Innovative multimedia that meets society’s needs – a UJ cum laude graduate’s philosophy

The design and layout of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and other social interactive applications have been built in a way that relates to how people socialise, share information and interact with digital devices. Multimedia continuously rethinks, reinvents and explores the communication between designers and its users, striving to meet the needs of their social interactions.


This is University of Johannesburg (UJ) ‘student Nicola “Nikki” Hellmann’s philosophy on creating mediums of interaction for people and catering to society’s needs. Hellman graduated cum laude with a National Diploma in Multimedia Design in April 2014.
The young graduate is now a qualified Multimedia Designer who loves photography, videography and illustration. The 21-year-old chose to study Multimedia Design because of its diverse mediums – from print to digital design, covering both interactive and video design.
“The design work we do holds a very human touch, the user is our priority. It is an interesting search into new possible forms of human interaction, behaviour and understanding through the breakdown and reinvention of standards, codes and formats that currently exist within the design, interaction and video industry,” says Hellmann.​
Born and bred in the eastern suburbs of Johannesburg, the young Hellmann went to Fairsand Primary School and a few years later joined Linksfield Primary School. She matriculated from Sandringham High School, and is now currently working as a freelance photographer and print designer, still in search of steady employment.
“My academic journey was a rough ride, but one worth every second. Through UJ, I have come into contact with phenomenal people; from lecturers to friends. Each day, although demanding, was a blessing and rare opportunity to be exposed to the minds of brilliant lecturers that are supportive, experienced and also creative. My academic journey at UJ gave me lasting friendships. UJ has obliterated my ignorance; I have developed an open mind and consciousness that three years ago did not strongly exist in me. I am fascinated by our unique differences and the possibilities that come with research, tolerance and respect,” explains Hellmann.
For many undergraduates, student life is challenging and demanding academically. It was not different with Hellmann. She says completing her course was both fun and stressful, but her passion for the course, the support she received from her peers and tirelessly working hard saw her cruise through the course.
She describes UJ as a friendly environment that allows students to ask questions when they do not understand the coursework, which not only gives students a better understanding of their academic work, but also allows them to excel in what they do.
Explaining her student experience at UJ, Hellmann says: “I was a professional at parroting information – a high school curse, and I found it near impossible to think for myself or give my own opinion. So my inability to think for myself meant my work took strain, but through continuous reprimanding for playing it safe, I was pushed to think and broke out of my ‘parrot’ phase. Now, I can’t read something without questioning it or look at something without breaking it down and figuring it out. Which makes watching movies ‘fun’ for my family, as I sit there explaining how they made it and why,” explains the bubbly Hellmann.
“Through Multimedia, Multimedia designers rethink how stories are communicated to the audience by playing with and breaking down this westernised film. Finding new influences to change how people associate and interact with a film or video. This, I believe, is good for South Africa. Being a country of many cultures, languages and traditions; it opens up a lot of opportunity to customise communication from a South African perspective. In a world rapidly being westernised, maybe we can make something more innovative, creating designs that are not dictating to the user (society) but accommodating and customised to the differences of the users and their needs,” Hellmann added.
“Film has been structured around westernised codes and norms,” she says.​
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