Marian Bantjes, now Graphic Artist, worked as a graphic designer and studied typography for over 20 years. She reached a point in her life where she was fed up of the status quo and doing the same mundane things (design-wise) and thought it was time for a change. She wanted whatever she created to follow her heart and interest her which is why she calls herself a graphic artist, and not a graphic designer that mostly follows strategy. As a graphic artist, she works with many mechanisms and not just designing on a computer. I can honestly relate to some of this because there are many times and even of recent, that I felt I needed a change from the mundane things and really start pursuing what I envisioned for myself. It was time to elevate. As Marian so eloquently put it, “to experience wonder is to work in awe”. I want people to take one look at my work and be left in amazement. That certainly will not happen when you keep doing the same things everyone is doing or not thinking outside the box.
That is one thing that Marian did – think outside the box. She enjoyed working with unusual materials such as sugar, macaroni, foil etc. She consistently employed the usage of wonder in all her works. Another thing that she did was create laser cut valentine cards out of old Christmas cards to mass mail to different people. This is an example of Marian marketing herself and as up and coming designers, we need to think of ways that we can market ourselves and get our creativity out there. Secondly, Marian stressed on how time consuming these cards were and wanted to point out that she usually spends a lot of time on her work. What is worthwhile to spend your time on? Marian said that before you work on anything, always ask yourself yourself 3 things – what’s it for? What does it say? What does it do? Because truly imaginative visual work is important in society. You never know who is going to see something and take it is as inspiration. Your work just might be a seed for something greater. That was a reminder that we should always put our best foot forward in whatever it is that we create. We are not only designing for ourselves, but for others.
When designing something, I personally draw my inspiration from almost anything. I know some people perhaps have a certain genre (i.e. anime) or person they always go to for inspiration but I am not really like that. I look into the world to get my inspiration. It could be from the shape of a bird’s wings, to the carpet detailing on the floor. I like to keep my eyes open and really observe what is around me. The environment alone is filled with creative cues and markers. I will say however that I am naturally inclined to a lot of shapes and patterns so my eye tends to draw more to something with some sort of design element such as lines or patterns and colors.
It was really delightful listening to Maryam Zafar, Creative Director at McCann. She gave us a mental tour of the life of a designer working at an advertising agency. As she put it, she gave us truths to help us on our path. The first thing she pointed out was that you have to find your niche – find that one thing that you are good at, and be amazing at it. If it’s something you really enjoy doing but not that great at first, keep practicing and don’t give up because things always get better overtime. So you always do your best – take initiative and give 200%. And that applies even to something you are working on that is less exciting to you. You can always spruce it up and add a little of your touch to it to make it interesting to you. This can also translate to not burning your bridges as well because sometimes you might get a job where you have to create work that may seem boring or mundane. But again, if we put our best foot forward no matter what and do a phenomenal job, who knows, you might get a call from that client 10 years from now to do a big paying job for them. So never burn your bridges is not only a key component in the design field, but a life lesson in the world.
As far as branding ourselves, Maryam gave a few useful pointers. As someone being on the hiring end of things, she’s seen quite a bit of portfolios and in order for someone to stand out of the crowd, they must be willing to do something outside of the box. For example, she suggested getting creative with a few items from your portfolio so you can create a video; or, if a book cover is a part of your portfolio, you can get it printed and wrap it around an actual book and shoot the cover with other elements in the scene, and add that piece to your portfolio. It’s important that we give our work life movement – especially in a world where mostly everybody else’s work/portfolio is flat. She also suggested that an element from our resume, should appear on our business cards, websites etc. – whether it’s a recurring color or icon. But everything should be an extension of us – our brand identity. At the end of the day, we should just have fun in whatever we do and it will bleed through our work.
Maryam encouraged us to use social media as a platform to market ourselves as well. LinkedIn and Instagram etc. can be used as business and marketing tools. LinkedIn should only be for people that we have worked with and can vouch for our credibility. It should be used to establish work connections as well. We can have an Instagram account but it will be used solely as a platform to present our work. You never know who will stumble across your page. Also, we can add it to our resume and use it as secondary portfolio. Also, if we will be applying to internships we need to make sure we research the company to get a feel as to whether it is a place we would enjoy working at.
In closing, there are several takeaways from this session. Firstly, try to find something that interests you and just run with it. Put your whole heart into it and don’t stop. Even when times get hard or you are tasked with uninteresting projects, never stop giving 200% because at the end of the day everything you do or work on is an extension of you. You should always learn from an experience. Also, it’s important to note that when we work for somebody and they give feedback, we should not take it personal because the bottom line is what we’re doing is not for us but for a client. It’s paramount to remember that when there’s a problem, there ‘s always a creative solution. Furthermore, it’s not about copying something but actually being inspired by it. Inspiration comes in many forms and it’s up to us to snatch it and make the best of it.