Design Indaba Emerging Creative for 2022, Kyle Kemink has already won a Gold Loerie, designed his first full typeface and worked on international branding projects. The 24-year-old “third culture kid”, who hails from Johannesburg, cut his teeth in advertising, but can be found freelancing in the music industry, taking part in the World’s Greatest Internship and designing 3D animated covers for the likes of Vanity Fair Italy.
What’s next for the creative with a work ethic second to done? Design Indaba finds out.
1. You're a versatile visual artist. Tell us a little bit about the media you work in, and what inspires you about those media in particular.
I work mainly with digital, or at least I always end up finishing work in digital because of the ways in which you can explore and combine different mediums into a cohesive work.
I also spend a lot of time painting with ink on paper, doing photography, creating more traditional works and textures, producing terrible beats in GarageBand and generally exploring different creative mediums that feed into each other. Working with ink and paper has been especially important to my process; whether it's drawing typography or just purely exploring balance and composition in abstract forms.
There's something meditative about just putting marks on paper and seeing where you end up without thinking too much about the process. Sometimes you'll end up with straight-up garbage, but other times you'll make something special, or in a worst-case scenario just learn from the garbage. But mainly exploring different mediums and techniques without expectation of the result gives me the freedom to create for the sake of creation and explore for the sake of exploration.
I think it's incredibly important to immerse yourself in styles, techniques and mediums outside of your comfort zone to avoid becoming too complacent with a single approach.
With most creatives these days becoming ‘brands’, or even worse, ‘content creators’, it's becoming easier than ever to fall into a process because it's what gets you the most attention. But I also find that when you create work purely for an audience, you tend to lose a lot of the exploration and curiosity that got you started in the first place.
2. You received a solid grounding in the ad industry – how did that assist your art?
I think the ad industry taught me the expectation of being a creative professional before transitioning into a more ‘digital artist’.
One of the most valuable things life in an agency taught me is the value of creativity to the people who are willing to pay for it, and consequently how to better understand my own value as a creative in this world. I also learnt the importance of understanding craft in creativity and the separators between good and truly great work. I learnt how to understand the systems underlying design as branded communication.
However, I was never really doing the type of work that fed me creatively, and when I was, I knew I was doing it more for myself and the portfolio I was trying to build than for the actual clients. On the bright side, doing the type of work I knew I didn't want to do made me conscious of the type of work I knew I did want to do. So I just started to do more of the work I liked on the side and I started getting better at my process until people were offering to pay me for it.
My rule of thumb is “learn the rules so you can break them properly”. My grounding in the ad industry taught me what those rules were.
3. Who are some of your biggest influences and how have they affected your work?
Firstly, Garth Walker and iJusi magazine have had a huge impact on my work.
Going through iJusi in my university days showed me where art and design could meet in the middle and create a truly unique narrative in the South African context, and outside the commercialised forms of creativity we see every day.
Like a lot of people, my early design and art influences came mostly from the social apps we all love to hate. I saw so much of the work I knew I wanted to make, and understand how to make, and wanted to eventually meet the people who inspired me at their level.
A lot of my early influence and taste also came from the music I was listening to and the culture surrounding it; artists like $uicideboy$, Yung Lean, TeamSESH, Hot Sugar, Blank Banshee and a lot of other obscure underground artists.
4. Tell us about some of the projects you're working on at present – how are they stretching you as an artist?
I recently co-founded a registered company with a couple of really talented friends, aiming to build some cool web 3.0 projects. We're currently working on a relatively small NFT project called The First 2048.
It's been a bit of a steep learning curve managing time, expectations and energy regarding freelance, contract and personal work, and of course the projects we're managing as a company, but it's been insanely cool to build something that looks and feels so real to us. It's what finally pushed me to take 3D design seriously and get past the initial terror of opening Blender and immediately closing it because there are too many buttons.
I've also been working with some interesting start-up companies creating merchandising, social campaigns, brand identities and a number of digital projects that have taken me outside my comfort zone creatively. Working at start-up pace has also been a bit of a learning curve, but it's taught me to think on my feet and trust my intuition when it comes to creating.
5. Any career highlights to date?
Things that have made me happy recently include having a piece of work printed in the 19th issue of iJusi, being one of four creatives chosen to take part in the World's Greatest Internship Ed.3, designing a 3D animated cover for Vanity Fair Italy with Valuart, designing a logo for King Von with Rose in Good Faith and designing my first full typeface (there’s an update coming, too). Having designs printed and sold by 8THWNDR has also been a highlight, along with being selected as an Design Indaba Emerging Creative, which has been a goal for a while.
Credits: Kyle Kemink