Sophie Douala

We chat with Freelance Designer & Visual Artist Sophie Douala, about the small initiatives you can start to support non-profit groups, exploring your artist persona, plus she shares her favourite bookshops, cafes and Berlin blogs!

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

When I was young I wanted to become a fashion designer and I remember this phase (around 8-10 years old) when I started to personalise every possible items I owned with graffiti and drawings. One day my mum gave me a beautiful leather bag she had since her early adulthood to play with and I remember grabbing a marker & adding tags of my name all around (that btw I would write “Sofy”…). It's only a few years later, when I stumbled into that bag again that I thought: What a shame! lol

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

When I started my career as an independent designer, I didn’t think of branding my image and simply used my name. But recently, I started to question this topic & felt the desire to explore more deeply my artist persona. Changing my name now, would not really make sense for my activity, but I thought like having an alias would be a fun way to give me new rooms for playground.

So I recently came up with a second name — Songa333. Songa is my third name (Sophie Elise Songa), it comes from Cameroon and was also the name of my grand grand mother in my dad’s side. I feel like secondaries names are quite weird because they usually have meanings for those who pick them but you never really get to appropriate them. So, I felt like reclaiming some of my story and creating links between the past and the future. And then, 3 is my favourite number. I can’t explain why I feel very linked to it since ever I remember. I also keep stumbling into it in many forms. Thus, you probably understand what i feel for triple 3 :)

Last but not least, since I live in Germany, I intended to pronounce the numbers in german: “Songa drei drei drei“ - which adds another layer in the space / time of what it represents to me.

Design work by Sophie Douala The Design Kids interviews Sophie Douala work-2

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I am a creative designer and visual artist specialised in art direction & illustration. I tend to say that my work has multi-facets, it started with a graphic design background and later on, an approach more artistic was added. I am passionate about forms, colours and how infinite combinations and structures can be created with simple elements. I explore by means of the graphic language: concepts, sensations, feelings and emotions as artworks and for clients. My work is often described as playful, however, I bring a lot of importance to the meaning of what I am exploring even if its not so obvious in the end piece.

Through my practice, my main intention is to bring openness to my audience. We’re overload by manipulative imagery and messages and I am trying to step back to something that could be experienced gently like a soft vision or a dream.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

I think you can already feel this new wave where advanced technologies & science are interfering. Projects are more and more complex in terms of resources & production. Using sensors, AI, live 3D mapping, hologram… I feel like we’re getting more and more in an era where we’ll get to experience design in a more immersive way. TeamLab Borderless in Tokyo is a great example of immersive and interactive exploration of design. I didn’t get to experience it personally but it feels like basically entering a new dimension. So, I think the future is in programming! Even if you want to focus in print design, programming offers such a huge playground to present and promote your work.

Design work by Sophie Douala The Design Kids interviews Sophie Douala work-4
Design work by Sophie Douala The Design Kids interviews Sophie Douala work-4

I feel like we’re getting more and more in an era where we’ll get to experience design in a more immersive way.

If people wanted to know more about design in your city, what are the top blogs, organisations or events they can read up on?

I live in Berlin, & I have to say a lot is happening here. I actually find it hard to keep track and filter programs. Also, a lot happening is underground - friends of friends of friends, setting up a pop up exhibition, so I would say the first advise is to not be shy and talk to people in cafés and bars about what is currently happening. And below are some more tips:

  1. CeeCee is the blog of reference when it comes to events, cultures and activities in the city. I definitely recommend to check it up to discover what’s currently hot!

  2. Design made in Germany – is a good reference platform to be kept up to date on the latest releases, projects & up coming studios and designers on the scene – You can also find job offers and set up a portfolio online!

  3. Do you read me – is my favourite book shop in the city. It has a great selection of contemporary books & magazines. Inspiring selection and run by great people! Their website will already give you a great overview

  4. HKW [Haus der Kulturen der Welt] - is a venue for contemporary art and culture and has great programs of not only exhibitions but talks, conferences, workshops. On their website they also have great articles

  5. West Berlin – is a café / book store where i go often to work. Its computer friendly and on top of the cosy atmosphere they have a nice curated selection of printed matters

What do you think the design community could do more to give back?

I’d love to see more collaborations between designers and social initiatives. Honestly a lot of non profit, activists or social projects have shitty identities… A good design is a great tool to promote ideas & projects efficiently. Although it's not to blame on anybody, I think it takes some time to find the right people to collaborate with and I guess sometimes design can feel not so accessible for small organisations. But in general, I think it's nice to be aware of that and find ways to be involved in social projects too. I recently designed a T-shirt on Everpress where half of the profits were donation to support the non profit GSBTB Open Music Lab who’s offering marginalised communities access to music production. I was able to collect nearly 500€ and gave the half to them! It's a small initiative, but having a not negligible impact.

Design work by Sophie Douala The Design Kids interviews Sophie Douala work-6
Design work by Sophie Douala The Design Kids interviews Sophie Douala work-6

Where to find Sophie Douala online.

Website: sophiedouala.com

Instagram: @sophiedouala

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