Grad Guide 2020: Cheyenne Fernánda Miller

Cheyenne Fernánda Miller‘s approach to design is unpretentious yet carefully considered, being of the belief that “great design holds the power to change the world”. Having studied at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, majoring in multimedia design, she is now completing her postgraduate degree while growing her creative agency Atelier Ferná and developing an app to connect young creatives of colour with more opportunities in the industry. For our yearly graduate series, we spoke with Miller about discovering her creative calling and philosophy as a designer.

Cheyenne Fernánda Miller

Where and what did you study?

To be completely honest with you, once I finished high school, I didn’t know the exact creative path I wanted to follow. What I did know is that I didn’t feel at home when looking at big universities. I almost studied architecture and had my heart set on the beauty of space and the built environment for a long time. I then ended up attending the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography and instantly felt that it was a perfect fit. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in visual communication at the end of 2020 and majored in a subject called multimedia. This included user-interface and user-experience (UI/UX) design, application design, front-end web design and development, animation, motion and game design. 

What drew you to pursue a path in design?

I think I’ve always been a creative at heart. I was always experimenting growing up. I was fascinated with objects and colour, singing at the top of my lungs and playing around with the inner workings of things – dissecting what intrigued me and finding new ways of putting those things back together. I was fortunate enough to come from a wolf-pack of strong women that always nurtured my passion for creating, even if that meant drawing on the walls as a kid. I drew on walls, so my mom painted the wall with chalk paint so I had the freedom to express whatever it was I was ‘designing’ back then. I also knew I could never stop creating. My aunt always told me to find my sense of wonder every day. So I did, and if I couldn’t find it, I created and designed it. Overall, a lot of influence throughout my life drew me to pursuing this path, but I think it all happened as it was meant to. I can’t visualise myself as anything but a creative, and design naturally took the reins to turn a passion into a career. 

Tell us about the work you created in your final year. Any projects that stand out for you?

The work I created was a confirmation of my personal style as a designer. I could really see how much I grew throughout the years when looking at last year’s work. The projects obviously had to fulfil their briefs but I really put a bit of myself into everything I did. When designing characters, I considered each of their life stories and tried to represent real human experience in my work. I also played a lot with colour and thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning more about what I enjoy creating and how I could use design to make an impact. One of my favourite project’s I’ve ever created was my mobile application titled The Diverse Creatives Collective. The app is basically a platform that benefits young creatives of colour and removes the aspect of elitism within private networks that aide in success of those privileged enough to access these networks. My app instead aims at providing access to equal opportunity for young diverse creatives. Stay tuned because I’ve actually extended this into my postgraduate studies. So keep a look out. 

What is your approach or philosophy as a designer?

I sincerely believe that well thought out, great design holds agency and the power to change the world. My philosophy as a designer is to stop and think about how my position and profession can impact the climate we live in, in the most effective and accessible way possible. I approach design like I approach beauty. Beauty to me is a religion. It is something I practice every single day. I attempt to think beautiful thoughts, touch beautiful things and therefore create beauty in all I do, think, say and make. Action and design go hand in hand too, it is not enough to just look and appreciate beauty, one must feel it and pass it on, like an energy. Design is not pretentious, it is balanced and honourable like nature, and when executed well, holds the key to change this world. 

How would you describe your style or aesthetic to someone who’d never seen your work before?

I would ask that person what they feel when they see my work. I’d say my work is fun and child-like in many ways. It uses a lot of hand-drawn pattern, illustration and bright, saturated colour to communicate interest and visual intrigue amongst its admirers. To me colour is a tool to bring attention to the subject at hand, whilst pattern fills negative space in a very playful and positive way. I’m a sucker for some beautiful typography so I’ve recently started to play around with more type in my designs.

Who would you most like to collaborate with in the local creative sphere?

The talent in the local creative sphere is currently booming. There are so many brilliant creatives, illustrators and designers doing amazing things, so it’s a bit of a difficult question but I think I would love to collaborate with Seth Pimentel as well as Karabo Poppy Moletsane. They are incredibly talented and hard working illustrators and although I’m more of a  UI/UX designer, I would still love to collaborate on a project with them and learn more about their process and personal journeys as designers, within a local South African context.

What are your plans for 2021? 

I am currently still at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, completing my postgraduate studies, formally known as a BA honours degree in visual communication. I’m currently majoring in multimedia design, user-interface and user-experience (UI/UX) design and application design and development. This year, I’m furthering the development of my Diverse Creatives Collective application, which will be complete by the end of 2021. From there, I guess we’ll see what the future holds but for now I’m studying, developing an app and I’m currently the creative director and founder of my own creative agency, Atelier Ferná. See for more insights into my undergraduate exhibition and project executions. I designed and coded the site myself however, currently it is only optimized for desktop use. 

Follow @cheyferna on Instagram.

Grad Guide is an annual series from Between 10and5, profiling some of South Africa’s most exciting creative graduates across the fields of fashion, art, photography and design. Find the full 2020 Grad Guide here

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