Design Tips

Why I established the Shoalhaven Design School

me in sydney


Written by Luise Grice
Owner and Educator
Shoalhaven Design School



Short courses were no longer being offered in the Shoalhaven and this beautiful region was being tainted by it’s reputation for having high unemployment and lower than average business success rates.

I was constantly reading about design and it’s importance in business. Having a passion for design, I felt the need to share my knowledge and pass this crucial and growing need on to businesses. I also found that helping people to get skilled and find work was becoming a bit of a passion.

So, Shoalhaven Design School was born. It was born from wanting to develop the skills of the people within the Shoalhaven community and to help the people and small businesses within it to better promote their businesses and what they had to offer the Shoalhaven.

And what do I know about Design?

Let me tell you a little bit about my path to design. On December 31, 1999 I left a relatively long career in finance. In hindsight, this was a career that really should have never happened, especially for such an imaginative, creative and ‘right-brained’ person.

Herrmans Brain Dominance LGHerrmans Brain Dominance LG This test of dominant sides of my brain shows ‘outside the box’ dominance of the right (creative) side.

However, all I really wanted to do was to travel and the money in finance was good not to mention full time jobs being (and still are) hard to come by in the Shoalhaven. There were also no jobs that were even remotely creative or design-based in the region at that time. So, I snapped up the opportunity.

Throughout my years in finance, I was always seeking ways to be and stay creative and keep learning. In my spare time I studied and became a qualified sign-writer. It became my moonlighting job for many years and it kept my right-side quiet (for the time being).

I carried on in finance and some years passed. Eventually I was offered an opportunity to go to Melbourne to be part of a three month re-engineering project. I stayed for 10 years! It was one of the best periods in my life – experimenting and exploring a very different world of projects, management and specialist training. All the while, I never forgot about the Shoalhaven – thanks to my very first boss, Michael Prance, who suggested I never forget where I came from (although I don’t think he was referring to the Shoalhaven).

Over time, that feeling of knowing I wasn’t in a job ‘I was designed’ for kept growing and growing. I was staying put though, because I was getting paid to undertake studies in a business administration degree so I could increase my chances for promotion within the finance industry.

I didn’t realise how much I was in the wrong place until I went to a lecture on statistics! I felt like I was on another planet!

I walked out and dropped the degree within the first term. This was one of many “Ah-ha!” moments – the realisation that I was in wrong line of work. I constantly craved to do the things that came naturally for me (and my brain) and that I was passionate about. Creatvity and Design!

The 1st of January 2000 was my first day without the security of a long-standing job. I had decided that if I was going to go to university, that I would study what I wanted to study. Someone asked me what I wanted to do after the finance industry. I wasn’t sure but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to teach.

At the risk of not being able to put food on the table, I immediately signed myself up to a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts at Deakin University. This was the start of four years of study where I received honours in a media and visual arts double degree.

Armed with these qualifications as well as my creative and sign writing skills, I moved into consulting in the industry I started my career in – finance! This time though, it was in a different capacity. I was fortunate to know Kim Carter, a woman still in the industry who helped me to get work on a project called MyTell producing photographs and creating graphic designs for a weekly publication that was distributed to 10,000 employees nationwide.

In 2004, I moved back to the Shoalhaven with no job, no possessions and no money. I started packing shelves at Woolworths. But in 2005, a woman by the name of Marie Ryan, gave me a shot at teaching Microsoft Word at the South East Community College. I’ve been teaching ever since!

A few years later, the college ran into some difficulties and was at risk of shutting it’s doors. Another woman by the name or Joy Sharpe at TAFE heard the news and offered me a position teaching various office-based programs. It didn’t take long for the word to get around TAFE that I had more than office-based teaching skills. It was then that I was offered my dream teaching job – teaching design! Barry Sommerville, gave me the opportunity to teach photography and Corel Draw, but as changes occurred TAFE cleverly transitioned into teaching with the industry-standard software from Adobe International – Photoshop. And I absolutely loved it! ‘I was in my element’ (thank you very much Ken Robinson).

From 2005 to the present day I remain teaching – mostly in design using Adobe Photoshop and the adorable Adobe Illustrator. I also teach in other great non-Adobe programs like Sketch, Google Web Designer and many of the fabulous design-based mobile apps there are out there today. I’ve got a section on apps we recommend on our Shoalhaven Design School, Design Apps page.

I absolutely love the Adobe Suite of Programs, and as a result in 2012 I became (and have since been) an Adobe Education Trainer. This ‘legalises’ me to teach students and teachers in the suite of Adobe products. Adobe really are the ‘big daddy’ of design software.

IMG_0078Attending the 2017 Adobe Summit as an Adobe Education Trainer

So, every year I study something of use to me in my teaching role. I dedicate a lot of my time to learning and passing on my knowledge. Some of the courses I have completed so far include:

Bachelor of Visual and Media Arts
Honours degree in Contemporary Arts
Diploma in Graphic Design
Diploma in Web Development
Diploma in Multimedia
Diploma in Project Management

In conclusion

Since starting the Shoalhaven Design School in September 2017, I have received tremendous support and encouragement from the Shoalhaven community, which I feel honoured to receive.

My hope is that the Shoalhaven Design School will fill the much needed gap in the Shoalhaven for short courses in business, office and design-centric skills.

There are also much needed design-based skills that businesses in our region need to create a competitive advantage in busy and demanding visually-oriented markets. A demonstration of this need can be read in Adobe’s Design Led Firms Win The Business Advantage report.

Thank you for reading my story. I hope someday you might join me in a Shoalhaven Design School Short Course – the start of what might be a small step for you to ‘design your future‘.

Luise G

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