Qondile Dlamini is a recent graphic design graduate from AAA whose final year project ‘The Mane Objective: Guide to Black Women’s Hair’ caught our eye. After further investigation we discovered a portfolio of research-rich projects providing information, from how birds get their colour to the most influential drum machines over the last half-century, presented in neat and colourful vector illustrations. For our grad series, we took a closer look at her well-crafted and genuinely interesting work and followed with some questions.
How and why did you become interested in graphic design?
Drawing has always been my thing, from a young age. Even back then I knew that I wanted to work in the creative industry, I just didn’t know how. I went to architecture school after I finished high school and only then did I discover many facets of design. I fell in love with design and I wanted to do everything.
After completing my degree, I wanted to expand my skill set, I knew a lot of theory about how to make things beautiful but buildings are too big for test prints so for my 21st birthday I asked my parents to let me study graphic design.
What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about it?
I get to draw inspiration from all around me and it has made me more observant, I appreciate that. It’s a rewarding process every single time, even when you don’t get it right.
How would you describe your style, and what influences it?
I work in a flat detailed vector style. I love doing digital art. My style is heavily influenced by my experience of African Visual Culture. I am inspired by interactions that happen around me and I therefore like my work to be expressive because it is personal.
Which of your creative projects are you most proud of? Please tell us about it:
The project I am most proud of is The Mane Objective.
I left the creamy crack behind and decided to grow my hair natural, no more relaxer. I tried going to hairdressers but they kept suggesting using product, and the good product was a bit pricey.
To remedy this I looked to the Internet, where I discovered natural hair websites. I really got into them and when my specialist brief came about I had a vast amount of information about caring for natural hair. As part of my research I also spent time talking to different women and finding out what their perceptions and experiences are when it comes to their hair. Many women did not like the natural texture of their hair simply because it was difficult to manage.
With this insight I went on to collate this information and created a beginners guide for natural hair enthusiasts. A guide to black women’s hair paying particular attention to haircare that can be done at home.
The guide book was accompanied by posters that were a bright and fun reminder to keep the user on track.
Do you have a design philosophy or particular process?
Research, research, research. As a tool of communication, graphic design has to be rational. Expressing myself becomes a secondary yet important part of the process because then a machine could do it and that would render me redundant.
How has your work changed or developed over the last year?
I have a much better understanding of good design, and how to use design principles in my own work. While I still prefer thinking on paper, getting more comfortable with my computer has also been of great service to my work.
I was never a big fan of using colour; I found it a daunting task. Over the last year I played around a lot with colour in my work and have been enjoying the results.
Was studying at AAA what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since your first year? And if so, how?
AAA surpassed my expectations. Before school I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know. We got a lot of practical experience. For every project we were responsible for the concept, the design, the production, as well post production. We don’t just draw pretty pictures all day.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
My second year lecturer always told us she would rather let us try new approaches to our work and fail than have us get comfortable with what can already do. Failure is part of the design process.
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?
This year is exciting and scary at the same time. I have a lot to get through but I am hoping to officially join the iKineo team who let me intern with them. I also am looking forward to doing more work with different people, because I still have a lot to learn and collaborations are a mutually beneficial way to learn. As for beyond, I’m working on being great.
Where can we stay updated with your work?
You can see more of my work on my tumblr iqewdoodles.tumblr.com.