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Behind the design article post

A digital painted portrait illustration
Artwork Illustration by Mpumelelo Bhengu
Arunas Kacinskas

Understanding the ever-changing illustration industry with the help of Graphic Designer/Illustrator Mpumelelo Bhengu.

We reached out to Mpumelelo Bhengu to ask him a few questions. Based on his journey through his style and industry accomplishments. What he has gained throughout his time in the design industry.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a Graphic Designer/Art Director and I specialise in Illustration. Based in Cape Town, originally from Durban. I worked as anAr Director in advertising and publishing, before focusing on illustration full-time.

At what age did you realize design was your passion?

I would say between the early ages in primary school. Saturday Cartoons and video games triggered a curiosity in the creative field of visual communications. I’ve been drawing ever since I could remember.


Sports NBA Artwork Illustration of LeBron James Lakers

"Failure is just another learning curve.” - Mpumelelo Bhengu


What does the future hold for Mpumelelo?

I‘m just taking everything n my stride, enjoying the journey. 

What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have?

You have to be curious and experiment as much as you can.  Being bold is also important as this enables you to walk into any situations with a can do attitude. Persistence, positivity and really enjoy what you do.


Sports soccer illustration

"Take ownership of your journey and let the inner child guide you through sheer curiosity and fun.” - Mpumelelo Bhengu


How would you define your work?

My work is heavily influenced by graffiti, street art and cartoons. It’s bold, bright, detailed and narrative driven. Every piece of the canvass is accounted for with detail.

What mediums do you specialize in and what tools do you use?

Graphic Design, Art Direction and Illustration. My work is primarily digital but everything starts with sketching and research.  I use Photoshop and Illustrator for rendering and I’ve gotten into sketching most of my ideas on my Pad using Procreate.

What do you do to improve your design skills?

I constantly set myself creative challenges and goals and I do a lot of self initiated briefs. I journal the process most of the time and tweak where needed. I keep track of whats happening in the industry, listening to podcast, doing tutorials and seeing what other creatives are up to.

How do you handle criticism?

Even when  I was starting out, after tech, as an intern/junior, I always looked at criticism as another opportunity to learn and improve as a creative. Criticism challenges you to be better. You get better at handling criticism as time goes on.

What do you think the next big design trend will be?

Not really sure tone honest but I do think we are going to experience even bolder experimental with regards to Typography.  Abstract Gradient are also on a come back….I think.

Tell us about a project that was your greatest achievement?

I worked on an amazing camping for VW, recently, Celebrating 40 years of GTI. It resonated with me a lot because of what the brand meant to jus as kid growing up in the townships and Golf GTI being a reference point for aspiration. I got an opportunity to illustrate some amazing merch and visual assets for the brand.

How do you stay inspired and keep coming up with creative ideas? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

The internet gives you access to so many inspirations and it’s such a rabbit hole. I also still draw so much inspiration from all the things I enjoyed as a kid. Consuming pop culture, playing video games and reading just about everything…mostly comics.  I also feed off my peers/friends some of whom are in the creative industry.

Walk us through your design process?

My process always starts with a million questions and research…a must as we are solving a problem a the end of the day. I sketch the ideas to gauge the final execution. I use Photoshop and Illustrator to flesh out the designs/illustrations.  I try to put the ideas also in situe/context to get an idea of what it would look like in real life. The most important thing is sketch and research your ideas.

How do you deal with creative blocks?

I LEAVE work alone and do something else. Video games, watch a movie, read. I'm fortunate enough to be 2 minutes away from a park where I spend sometime just hanging in nature or sometimes I would hang out with friends. I need to get back to cycling often as this also helped a lot and allowed me to come back refreshed. Never force anything and allow the creative process to happen organically.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and can pass on to others?

Trust the process, believe in yourself, Wholeheartedly. Have FUN. 

Graphic Designer/Illustrator Arunas Kacinskas Instagram

To learn more about Mpumelelo Bhengu give him a follow!


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