Ellise Collins

Ellise Collins tell us her story

My name is Ellise Collins I am 27 years old, I studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design at South Essex College from 2014 – 2017 and this is my story.

I left school in 2012 and attended South Essex College of Further and Higher Education from 2012 - 2014 on the UAL Level 3 Ext Diploma course in Art & Design. I had always enjoyed art at school, so I thought a BTEC in that subject was the right path for me.

Once I completed my BTEC, I was then a little stuck with where to go next. I applied for lots of unis, but it was Lee who struck up a meeting with John Chandler to apply for the Graphic Design degree. I didn’t know which direction to take, fine art, graphic design or interior design. 
I chose to study at South Essex College because I initially felt that the lecturers were so understanding and approachable that it made me feel like it was the right decision to trust them. The graphic design courses sounded so diverse too. It ranged to lessons in fine art, to design, to animation, printmaking and photography so I thought by trying it all I’d hope to find one area that I would gravitate towards.

I was a fine artist at heart, but it was both Lee and John that suggested I give it a go, as they could see potential in me to go that way. I then studied on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree course from 2014-2017 where I learnt many skills sets and honed my craft as a graphic designer, but also printmaker. Looking back, I am so incredibly grateful of the three lecturers on that course because they all supported me and gave me the confidence as an aspiring graphic designer, Dave Welsh, John Chandler and Hannah Miller. You three are my shining stars. I received a first-class honours in graphic design.

My time at South Essex College gave me invaluable experience within the field. Having industry-led briefs in the third year gave me an understanding of what sort of work would be required of me and time frames. Deadlines! That was something that I thought was so difficult at university because I just wanted to spend my time learning, researching and creating and having a deadline was so difficult. Little did I know deadlines would be so much shorter in working life.
The best thing about doing further and higher education is learning your craft and honing your skillset. Exploring the endless opportunities that’s on offer. Spending hours on end researching and producing work that you then bounce ideas of other students and lecturers and push your ideas to the fullest. Also, the amount of time you have to try new techniques to know what you feel is most enjoyable.

During the Graphic Design degree we used software that I still use day-to-day now. Adobe Creative Suite is invaluable as a designer, that’s our go-tos. I learnt pure basics and university on Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and it enabled me to take these fundamental skills into the industry and progress.

Since graduation, I have been fortunate enough to have worked consistently. Beginning as a junior designer at start-up companies, to print production companies to local agencies. Through doing this, I’ve gained so much valuable experience which has enabled me to where I am today. 
Also, in my spare time, I do freelance graphic design work and run my own Etsy shop selling my linocut prints. I also do signwriting and lettering jobs where I can and have exhibited my work in places such as Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery and Beecroft Art Gallery. I’ve attended local art fairs and pop-up shops around Essex selling my work too, which has been great networking with likeminded artistic local talent.

I’m currently working as a creative designer at Swan Creative, Leigh on Sea.
I am working on concept work for international theme parks such as Merlin Entertainment and Parques Reunidos. Designing concepts and Point of Sale for restaurants within their parks in Germany, USA and the UK. Every day is different at Swan, no day is the same. My work ranges from creating logos, to producing full-fledged brands and working with the team to create solid brand guidelines and marketing suites. Lots of print related work comes through Swan too and aiding the marketing team in producing social media graphics and email banners. I also help the Swan team produce work internally, so I work on producing mock-ups for our website and creating eye catching animations to go across our social platforms.
Through working at many different companies, I have gained experience to be the creative designer I am today. 

Before I would say I was primarily a fine art inspired graphic designer, but I create such diverse work now that blurs the lines of graphic design. From an animator, digital designer, interior designer, photographer, copywriting, social media creator and beyond. It’s being an all-rounded designer that matters.

My favourite memory of being at the college is for our final major project in year three of the degree, we needed to fundraise money to pay for our exhibition at DA&D New Blood in Truman Brewery Brick Lane. As a team, we decided to reach out to all our favourite artists, designers, illustrators, typographers that we admired and see if they would provide us with pieces of work that we could auction. It was honestly a long shot but as a year group we all worked together to compile a list. Incredibly, so many replied and helped support us. From the likes of Printmakers such as Alan Kitchener and Anthony Burrill to Illustrators Oliver Jeffers and Chris Riddell and the ultimate graphic design god to us, David Carson. I suppose our story resonated with each of them as being students, starting off in the world and trying to get out work out there.

They each sent us their work and we were able to auction off the artwork at an event  held in the 1st floor gallery of the college The money gained from this enabled us to put on our end of year show. It was great teamwork and the local newspaper also got involved.

I love working within this industry, yes every job has its ups and downs. But at the end of the day, I work every day to create. When people ask me what my job is and I say, ‘graphic designer’, most say ‘what’s that?’ and that’s true, what even is it? It’s purely whatever you want it to be. The work is so diverse, and I feel like I work on so many different projects and switch my hat to so many different job roles and it’s all under the bracket of being a graphic designer and that’s exciting to me.

So, I’d hope to continue working in agencies and working freelance on the side, doing my printmaking and hand lettering work that I enjoy. Perhaps in the future, I’d love to teach and become a lecturer to inspire students the way that John, Dave and Hannah did for me on the course, that would be perfect. I could only hope I could do half as good as what they did for me.