Going his own way

Latest work by Thulisizwe Mamba, Durban-based graphic designer determined to develop his own viewpoint.

Thulisizwe Mamba may still be a graphic design student at Durban University of Technology, but he has an enterprising nature that saw him dipping his toes into the working world while he was still in high school. Under the alias “Project Jackshit”, he designed posters and retouched photos. 

Now he is using his “one-man conceptual design studio”, Less Studio, to explore his own self-initiated work and try out different things. He is branching out into illustration and editorial design. “Later on, I hope to add typography and icon design”, says Mamba.

He sees his work as a visual escape from cluttered design aesthetics, so it’s no surprise that many of his images have a minimalist feel. He defines his approach as “horizontalism design”, a term he coined to describe “a form of design that pioneers an equitable arrangement of forms to achieve harmonious balance”. Referring to his focus on form, he says: “Its cynosure is aesthetics rather than function.” 

His work plays a therapeutic role, he says, because it helps him “avoid burning out and having a creative block. It heals the ailment of having other people filtering [my] work based on what suits them,” he says.

Mamba is currently working on formulating a new design and illustration style for himself. “I want it to have a hand-done feel.” The illustration “Oddity” (pictured above) is an early attempt at this. 

He has experimented with a series of self-portraits illustrated in various ways. “I chose different styles due to the way I see myself. I'm never the same person every day, so why would I illustrate myself the same way every time?” Mamba asks.  “I think because I'm still trying to figure myself out as a young designer, exploration is essential to find where I fit, so I can improve and flourish. Not just sink into the background.”

Minimalism isn’t the only quality that Mamba ascribes to his work; he also likes to be humorous: “I try and add an element of delight into my work. Something thoughtful. Something cheeky. To me, that is what I'd like to leave behind when my time on earth has expired ­– work that makes you smile.”

Participating in Design Indaba Expo’s 2015 Emerging Creatives programme taught him some important lessons: “Not everyone’s opinion of your work is important. Whatever someone more experienced than you tells you isn’t the gospel of design. The game has changed. Your role as a designer today is different from their era. And it’s very important as a young designer to have a viewpoint, something you strongly believe in.”

The Durbanite is already at work on his next passion project: a zine called Co. Issue, which he will launch later this year, his first venture into editorial work. The debut issue, “Nudes, Floral & Deben”, will show Durban through his eyes. Mamba believes that Durban lacks a platform for young creatives to showcase what they can do and as a result designers there work in isolation.“

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