Equipped with over a decade of agency experience, Brandt Botes went solo in order to found his own enterprise, Studio Botes, in 2011. The boutique design shop based in Cape Town specialises in corporate identities, packaging, design and illustration.
To catch up on the history of things: Brandt graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch and went on to work at both Orange Juice Design and Lowe Bull in Cape Town. Most recently he served as Head of Design at Jupiter Drawing Room – a worthy precursor to becoming head of just about everything at Studio Botes.
We spoke to Brandt to learn more:
What sort of environment did you grow up in?
I grew up in middle-class Bellville, the youngest of 3 brothers. My parents were teachers. My oldest brother had to do maths and physics instead of art, because the common misconception back then was that you wouldn’t be able to get a job without maths. When I got to matric, I got to do 2 art subjects and no maths. Thanks Harris – I owe you.
How did you first become interested in illustration and design?
My friends and I would always hang out in the photography and design section of the local library, as that’s where you were most likely to encounter the odd boob shot back in the late 80s. That, and collecting comics from age 12, sparked an interest in visual art. When I was 14, my brother Conrad was first year varsity studying graphic design. He came back home one weekend and brought a bunch of European and American underground comics with him – suddenly superhero comics were pushed aside for the likes of Robert Crumb and Moebius. Conrad has always been a big influence and inspiration.
After working at multiple agencies, why did you feel that it was the right time to begin your own enterprise, Studio Botes?
I always wanted to go at it alone, but there was never a “right” time to do it. I probably deliberated about it too much, but luckily I had the support from my awesome wife, who assured me we wouldn’t starve if things didn’t turn out exactly as I imagined them.
How has your agency experience shaped the way you do things now?
It taught me so much – from a conceptual approach to problem solving, to understanding how to deal with clients and manage the creative process and people, run production as well as instilling confidence and self-belief in me by winning some awards along the way.
Studio Botes for Siyavula:
Art director and designer: Brandt Botes
Copywriter: Ian Malone | Photographer: Morné van Zyl | Illustrator: Daniël du Plessis
Founding Studio Botes, what were some of the challenges that you had to overcome?
Getting out of my pyjamas before lunchtime. Jokes aside, the challenges arose from the contrast of working in an environment where you are quite protected to running the whole process yourself. As a creative in an agency you are very insulated, but with your own shop you have to manage every step of the process from taking the brief (after finding the work if it didn’t come to you) to delivering the final product, whatever shape or form that may take. You have to do everything from being the tea-lady to the minister of finance.
Alternately, what has been rewarding about the endeavour and the outcome so far?
The autonomy – every decision is my own. Having the freedom to accept or decline work. Meeting with a client for the first time and building a relationship with their brand over time. And delivering work that they are ecstatic about is more rewarding than awards.
Tell us a bit about your process and approach.
It’s crucial for me to meet my clients and understand what their business is about. Creatives are generalists, and no matter who the client is you have to entrench yourself in their business and learn as much about that in as short a space of time as possible. Whether it’s cheese, investment funds or tampon packaging (3 jobs I actually worked on over the last few years), you have to understand their industry, how it works and what your client is up against. The biggest part of any project for me is research and concept, as no matter what the final manifestation is (a piece of packaging, logo, website or illustration), the idea should always dictate what the final style, tone and execution of a project should be.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic, and how has this developed over the years?
As mentioned, concept dictates style when it comes to design. I love a bold and minimalist approach, but also have an appreciation for detail. Typography is really important to me. And I do illustrate myself, but when I design I collaborate with photographers or other illustrators with a style to fit the specific project. It really depends on what that piece requires. I would describe my own illustration style as bold, naive and comic/pop art inspired. The older and more experienced one gets the more confident and comfortable you become in your own skin, but you also need to keep on exploring and evolving your own style and approach.
Studio Botes for The Foschini Group:
Does the environment you find yourself in influence your work in a way that you are consciously aware of?
It’s my 3rd year in Roeland Square. I love coming to my office, it’s a happy environment. When clients come over they don’t find me in my gown with a White Russian in hand – they can see I mean business. And I have the opportunity to collaborate here – often with writers and other designers.
What else are you influenced and inspired by?
I continue to love and document vernacular/informal typography ever since working at Orange Juice design in the early 2000s. Art and travel also inspires me and forces me to approach and think about design differently. Music influences my mood and work. Walking on the mountain clears my head. Beer and cricket balance my chakra.
How important are self-initiated projects to you?
I keep a sketchbook and try to do as many self-initiated projects as time and budget allow. Only positive things come from self-initiated projects – from recognition and self-belief to people approaching you to do more of the stuff that you did – because you loved doing it in the first place.
What advice would you give to someone looking to do what you do?
I have a poster in the office that reads “I have a strategic plan. It’s called doing stuff.” A lot of the advice I was given by other designers when I went on my own is still relevant to me today.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are your plans going forward?
Currently in the system are: a website for a law firm, posters for an exhibition display, three corporate identities and an illustration for a 12 metre-long mural in Johannesburg. Oh, and updating my own website which is always the last thing I get time for!
For more, visit studiobotes.com
Studio Botes for Cavalli Stud & Wine Farm:
Designer: Brandt Botes
Illustrator: Doug Powell (wine labels)
Studio Botes for Sygnia Personal investments:
Designer and art director: Brandt Botes
Copywriter: Ian Malone
Studio Botes for The Touch Company:
Studio Botes for Bletchley Park:
Creative director: Kelly Putter
Studio Botes for Obox:
Studio Botes for 360eight:
Creative director: Wallace Seggie
Studio Botes for Virgin Active:
Art director: Daniël Orme