The juniors – our journey into design

Hey, this is Natalie and I’m all about “doing what we love”

Growing up, I always had a million passions. I would put all my energy into it; from ballet to theatre performance, art to science, teaching and even breakdancing. Yes, I could do head spins and took part in underground hip-hop street battles in Woodstock – and I was pretty good at it too! I was interested in so many different things, the thought of choosing one specific career path had me feeling uneasy. Was I the only one who felt like this?

I had a natural ability for arts and crafts, along with some verbal diarrhoea, which my teachers discovered in my early years. I would hurry through all my subjects so that I could spend more time getting my hands full of paint, and ask to sit in class during lunch break to draw or colour in pictures. I absolutely loved creating artwork, in fact I loved anything that allowed me to be creative.

I started ballet when I was 3 years old but by the time I was 15, I developed an interest in hip-hop and the dream of becoming a ballerina was left behind. You could say I had ants in my pants when it came to choosing things to do. To everyone, my love for art was nothing more than a passion and hobby, definitely not something to consider as a career. I became a youth leader, a Sunday school teacher and joined the band. It wasn’t long after that, I was volunteering at an elderly and children’s home where I taught basic art lessons. But no matter what I did, I always found a way to create.

An equal amount of energy and love was placed into everything I did. With the end of my high school career looming, the pressure of choosing my career path weighed heavily on my shoulders. Like, very heavy. I wished that I could be as certain as everyone else seemed about their career choices. I felt that if I picked only one of my passions, I would eventually get tired of it. At the same time the thought of doing so many different things felt a bit scattered. Even though I had many interests, I knew that being able to create would bring me the most joy. In the end, I still had doubts, mainly influenced by the opinions of others.

Before pursuing my career in graphic design, I studied occupational therapy. I loved working with people so I felt that this was the best choice for me. But still, something was missing. I kept coming back to the arts. I would illustrate all my study notes during class. I just couldn’t escape it. It wasn’t where I needed to be. So I quit and opted for a life of creativity instead.

When I was battling through my decision, my mom sent me a lovely quote written by Maya Angelou – “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you”. I felt like it was written for me.

When I started studying graphic design, all of my other interests aligned with creativity, from photography to craft making and dancing. The feeling was indescribable. It was the first time I felt as though I was on the right track. I learnt to accept my curiosity. I loved it. As I got older I realised that it was okay to be passionate and possible to be multi-passionate too. While every interest doesn’t necessarily turn into your passion, you shouldn’t have to feel restricted to one path. Do what you love! I know I did and I’m so happy for it.



Hi, Qaasiem here and this is how I came to love design

Throughout high school I was very confused about where I wanted to be and which direction I wanted to go in. I started off at a business focused school, mainly because all my friends were going there. I wasn’t really passionate about business. Firstly, it was boring, you had to stick to the rules and in most cases it was very monotonous. I got through each year, just making it, and by the time it came to matric I was very confused. I had the ability to draw but that was about it. No other real strengths and to top that off I didn’t even choose art as a subject. I was basically lost and didn’t know how to read this compass of career paths. Everyone, except me, knew what they wanted to do and where they wanted to study. I had no direction and started to doubt if I’d have any future at all. Bleak, I know right.

With drawing as my only strong point my mother suggested looking into graphic design. Not knowing much about it I had to do some research. It didn’t interest me because the explanations that some tertiary institutions gave were too vague. Then an institute called CTI Education group came to our school and I gave my contact number. It lead to many persistent calls from them and I eventually gave in to attend an open day. Surprise, surprise, I wrote an aptitude test and graphic design was the direction my test was pointing towards. I braved it and gave studying graphic design a shot but with much uncertainty.

During my studies I took a lot for granted. I came late to class, handed in late submissions, gave incomplete work and generally had too much of a good time. One positive though, my understanding of graphic design did improve and I started enjoying my work but my grades weren’t looking good at all. Like I said, it was fun times. My dad suggested I find a job, so I dropped out in my second year, which was technically my first year, because a bridging course was needed to make up for my poor high school grades. It was game over.

My first job was printing names and numbers on sports jerseys at Totalsports. I worked there for a few months, not growing or moving anywhere. My life was at a stand still and the irony was that my job required me to stand all day anyway. The closest thing to creativity was maybe laying out the numbers and letters on the jerseys.

From there I got a job in IT because computers were a hobby of mine, playing around with them since Windows 95. The best way to describe this job is to say that I was a psychologist for people with computer issues. I learnt how to deal with people, and not the easy way. It was a call centre so time management was everything.

It was here that I realised I loved design.  Through all these experiences I began to understand why it was so important to me. It was the unique ability to communicate with people without speaking. To take something out of nothing and mould it to provoke an emotion or even a thought, and to take something plain and turn it into something amazing. Why was I missing colour? Because in a world full of black and white, design was the big splash of red paint that added life and emotion to it. And why was I missing freedom so much? Because in a world where everyone is told to act in a specific way, to conform, design lets you be who you truly are. This is why I love design.

Now, with my hunger for design reignited, the urge to go back was too big to ignore. I searched many websites and avenues to see if there were any possibilities and a chance at studying again, but to no avail. A few months went by when I stumbled across an institute that was giving bursaries to people unable to pay tuition. I really didn’t think that I had any shot at this, but with some convincing from my younger sister and many late nights fine-tuning a very emotional motivating letter, I applied.

Some time passed with no reply. But just as I was beginning to lose hope, they responded, inviting me to be interviewed. The interview was short but meaningful. They wanted to know a bit more about me and where I came from, so I poured it all out. At the end of the interview they leaned in, almost as if they were about to tell me a secret, and told me that I got it. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had to hold back my tears in that brightly coloured interview room, and before we said our goodbyes I instinctively gave both interviewers a hug. I wailed on the car ride back and broke the news to my family immediately when I got home. It was an unforgettable moment in my life.

I went on to study print and publishing at Friends of Design. Everything I was longing for I put into all my work and graduated in the top 10 of my class. Through hard work and a good attitude, I’ve been lucky to secure a bursary for another year’s study in web publishing and interactive media. So I’m not done yet. I’ve only just started my career and I’m truly excited about where I am going.

Design isn’t just something I learned to love, it has become a part of who I am and in the end, design was the one who learned to love me.