Welcome to my SHINE experience.

In early 2021 I had the opportunity to join the AIGA D.C SHINE initiative.
SHINE is a program that aims to help and support the growth of upcoming creatives in the D.C. area.
As a newcomer to the US, and even though I am not a young ready-to-take-over-the-world graduate anymore, I felt it would be a great way to integrate with the local design scene and at the same time refocus on my career.

This page aims to sum up my experience as a mean to not only archive it but also as a way for future (potential) "Shiners" to get a better understanding of what they could expect even. 

My SHINE experience is divided in two parts as the program involves a "Do Good" project.
To learn more about that, head that way ⟶ Here

This page is optimized for desktop because I suck at webdesign and struggled at making it mobile friendly with my CMS.
Afterall webdesign is a complex skill set that I do not have :)


Starting my SHINE

PART — 1

February — First steps 

Setting a context

The first month of SHINE went rather slowly.
Most of the time spent, either on my own or on call with Mike, my mentor, was used toward setting a better context for the work to come.
Indeed at that point I had no clue what kind of Do Good project I would go for, but also I was not sure what I wanted to do with my SHINE experience. I didn't know what I needed and wanted to get out of it, and how I would get there.

Hence most of my focus went into setting goals for myself and looking into processes and resources that would help me achieve that.


Goals for SHINE —

Integrate locally.

Make better career choices.

Work on something cool. 

Back to basics

PART — 2

February + March — Learning curve

Back to basics

As things started to move a little I realized that part of my desire to join SHINE was to use my recent move to the USA as a (re)starting point for my career. In the past years I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects in several countries. I enjoyed it yet it left me with a very mixed portfolio and set of skills that did not always align with the very specific needs of some employers.
After some discussion over the relevance of the trend for over specialization in the design field, I figured it would be interesting to get back to basic a little a proceed to refresh my foundations and acquire some knew knowledge at the same time.

Indeed my design practice is grounded into my ability to mobilise more conceptual knowledge, and I figured that expanding it while nurturing some new ways to approach my work could be of value.

During the SHINE program I purchased and read books that would:

  1. Be helpful as a refresher like The Design of Everyday Things by D.Norman
  2. Help extend my current understanding of design work like The Senses: Design Beyond Vision by Lupton & Lipps
  3. Support my future endeavors like Run Studio Run by E. Altman
  4. Facilitate my SHINE "Do Good" project like The 99% Invisible City by Mars & Kohlstedt

 I also learnt a lot from the AIGA webinar video archive and its extensive content. I watched some of its content to support my Do Good project but also as a self-improvement resource.

Access to the AIGA Events Recording Archive ⟶ Here

Finding the Path

PART — 3


Learning from my past

After spending hours thinking what would be a good career direction and discussing with my mentor about it I felt that I did not have enough data to make a constructed wise decision.
I looked into how I could set a proper way to map my practice and understand better where I shine and thrive. I figured the best way to achieve that would simply treat myself as a brand strategy project and analyse my career.

My first step was to try to not be too biased about it and reach out to former bosses, clients and colleague to have their perspective on who I am and what I am good or bad at at work.
It proved to be a very interesting way to get insight about myself and get rid of any blind-spots or impostor syndrome I might have at that point.

"You are highly creative, sensible and rational with a good sense of visual design.
[However] You need to work in team with creative and sensible peers [...] and [you are] likely to loose interest or not be patient with repetitive work"

K. — Former boss

The second step let to a more data oriented approach by creating a series of chart that would review all my past positions and highlight what I liked about them and how I thrived. Even if most positions were diverse in the nature of my tasks and responsibilities, doing so allowed me to aggregate the result and be able to compare them more fairly.

Visualising it that way really made some key points very noticeable like how personal enrichment and sharing were something that mattered to me more than I expected.

Doing this work did not help me select a highly specific career path, however it allowed me to somewhat layout a plan and highlight potential career paths from teaching to creative directions while making all the pros and cons, pain points and potential outcomes very clear.
For instance at this point I did not think that teaching would be a potential long term direction for me even though I already had some experience in that field.

Later on, I also found about a Practice mapping exercise from Claire Marie B, presented at World AI Day 2021 in DC. Doing it allowed to validate my self-improvement work by cross comparing the results.

Mapping your practice by Claire Marie B ⟶ Here

Left —
Example of past position analysis

Right —
Aggregate of all position (dotted lines) VS desired career path (orange block)


"This dude [me] would make a great teacher !"

Mike Bell
March 2nd, 2021

My name is Sisyphus

PART — 4


The never ending task of all designers

As I was rebranding myself and trying to get a more oriented career path, it became clear very quickly that I would need to also refresh my website.
So far my website was very much an embodiment of my experiences. Messy ! Filled with widely diverse work, and a little confusing to what I was looking for.

With the foundation done in the previous part I had a clearer view of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to introduce myself. Hence it was decided to clarify and simplify the body of work I would present while keeping a personal and journal section to show off my creative personality in a more controlled setting.

In early April I participated to the AIGA Creative Review to test out the beta version of my website.
Four reviewers pointed out the quality of my work, but also how I over simplified my work by not highlighting enough the specifics of my contributions in the project or the international experience that I have. Yet all of them were full of praises.

At the moment the website is not fully completed yet, but the structure is there and over the summer 2021 I'll be able to put the final touch to it ... for now !




May + June — Last words

Short but fun

After four months into the program I am pleased to see that the efforts I have put into place have paid off.
Even if I know that the outcome of initiatives like SHINE is mostly dictated by one's personal dedication to it, I am still surprised by how much traction and interest into my work I've gained along the way.

For young designers or people pivoting careers I think that an experience like SHINE can be truly helpful. For more experienced people like myself I think it offers a well needed halt on a career path. A halt that can help you strengthen your foundations and look back at your own achievements and shortcomings while helping (re)setting the proper course for your own future.

Thanks to SHINE I've managed to get to know more about the local design scene, to meet great people and get rid of some of my impostor syndrome.

My SHINE experience
in meaningless numbers








Spent on making the project happen

Books purchased

Hours of Zoom call

Hours of workshops and confcall

E-mail exchanged with my mentor

Hours of drone flying

Field trips

New skills acquired

Zoom call per week on average

1 — I joined AIGA and its SHINE program.
2 — I read a bunch of books.
3 — I used data to analyse my past career choices and make a new plan for myself.
4 — I refreshed my website.
5 — I did a cool project and met great people.

If you are a potential future Shiner and have questions feel free to contact me.


Thank you for reading this quick sum up.
SHINE is now (technically) over but the work I've put in place is not yet.

As I'll now take my time to reach the personal goals I've set for myself in this four month program, I would like to thank Mike Bell for helping me staying focused and supporting my work, and also the AIGA DC chapter and all the great team of the SHINE initiative.

Thank you Puneet, Koi, Erin & Chelsea for all the work you've put to make SHINE happen.

Lastly I would like to thank my wife that is very patient with me especially when I have the weirdest goals and ideas.

Stay updated by following me on instagram ⟶ @studio_juliuscornelius

Thank you.

If you want to learn more about my overall SHINE project process you can look it up ⟶ HERE

Julius Cornelius © 2021