teachers or fellow students?

Coming into the course I was very excited—it was amazing to be around people from all around the world that are so passionate and creative. At the beginning, it was difficult to push past the prior knowledge I held on to from uni and work.

I was genuinely surprised by the talent and drive coming from my classmates who were fresh to the world of design, nudging me towards being humble and letting the teachers guide me through the learning process.

The language barrier, for me, started out as one of the more frustrating aspects of the course, especially when tasked with bestowing a tone of voice in our designs. The subtleties of communicating in a language you did not grow up with, combined with the difficulties working online, away from the rest of the class in COVID lockdown, was one of the greatest challenges for me in the course. Although it brought me some stress, it was good exposure to what the future had in store for me when I found my first design job here in Australia.

Every month or so, I catch up with some of my Melbourne-based classmates over dinner, and discuss how the world outside school is treating us: sharing experiences and tips for dealing with the real working world of professional design in Australia.

I find it inspiring to have a group of friends that I can speak with about creative endeavours; it is a priceless resource.

And what have you been up to since? Can you tell us about your job at Blackmagic?

After graduating from Shillington I found myself navigating the storm of COVID whilst the uncertainty of a political and health crisis in my home country of Perú haunted me in the background. Thankfully, I had the invaluable help of Frankie Young, a Shillington professor from Brisbane, my wonderful mentor. We engaged in a few online sessions in which she advised me on ways to get in touch with local designers and studios.

This boosted my confidence and helped me to prepare for my first job interview after Shillington. In English!

I began contacting multiple art directors following Frankie’s advice until, one day, after about two months, I got a call back from Blackmagic Design with an offer to work in Web Design! I had previous experience working in web design, but it wasn’t something I had considered any further prior to Shillington—I had more interest, really, in manual printing techniques like screen printing and woodcut. But, with the opportunity to work and learn from the creatives and in an amazing international team of experts in 3D design, photography, print and web design, it was impossible to turn down.

What’s it like working as a Web Designer? Did you always intend to go into digital?

Being a web designer in a large company like Blackmagic has taught me discipline and precision. When I first began the job, I felt like I had flung myself into the deep end and forgotten how to swim at once. Given time and practice, though, I have become the sensei of keyboard shortcuts and a master of the pixel perfect page. I feel like I am gaining technical knowledge in the realm of multimedia, which is a big plus for me!

What kind of things have you been working on since you started there? Can you tell us about a favourite?

Unfortunately, many of the things that I work on are top secret. Most of the projects that I have had involvement with so far include launching campaigns for new products—the most recent of those was the launching the page for DaVinci Resolve 17 Software, which is a video editing Swiss army software tool (including colour correction, post production, etc). If I could share more I would!

You also have an adorable illustration practice on the side. We would love to know more about that?

Drawing is the most comfortable medium in which I can express myself. My illustrations are very simple—more recently I’ve been trying to add humour to them. I find that I am not a very funny person (en inglés). The wit and humour doesn’t translate so well, so that is one of the things that I have been focusing more on recently.

My recent T-Shirt collaboration with Crisis and Shillington was a fun exercise in illustration, and it was nice to be able to share my work with my friends and see it getting printed.

You were born and raised in Perú, but have since studied and worked in Germany, Bangkok and you’re now settled in Melbourne. Has living in different countries had an effect on your design work? Have you learnt anything about creativity from being immersed in different cultures?

Si! As a younger teenager, I would often read about different schools of design, but never realised how that translates in the real world. Visiting Europe, I was able to see design, not just in books and computers, but out on the streets. When I was studying in Thailand, I could live and breathe the loud and colourful culture, manifesting itself all over the city—and I loved that. That was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment for me—I really understood that design should be inclusive, and absorbed that into my understanding of the world.

Design also plays a fundamental role in how people behave. It is everywhere, it impacts everything. That’s why it is important to think about accessibility and other flow on effects of your design in all contexts.

My communication is a great example of the impact of travel on my creativity—if you can’t speak the language of the people around you, you need to come up with some alternative. Linguistic challenges brought with them leaps and bounds in my non-verbal communication skills.

From signs, sounds, drawings, colours, shapes and patterns, there are so many amazing ways to convey information without speaking. Creativity is a tool that can be used to open doors to understanding.

Also I really love charades…

What inspires your work? We’d love to hear about any particular creative or creatives who are influencing you right now.

Latino culture has a strong influence on my work. I like to think that even if I am far from my casa, I can bring a bit of it with me to my personal and professional design work.

Walking along the streets and seeing all these big prints on the walls is amazing. I get a lot of inspiration from the little things I find on my daily strolls with Vegemite, my foster son/dog. Melbourne also has a funky music scene, and I have recently fallen for Zoë Fox and the Rocket Clocks. Favourites also include the lovely Hit la Rosa from Perú and Alice Phoebe Lou of South Africa.

It almost goes without saying but my Shillington classmates are big inspirations for me—just by hearing about the work they are doing, or the new designers or studios they have found, keep me in the loop with what is going on in the design world.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’m currently working on a small magazine—somewhat of an esoteric and ritualistic piece about the relationship between people who menstruate and their blood. It’s a freelance work piece I am creating in collaboration with a colleague originally from Perú who is now based in Sydney. She wrote the content and I am making the illustrations and editorial design.

I do life drawings of musician friends of mine whilst they play a set, which is a new format I am working on. The stroke goes according to the flow of the music, and the final drawings are a collaborative piece. One of them was used as part of a poster to promote the Working Bee to Welcome the Community Composter to Fish Creek. It was a challenging title to fit into a poster. I am also doing some frame-by-frame animations of my non-binary, naked Los Kikis characters (when I get the time).

Finally, If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at Shillington, what would it be?

Make mistakes! Making as many mistakes as possible in a learning environment is a good opportunity to grow and prepare you for a professional working environment.

I took this course very seriously because it was a significant investment of my time and effort, but I quickly felt caught up with being a “good” student and being the best in the class. It was only months later that I understood: becoming “good” takes time and practice—it cannot be rushed. Communicating with your teachers is important, they are here for you, and will guide you through the process.

If you find yourself panicking, remember: reach out to your teachers and classmates—they are often your best resource.

Massive thanks to Ximena for sharing her story and thoughts with us! Make sure to keep up to date with her and her beautiful work on her website and her Instagram.

Fancy becoming a graphic designer yourself? Learn more about Shillington’s 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time courses Online or on campus in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. 

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