While studying the Diploma of Visual Merchandising at RMIT, Elise Spinello worked on an industry project that saw her develop a window design for Australian retailer Supré.
Now in its third year, students installed this year’s industry design project in Supré's Melbourne Central store. The experience has prepared Elise for the workforce and given her a range of skills needed to succeed.
Why did you choose to study Visual Merchandising at RMIT?
My decision to study the Diploma of Visual Merchandising came about quite accidentally. After completing an Associate Degree in Graphic Design at RMIT, I was offered a job overseas as a window designer. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it but instantly fell in love with retail design. It was from that moment that I decided I would study visual merchandising when I returned home.
I didn’t have to think twice about which university to study at thanks to the positive experience I had studying my previous degree. The learning opportunities available during the program, as well as the thorough teaching methods throughout each subject, helped me prepare for real world processes of the design industry. I learnt from a number of professionals who provided me with invaluable knowledge about all aspects of the industry. The program was taught with such professionalism that I was confident I would have the same learning experience throughout the Visual Merchandising course.
What was it like participating in the Visual Merchandising x Supré industry project?
The Visual Merchandising x Supré project was a fantastic opportunity that allowed us as students to work alongside real clients in response to a brief. We were required to pitch the concept to Rowie Kelly, Store Experience Manager, and Sophie Nelson, Creative Visual Merchandising Manager of Supré, who shortlisted two of the ideas; one of those being mine.
The class was then divided into two groups who focused on developing these ideas further. I was the team leader of my own concept which gave me the ability to refine my idea as much as possible and achieve the design that I envisioned. As a result my concept was actually selected by Rowie Kelly as the winning design which was an incredible achievement; something I’m really proud of.
Where did you draw inspiration from?
I did a lot of research into Supré in order to get a better understanding of my client as a brand and any core messages that they upheld. There was a lot of brainstorming that went into the process as I wanted my design to be a true reflection of the brand. I kept coming back to the idea of the best friends heart shaped locket and in the end decided to swap out the words ‘Best Friends’ for ‘Girl Gang 4 Eva’, which became the centre of my design.
What was it like being appointed as project manager of your group?
I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be project manager of my group. It was a challenging experience coordinating a whole window but I was lucky enough to have a strategically working team behind me. They helped me every step of the way and filled in the gaps where I couldn’t. It’s a skill that I will be able to take with me to any future job.
It was also really refreshing to receive the amount of support we did from our teachers especially the program co-ordinator, Sam Falanga. He does a fantastic job supporting his students as well as enabling all these industry projects to happen
What opportunities has Visual Merchandising at RMIT created for you?
RMIT’s industry connections with external clients have been a major benefit. The Visual Merchandising program offers so many projects and opportunities to connect with real clients from big companies or brands and put our skills to use. This year I have also had the opportunity to come up with concepts for the Melbourne Central Christmas Trees and go on the Japan VM Study Tour.
There is also so much variety in the industry projects on offer at RMIT. I never thought I’d be learning how to do technical drawings in AutoCad, interior designing within our Store Design subjects or bringing any object you can think of to 3D. The wide range of skills and knowledge I’ve gained through this course has definitely made me a more employable candidate for any job.
Have you experienced any challenges in your studies, and how did you deal with them?
I think the biggest challenge has been managing all of the simultaneous projects at once. You have to be prepared to work and put in 100% on every project. These types of projects take time to create which is why you have to use your time wisely and stay organised.
However, while it’s been a challenge, it’s really no different to the workforce. In reality we may be working on a number of tasks at any given time, so learning how to manage this during class time is so beneficial in preparing us for what we will come face to face with when we start working.
What are you career plans for the future?
The next step for me is to get straight back into the industry, this time as a qualified Visual Merchandiser, working full-time. I have a passion for window designing and retail design so I aim to pursue a career in that area. I would love to combine my passion for travel with Visual Merchandising so I look forward to experiencing more design work overseas.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in Visual Merchandising?
You have to love what you do. If you don’t enjoy design projects or being creative, you will really struggle through this course. Stay inspired, and you will have the time of your life. I’d also suggest visiting galleries, art exhibitions, new store openings, anything along those lines. It will help you keep up with design trends and for you to explore and take your work further and further.
RMIT’s Diploma of Visual Merchandising is recognised in the industry as a leader in design with graduates pursuing careers across the globe.
Story: Mikaela Ortolan