South African born, Billy Blue Grad, Wendy Mhlongo, talks to us about putting your hand up for anything and everything, her work with Tiliqua Press these last 20 weeks, how crocheting and knitting is her escape, and that time she ruined her mums rug in the name of art!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
I have quite a few creative memories and none of them turned out good for me at the time. The most memorable, (only because my mum keeps reminding me of this) is when I was about 7 and collected all the powder we had in the house; baby powder, foot powder and my moms baking soda. I basically wrote a message on her high pile rug covering the entire living room, welcoming my cousin who was about to visit. Mum came home (not impressed), cousin had a change of plans and basically if you were to look closely enough, you can still faintly see the message. Moral of the story, don’t be afraid to be creative and leave a memorable impression (within reason).
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I actually fell in love with design from a young age, but I just always thought I could draw and that was it. I was born in South Africa and design wasn’t a very well-known industry for me to be able to say “Hey, when I grow up I want to be a designer”. For me this moment came when I moved to Australia, living in North Melbourne and being exposed to all the different artistic cultures, so from there the plan was to be a graphic designer or photographer. Of course things arent that simple; I ended up going into business, I figured there is no way a person can fail in business as much as they would in design.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? Career advice to my 16 year old self mhhhh. I would say don’t be afraid, you won’t start out as the best, there is a lot to learn. But determination, persistance, hard work and always asking for feedback will be worthwhile in the end. You will experience a lot of self doubt (and I don’t think enough people talk about this) and it might hold you back from what has been the best decision ever. I would say this is not just advice to my 16 years old self, but to my current self and all designers, we all have moments where we doubt ourselves and question if this is really what I’m meant to do.
Additionally have some passion outside of graphic design, to pull you through and offer you that little bit of inspiration. For me its crocheting and knitting, I love vibrant colours and this is my little escape from everything.
What has been your highlights since you started out? The absolute highlight was getting the opportunity to work for a real life client Tiliqua Press on Ligature Journal Issue 2 for the past 20 weeks. We have been working tirelessly on the print version and are just finalising the digital version. It has been a moment of growth in the sense that you work for someone else, who has a clear idea of what they want and it can be completely different to what you are used to doing; you get thrown so far outside of your comfort zone and learn other ways of design. I believe, the last 20 weeks have put everything I’ve learned into the spotlight and reaffirmed that you should never feel comortable when designing, sometimes stepping outside that box can offer leaps and bounds to your career. Just a shameless plug; both print and digital issues come out early December.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. Keep true to yourself but don’t set yourself up to be in a bubble, so to speak. It’s perfectly okay if your style is a little or (in some cases) a lot different from your peers as long as you keep enjoying what you do and produce great work, keep at it.
2. Group work can be daunting but it’s the best way to prepare people when going into the industry. Try to work with people who have a different approach to the way you see things, treat it as a learning process.
3. Ask for and take feedback. It might not be easy and it is not a critism of your design skills but a way to show and let you see things from a different perspective.
4. Time management. This is for all designer, learn how to manage your time wisely, one minute you have things under control the next you might find yourself pulling all nighters in a row. If you have a few minutes, try to do just a little bit towards your work, trust me its helps in the end.
5. Try and work hard. Put your hand up for anything and everything, you are more likely to meet people you never expected to meet. And always have a business card on you.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months? Professionally, I hope to get a job in a great studio, but first I want to a do a few internships. Personally and maybe professionally, I will finally have a little bit more time to work on my knitting and crocheting and finally make it to Finders Keepers. Website:wendymhlongo.myportfolio.com Instagram:@oneofone_creative