Q&A with Alexandra Menzies, Part-Time Brisbane Graduate

Throughout her sales and marketing career, Alexandra Menzies spent a lot of time on “the other side of creative briefs”. After realising how much she loved working on creative projects, she decided to make the leap to become a graphic designer. Alexandra studied design 9 months part-time at Shillington Brisbane and since graduating in December has landed a design role at Diametrix in Brisbane. Read on to hear what surprised her most about the part-time course, why she loved the packaging brief and how since Shillington she can’t turn her “design brain” off!

Tell us about your creative journey! What inspired you to make a career change from sales/marketing to design?

I graduated from Uni in 2009 with a business degree which has lead me down a few different paths since graduation. I’ve worked in market research, sales and marketing. I’ve spent a lot of time on the other side of creative briefs. My favourite aspects of my previous roles were always when I was able to work on more creative projects. I realised I wanted to be on the other side of the equation and spend 100% of my time on design work.

Why did you choose Shillington?

I chose Shillington for a few reasons. Firstly, I was able to study part time while still working full time. It was definitely intense at some stages throughout the year trying to manage both but absolutely do-able. I really liked the idea of being able to finish the course within 9 months.

Also, the student work coming out of Shillington was wildly impressive and I wanted to learn those skills too! 

What was your favourite student brief and why?

Ooh, it’s tough to pick just one but I think packaging would have to be my favourite. For this brief, I was designing packaging for a chocolate bar and the target market was MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) aka cyclists.

I liked the a concept behind the design (which was movement and momentum) and hoped it would appeal to the target market but not alienate others who were looking for a chocolatey treat. My favourite part of the process was when the design was complete and I was able to mock it up in Photoshop to look like a tangible product. I’d love to explore packaging design further.

 

What was the most surprising thing about studying part-time at Shillington?

I think the most surprising thing was how much I learned in such a short span of time. InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop seemed very complicated at the start of the course and by the end most of it was second nature.

How did you feel celebrating at the Graduate Exhibition?

In a few words: ecstatic, tired and extremely proud. The lead up to the grad exhibit and finalising portfolio was hectic—not much sleep, lots of hours on the computer refining work and lots and lots of coffee. It was so amazing to see my classmates portfolios and the progress that everyone had made throughout the course.

To think 10 months prior I had literally never opened Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign I was really proud of the work I had accomplished during the course.

When you put the time in it’s amazing what you can learn in such a short period of time and I think that’s a testament to the course structure at Shillington. 

What are you up to these days? Where are you working?

Today I’m working at an agency in Brisbane called Diametrix. Among other things, we do print and web design for commercial and residential developers all around Australia. I’ve been there for a few weeks and loving putting into practice what I learned at Shillington.

The course definitely set me up well, the transition from classroom to studio has been very smooth.

I’m also freelancing in my spare time (call me!). 

Who or what inspires you?

It sounds cliche but literally everything. I find I can’t turn off my design brain anymore and and constantly analysing everything…everywhere. But if I had to callout one specific thing, it would be going new places. Whether it be a new cafe, a different suburb or even country! Seeing new things and breaking the routine forces me to be aware of my surroundings and open to inspiration.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for an incoming part-time Shillington student?

Learn as much as you can from your teachers. They are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. Put in the time to push your briefs as far as they can go and ask your teachers (and classmates) for guidance when you get stuck. Also, get excited—you’re going to love it!

Thanks for sharing your story, Alexandra! Be sure to check out her website and Instagram for more.