Kirsten Bennett completed her studies at The Red & Yellow School with a focus on art direction and graphic design, and is now a Junior Art Director at M&C Saatchi Abel. With a sharp and often humourous approach and a love for hand crafted work, she nabbed two bronze awards at the Loeries last year. We caught up with the up and comer to chat about some of her past projects, what her creative process entails and the best advice she received while studying.
How and why did you become interested in graphic design and art direction?
I hadn’t fully realised my passion for design until a moment during my gap year in 2012. I knew then that I was passionate for NGO work and so spent my gap year as an intern at Habitat for Humanity in Cape Town.
A few months into my internship my boss past a project onto me that no one else wanted to do – a rough poster design for a presentation happening at the end of the week. I found myself delighted, ridiculously eager at the sight of glue, scissors and coloured paper. In a moment I realised I had been starved of creating and that I needed to satisfy that craving with design as a career.
Much of your portfolio is made up of packaging design. What attracts you to this field?
I only noticed that my portfolio was filled with packaging projects right at the end of my final year at college – ha! I hadn’t specifically chosen that field, it just kind of happened. I’ve always had a love for packaging design – but this year I’m going into advertising, so we will see how 2016 turns out.
Please tell us about some of the themes and ideas that you’ve been exploring in your student work.
I am passionate about the honesty in hand crafted work. If any number of people were handed a pencil and asked to draw the same thing, each drawing would be different – obviously. But there is something beautiful in the truth of that and I focused a lot of my attention in my work on making sure my projects were genuine and hand done.
How did this feed into your final project? What was the concept and how did you execute it?
The brief was to design a new brand identity and launch a campaign for Functional Nutrition International, a new snack and beverage brand. The products were sugar-free, clean and healthy without the bullshit of hidden ingredients. With this insight we built our concept around brutal honesty. Photography was the medium we used in the packaging designs with simple and clean images of the content of each product, relating back to the concept of honesty.
What does your creative process entail?
I like to scribble down any and every thought I have during my creative process. I keep a book for each new project and make sure any doodle or thought, relevant or irrelevant, is noted. From research into the brand to scamping and craft play, all my explorations are kept in a workbook. It keeps me grounded as I get to look back on the journey right through to the final design outcome.
Which part do you love the most: the process of creating or seeing the final product?
I love seeing the final product! Sometimes the process is tough and I often doubt myself so when it eventually comes together, and works well, there is this sense of relief. I can’t count the amount of times I have turned to my copywriter at the end of a brief and said how it has felt like the longest project ever, but stoked at how it has turned out!
You won 2 bronze awards at the Loeries in 2015. Tell us a bit about your winning projects and which was your favourite.
I won a bronze Loerie for an Airbnb Integrated Campaign and another for Project Literacy Print Ads. My favourite project would have to be the Airbnb Campaign because I feel like it’s the most genuine to my creative style.
I used gouache paint as my main medium and had a lot of fun exploring with it. I loved creating my own typeface and painting mini, arbitrary scenes. It was also the one time I was able to create an animation – it’s something I don’t do often and I find it challenging to use After Effects, but in the end I really love it.
What’s the best advice you received during your final year?
Walk away. Sometimes when you’ve stared at a brief or an idea for too long, you get stuck. Put the idea at the back of your mind for a while and eventually the right way forward will come to you.
Describe your dream job.
I have no clue what my dream job is, to be honest. I suppose I could be very cliché and admit that my dream job isn’t a “job” at all. I hope that one day my daily routine will involve designing beautiful things and getting paid to do it, without feeling like it’s a 8 to 5 kind of day.
See more of Kirsten’s work on Behance.
Meet more recent grads over here.