Digitalising African art through the fingertips of a graphic designer.
We managed to get in contact with Ndumiso Nyoni to ask him some questions based on his style and what he has created, since being a successful digital artist/illustrator in South Africa.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Ndumiso Nyoni, I'm an award-winning illustrator, motion designer and multimedia designer. Originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
At what age did you realise design was your passion?
I've always enjoyed drawing and always got good grades for art at school. I only realised I could take it up as a full-time career when I was 19 years old.
"Get excited about the work you create." - Ndumiso Nyoni
What does the future hold for Ndumiso Nyoni?
Haha, I would also like to know! But seriously, I look forward to collaborating with even more brands. A collaboration with an apparel brand is something I would really like to do next.
What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have?
I've always felt two things really help set an artist apart from the rest. The first is the technical ability, constantly mastering your craft, be it software or handcraft skills. Secondly which is extremely important, but is often overlooked,
developing a keen eye for detail. The top artists are able to critically analyse and view their own work and the work of others. This in turn allows them to make tiny improvements to their work, which always results in a much stronger artwork.
"If the work you do doesn't excite you, then there's a high chance it won't excite your audience. Keep developing your craft until it gets to that point, and when it does, keep developing it some more." - Ndumiso Nyoni
How would you define your work?
My work is a combination of traditional, African themes fused with contemporary youth culture and trends. It's a mix or clean geometric shapes, detailed vector lines and bold Afro-inspired patterns and colours.
What mediums do you specialise in and what tools do you use?
My main tool is Adobe Illustrator. It allows me to capture my vector/geometric signature style. I also use Photoshop for lighting effects and After Effects for my motion work.
What do you do to improve your design skills?
I like looking at other forms of art. I'm an avid comic and graphic novel collector and I love detailed action figurines and mini-statues. I'm also constantly looking at ancient African masks and patterns for inspiration.
How do you handle criticism?
I learned at a very early age probably in varsity, that criticism is part of the process. If it's a personal artwork, the viewer is entitled to have an opinion, otherwise it wouldn't be art. If it is a brand collaboration, the brand is entitled to share feedback that will help meet its marketing goals. In all instances, be true to who you are, but never take offence to feedback.
What do you think the next big design trend will be?
It looks like we are constantly reviving old design trends. I'm not sure what it will be, but I would like to see more traditional African work that is blended with some of the minimalist trends of the Modernist era.
Tell us about a project that was your greatest achievement?
I just collaborated with South African local airlines 'FlySafair', a domestic airline on a piece of artwork that will be used as decoration inside their airplanes. It's always a humbling experience to have your work featured in a magazine, billboard, or in a book, but I never thought in a million years that my artwork would be on an actual airplane.
How do you stay inspired and keep coming up with creative ideas? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I'm always on Pinterest looking at stuff. It can be anything from posters, to album artwork, to African patterns. I find keeping a visual diary of things that I think look great, always keeps me inspired.
Walk us through your design process?
I always start with research. I look at reference images and how other artists have tackled similar subjects. Then I try to establish what elements help communicate that subject. Then finally I try to figure out how to interpret the subject in my own way of thinking and signature style. From there I move on to rough quick pencil sketches just to put my thoughts on paper. From there I move into Illustrator and start doing detailed line work. Then I end with colour, patterns and lighting effects.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
I believe in the 80/20 rule. 80% of my time is spent researching and looking up inspiration before I can even touch a pencil or mouse. Once I have grappled with the thinking and figured it out, only then do I move to the execution.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and can pass on to others?
Get excited about your own work. If it doesn't excite you and you don't feel it's quite ready to go out, give it a few more minutes in the oven. Only ever put out work you are proud of.