Daniel Ting Chong

Daniel Ting Chong had the guts at the ripe age of 22, to kick off his independent career of awesomeness. From branding to illustration to film making Daniels covered it! Read on to hear what Daniel has to say about going at it independently with things he's learnt along the way and what he's thinking his next steps might be.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

After graduating from Vega School in Cape Town, I worked for a design studio called The President. I worked at The President for just under two years and learnt a variety of skills from print production, creative approach and how to manage clients amongst typography and illustration skills. I always imagined to be working at a studio and never thought of going independent at all. After deciding to go independent, I moved into a co-shared space with some friends. I thought it would be a good opportunity to go independent as I was still fairly young (22 years) at the time and didn’t have too many responsibilities or overheads. Ever since then I have never looked back at my decision but I was also very committed to making my independent career work.

I never imagined to be where I am now in my career but after lots of hard work, it has managed to sustain itself into a business. Currently, I’m considering different options of either staying independent, hiring someone, partnering up or moving into an employed position as the reason for this is that I have been in the independent game for 8 years now and feel there should be a change and something bigger than just myself and I’m yet to figure out which path answers that.

Are you involved in any teaching and if so how it shapes your practice?

At every tertiary keynote I do, I provide my email address for the students that would like to ask questions or receive feedback on their work. There is time allocated for Q&A, however, I’m aware that some students don’t feel comfortable asking questions in class and would prefer to contact me via email. I mentor about 6-7 students currently where they would send me questions or work which I will provide some feedback.

Growing up pre-Tumblr, Dribbble, Behance and Instagram days made it fairly difficult to connect with other creatives to receive feedback which is why I make time for students that reach out. It helps shape my practice by having to manage my time more efficiently between client and personal work and give feedback that is truthful and more industry realistic than tertiary focused.

Design work by Daniel Ting Chong The Design Kids interviews Daniel Ting Chong work-2

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

This past week, I launched a new running campaign for PUMA. It is a short 90 second film with smaller 15 second cut downs which features different running crews from South Africa, Turkey, Dubai, Germany, France and Brazil. I worked with my close friend Paul Ward who directed the film and we had an incredible cast and worked with a long list of talented people who were mostly friends which made the entire process really effective and fun.

In conjunction with this film section of the project, there are additional elements which I can’t mention as of yet. Other than that, I’m currently working on a few identity projects, one of which is a new food truck business called ‘Nice Neighbour’ which I’m really excited about.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I wouldn’t say I have ownership over any style specifically. For a period of time, I mainly worked in a monoline style but have moved away from it. I consciously try not to gravitate towards trends but rather create something that is appropriate for the client and create work that I’m interested in. I would recommend to practice the practice of making without any brief in mind and experiment with techniques all the time. There are valuable lessons in making and it’s fairly cathartic too but also a learning process of what you are interested in and understanding creative tools which help inform your creative approach

Design work by Daniel Ting Chong The Design Kids interviews Daniel Ting Chong work-4
Design work by Daniel Ting Chong The Design Kids interviews Daniel Ting Chong work-4

Put value on yourself, you’re better than any exposure someone is offering you

What have been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it?

When I decided to go independent I was very naive on payment structures and having consolidated terms and conditions in place when working with clients. I learnt a very valuable lesson with a global sports brand where the client decided to change the brief after numerous revert rounds that had been presented and signed off. The client then refused to make payment, and after a lot of legal emails for over a year and a flight to their head office, I received payment for only 75% of the original invoiced amount.

I now have a clear terms and conditions contract which has been drawn up by a legal firm. I send this attached to all my cost estimates to make sure I’m legally covered as a precaution. I think this is pivotal if you are doing any creative work, it also shows the client the nature of your business, and that being independent doesn’t necessary mean easy or makeshift either. You are running a business and need to be covered at all times.

What advice would you give students starting out?

After you finish studying, I recommend working somewhere to gain experience, not only creatively but also to understand the fundamentals of running a creative business too. Also, create the work you want to be paid for. Don’t put up work on your website that you’re not proud of and don’t want to be commissioned for. I often take down work that I don’t want to do anymore and not interested in.

Put value on yourself, you’re better than any exposure someone is offering you.

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What does a typical working day include for you right now?

There is a misconception about being independent and that you can work in your pyjama’s and roll into work anytime you like, which you completely can, however, if you want to make a successful career being independent, you have to put in the hard work and more so than at an employed position. I wake up around 6 am and get into the studio around 7:30 am and grab a coffee from a local roaster within the building. I then get onto my admin which entails tons of client emails and scheduling timelines. I use iCal to manage my scope of work and production timelines. Every day has the projects I need to work on and delivery timelines so that I never miss a deadline.

I work in a co-shared studio space with friends and around 12 pm, we have lunch together at the communal table and usually sneak in a quick Call of Duty game to get rid of that creative stress and then get back into work. I leave work around 5:30 / 6:00 pm and before the end of the day I respond to emails and check my iCal for the following day. After work, I play basketball for a local club which I have been a member of for 19 years and recently rebranded their identity and kit design. This really helps take my mind off all the work and everyday creative problems.

Design work by Daniel Ting Chong The Design Kids interviews Daniel Ting Chong work-7
Design work by Daniel Ting Chong The Design Kids interviews Daniel Ting Chong work-7

Where to find Daniel Ting Chong online.

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