Justin Southey: Emerging Creatives Q&A

This week’s featured Emerging Creative is graphic designer and illustrator Justin Southey, who was part of the programme at Design Indaba Expo in 2010.

Part of the Project

Justin Southey is a Cape Town-based graphic designer and illustrator. His multidisciplinary approach to design sees his work covering many different mediums and stylistic variations. His brand The Beloved aims to make his iconic design and quirky illustrations accessible to the public through the creation and manufacture of various creative products, ranging from wooden creatures to contemporary clothing. Here’s what he had to say about being part of the Emerging Creatives programme in 2010.

Did being part of Emerging Creatives help you establish yourself as a fully-fledged creative professional?

Yes, I think it definitely did. It gave me huge exposure, face-to-face contact with people and made me see the way people feel about my work. Most of all, I think it was a turning point for me as it changed the way I relate to my work and view myself as a creative.

Have you had any major commissions or business orders as a result of being part of the Emerging Creatives programme?

As a visual creative, the actual trade show is more about promotion rather than getting orders. Although I had some product for sale, which did pretty well, my aim wasn't really to emphasise that. I received a few commissions directly after Design Indaba Expo, but have subsequently had many clients who remember me from being an Emerging Creative commission my work.

What were the most valuable things you got out of the programme?

Design Indaba Expo, where the Emerging Creative stalls are found, is all about product. People come to see new products made by cutting-edge creatives. Sure, there is some interest in conceptual stuff, but in my opinion people want to see something physical, that they can buy or order. I had some product and was amazed at the value of having met people face-to-face as a creative. When people feel like they know you, they value their interaction with you and attach feelings of trust and authenticity to your product. Years later, people still come up to me and commission my work on the basis of conversations we had at Design Indaba Expo. 

The experience allowed me to see myself through the public's eyes, and although I made many great industry contacts, the lesson of developing a personal connection with your clients is something that will ultimately prove a greater benefit than the contacts themselves.

Since Emerging Creatives, have you participated in any local or international exhibitions or events, or won any awards?

I have participated in many local exhibitions and have had many overseas commissions. I suppose the most “international” exhibition was being selected by Li Edelkoort to be part of her Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa exhibit at last year's Design Indaba Expo.

Justin Southey lives and works in Cape Town as a professional graphic designer and illustrator. See more of his work at justinsouthey.com.

Apply to be an Emerging Creative at Design Indaba Expo 2014 here.