Design advice that applies to everyone

Leading creative thinkers give advice to aspiring artists and designers, but their philosophies really pertain to every field or creative endeavour.

One of the privileges of working for Design Indaba is the invaluable exposure to thought leadership and creative brilliance, often on a daily basis. In a conversation or interview situation with a leader in the design industry, it’s hard to resist the question – what is your advice to aspiring designers? And so often we find their answers reflect an outlook that is pertinent to any individual, whether it’s a student, entrepreneur, designer, creative practitioner or anyone at all. We share some of these universal truths.

Ever the champion of open-source, Tom Hulme is of the guard of thinkers that sharing ideas and knowledge will ultimately lead to the betterment of humanity. It is this thinking that has seen Elon Musk rise to prominence, and which has recently seen tech giant Microsoft make its .NET development framework open-source. Rather than guarding intellectual property closely in the fear that someone will steal your idea, recognise that sharing information will benefit everyone in the long run – especially those doing the sharing. Leave your paranoia behind and “get out there and build stuff”, Hulme says.

He goes on:

Err on the side of openness. Have the confidence to be open and serendipitous stuff will happen. Don't just wait in a closed room to give your great idea an airing in the future; don't be paranoid about it. Because in practice the stuff that’s gathering dust in rooms somewhere is irrelevant.  

Watch our video interview with Tom Hulme for more on his ideology of openness.

Global CEO of Wolff Olins Ije Nwokorie is a guru on creativity and leadership. Like Tom Hulme he believes that ultimately the individuality you bring to your idea and the quality of execution will differentiate it from others.

“Bring what you’ve got,” says Nwokorie. “You’ve got something that is totally unique to you, and nobody can tell your story as well as you, and nobody can bring that specific mix of talent to the creative process."

That ultimately is your superpower.

In a similar vein, when asked about the best piece of advice he has ever been given, Nwokorie says, “Gwendolyn Wright, my history of architecture teacher at Columbia University, told us:

There is no limit to what you can get done if you don’t care who takes credit for it.

"For me that’s huge," says Nwokorie. "Focus on what you’re trying to create, not what you’ll get out of it. Ultimately credit might migrate to you, but don’t worry about it.”

Watch our video interview with Ije Nwokorie for more on the changing approach to branding.

Founding member of Imaginary Forces Karin Fong designs for film. Recently she designed and directed the title sequence of the pirate TV series Black Sails, shot in Cape Town. 

Fong's first piece of advice to aspiring directors and designers is:

Work with people better than you.

"It elevates the work and you’ll learn a lot from them,” she says. Our world is very collaborative, she explains.

That said, you also have to bring your own voice to the mix.

"If you show who your true self is and really make sure your work reflects that, then I think you’ll have an easier time finding the kind of work and the kind of people you want to work with," says Fong. 

Watch our interview with Karin Fong from earlier this year, when she was in Cape Town to shoot a commercial.

Watch the Talk with Tom Hulme

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