UJ Graphic Design students thrive in creativity competitions

The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Graphic Design students have been making a name for themselves and in turn representing the institution well.

Sana Machabi, Gabriella De Abreu and Nwabisa Salukazana are some of the top third year and honours students who have been making waves in the graphic design industry.

21-year-old Sana Machabi’s portfolio placed first at the recent Johannesburg Intervarsity portfolio reviews held between Vega, Open Window, Greenside Design Centre and UJ last month.

Sana Machabi Post Covid Zine Sana Machabi

She answered a few questions about her work in graphic design:

Please tell us more about your work and how you feel about your achievement?

I would say that my work is more illustrative based. I enjoy communicating and expressing myself through imagery and colours. So I am really happy that I’m able to express and share that with others. I was really shocked and surprised that I placed first, but I was really happy and excited about the achievement. It really just validated and reassured me that my work is, in fact, good.

Why did you choose to study graphic design?

I chose graphic design because I wanted to do something that was creative. I would’ve done fine arts, but my father feared that I wouldn’t make any money or it would take a while for me to make money. So I thought that graphic design was a happy medium, and I’m glad I chose it.

Why did you choose UJ as your University of choice?

I didn’t choose UJ, UJ chose me. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of graphic design courses in SA. It was either I do graphic design online or at a private institution, and those are quite expensive. So UJ was a great option for me.

What advice do you have for creatives who are thinking of studying graphic design?

I think my advice is for young people to not put too much pressure on themselves and to try everything that graphic design offers. Graphic design is a course that allows and welcomes exploration and even celebrates it. So to those creatives, it’s okay to explore, learn and grow because that is how you craft your style and fully understand what you want to do.

Graphic Design lecturer Christa Van Zyl encouraged the honours group to enter the Intervarsity competition.

For Gabriella De Abreu, 22, entering the competition was both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Gabriella Page 0001 (1) Grandpapackagingblue Gabrielladeabreu 219030419

“When I arrived at the event, I was extremely excited but also overwhelmed by the number of people who were there. I knew that all the students that took part in the event were all so talented.”

A someone who has always had interest in art since she was young, Gabriella honed her skills in drawing and painting.

“I took art as one of my final subjects in high school, which also made me realise that graphic design is the direction I wanted to go in. As technology has become one of the main focal points in our lives, I chose to explore my creativity in a different way – that being through graphic design. Graphic design has always been at the top of my list to study because it allows me to express my creativity every day. It also challenges the way I think which encourages me to think differently.”

She placed in the Top 6 of the competition.

“The competition worked like a speed-dating system where we each had 10 minutes to discuss our portfolio with three different mentors. I received a lot of constructive feedback and criticism from the mentors, and to be honest, I did not think I was going to be placed in the top 10 as I felt that there was so much potential amongst the other entries.

When I heard that I came 6th in the competition, I was extremely happy and proud. It gave me a confidence boost which is something I felt I needed as this year has been extremely stressful. I am grateful that I took part in this competition as I also learned a lot and was inspired by the other students around me.”

Gabriella’s plans for the future include her starting to work for a small graphic design agency. “I am hoping to gain more knowledge and experience before embarking on a bigger journey. My ultimate goal would be to own my own graphic design agency.”

Nwabisa Salukazana, 22, originally thought of studying Architecture but his passion for photography and being creative led him to Graphic Design.

Nwabisa Nwabisa Knorrox Work

He answered some questions about his course:

Why did you choose to study Graphic Design?

I’ve always wanted to make my work better, I learnt Photoshop which was life changing for me at the time. My work improved, and the urge to learn more was there. So I installed the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite software and taught myself how to work with each. In 2018, I took a gap year to learn everything. In 2019, I attended the Creative Arts College studying Graphic Design to further my skills. And from 2020, here I am at UJ enjoying every moment of it.

Recently, Nwabisa made it into the Top 15 at the Loeries Bootcamp.

What did you learn from your experience?

I was honoured to be a part of it representing myself as a designer and UJ. It was a nerve-wracking but exciting 4 weeks for me, and the other amazing design students, who were selected. Having to present to more than 40 people was definitely a real-world experience. It’s not like in class where you see people you’re familiar with, all these people are strangers from different parts of the country and continent, and you have to convince them that not only does the work look good but the idea works too. And seeing how other students present was another learning experience because we all have different styles that represent who we are.

What interesting projects have you worked on?

My work is concept-based, so I look into existing brands or ideas to create something brand new. Even with my photography, because it’s unusual but appealing to look at. I’ve done concept work on South African Airways, Knorrox, and Nike to name a few. I’ve done work for Discovery at Roering Creative Kin, worked with some local and international brands at Mam’gobozi Design Factory. I have produced some excellent work for a lot of aspiring businesses as a freelancer.I’ve also had multiple publications on the international photo-editing app, VSCO and was part of the Siena 2020 Creative Photo Art Awards.

What are your plans for the future?

I am definitely going to be growing my skills and brand. I want NSN to be an amazing creative house, producing excellent photography, design and films, which is why I’m looking into filmmaking to add to my skill set. Having my own photography and design exhibition, possibly making it an annual event. A photography book, collaborating with other amazing brands and creative people alike.

What advice do you have for creatives who are thinking of studying graphic design?

DO IT!!! It’s as simple as that. It is incredible. It’s fun. You get to explore, learn and grow. What you produce in the first year will have massively improved in the 3rd year. It’s a career with so much to do; Branding, Logo design, UI/UX, Web Design, Advertising, Motion Graphics, Animation, Illustration, it goes on. Your ideas will flourish. You’ll meet other creative people, collaborate with them, elevating your skills and craft. And if you’re really passionate about it, you’ll see how far you can go in your university years… not to mention how it’ll open some incredible doors even after.



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