[iOS] Get an intro or refresher course on design basics with SHILLINGTON Design Reference App

mzl.oszmtlqp.320x480-75I wasn’t always a design junkie. But a short stint helping to design and edit infographics at a social media company really opened my eyes to the wonders of great design…and the utter awfulness that is bad design. I don’t have a formal design background, so I definitely need to play catch-up sometimes to make sure I’m using the right terms when talking about design. One app that struck my eye recently is called SHILLINGTON Design Reference App, and I think it could be a useful resource for those who are new to design, or just need a bit of a refresher course.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

SHILLINGTON Design Reference App is an iOS reference that lays out basic design principles, vocab, and terminology, and typography principles. Designed for students of all ages, this is a good primer on design basics.


  • Attractive interface (but you’d expect that in a design app, right?)
  • Includes a list of Adobe CS keyboard shortcuts
  • Great info on “anatomy of typography” that will appeal to novice designers and font nerds alike


  • Hasn’t been updated since 2011
  • App’s teaching style tends to be a lot of “tell,” rather than “show”: for such a visual discipline, additional visual aids would be nice


mzl.ymxdberv.320x480-75At startup, Shillington presents users with 9 different areas to explore. They are as follows: design basics, quick keys, file extensions, paper sizes, typography, prepress, inspiration, student work, and contact. The App Store description gives you a bit more about what Shillington is all about. And I quote: “Shillington is an international graphic design institution specialising in courses that are industry specific, relevant and succinct.”

The Shillington app starts out by defining five key basics of design: alignment, balance, contrast, hierarchy, and repetition. These principles are well-laid down, though this section in particular (and most of the other app sections) could really benefit from more visual aids.

The app is quite simple to navigate, and there’s a lot of good info. I even learned about a new type of file I’d never encountered in the wild while working with designers in the past. There’s also a handy reference on paper sizes, which would be key if you were designing mailers, posters, or envelopes.

There is a lot of solid advice here, from mock artwork checklists and info on the printing process to a blogroll of design inspiration sites. Some Shillington student work is also represented, and it’s quite good. From book covers to product labels, posters to homepages, there are great examples here of what makes a design good. I wish that the rest of the app had as many lush visuals as the Student Work section does.

Conclusion and download link

SHILLINGTON Design Reference App is a interesting app for young students considering a career in design, or for early-career professionals who are eager to absorb as much as they can about the industry. Be aware that this app really is just there to whet you appetite: for full satisfaction, you’ll need a lot more research, schooling, or networking to maximize your design knowledge.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.0.3

Supported OS: Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Download size: 1.8 MB

SHILLINGTON Design Reference App on Apple App Store

Related Posts