Malawi needs art, design schools

 

Christopher Ngalu is a 29-year-old graphic design student who recently reached the semi-finals of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. The awards aim at celebrating creations that graphic designers make as they advance the designing industry. Our arts editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with Ngalu to talk more about the awards and his journey this far.

Ngalu: Graphics and art are becoming more prominent

Q

: You received an award from Adobe Systems Incorporated, known in short as Adobe, the American multi-national software company. What is the award all about?

A

: I have received a certificate for reaching the semi-finals of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. The awards celebrate student achievement, reflecting the powerful convergence of technology and the creative arts. The competition, which showcases individual and group projects created with industry-leading Adobe creative software, honours the most talented and promising student graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, digital filmmakers, developers and computer artists from the world‘s top institutions of higher education. I qualified for the competition because I am a graphic design student at the Greenside Design Centre College of Design in Johannesburg South Africa. I won the award alongside another student from the University of Australia.

 

Q

: Does this impact Malawi in anyway?

A

: It does impact Malawi in terms of awareness about the country and to also open a discussion about Malawi to start taking art and design seriously, since it is now getting recognition on international platforms. And also more importantly, my project, which got me the semifinalist spot, is titled Design and Heritage, basically talks about African designers and how they should always incorporate African elements in their designs, because this helps to keep our heritage alive and stay original. We have beautiful inspirations among us that the world is waiting on to see.

 

Q

: You have also recently achieved other milestones. Can you share with us some of those?

A

: In 2013, I founded a fashion line called Creative Base to celebrate African culture, heritage, and history using bright prints and bold designs, infused with 90s nostalgia. It is through Creative Base that I was recently picked to be one of the pioneers of the first African fashion digital showroom, called Industrieafrica.com. Industrieafrica.com has been dubbed Africa’s fashion Wikipedia by Vogue Magazine. It curates the top African brands. It features on both Vogue and GQ magazine.

Creative Base has also seen me being featured on Kenyan Airways inflight magazine called Msafiri.

I have also of late been successful and chosen to design a logo for the British Council’s ‘Our Shared Goal’ project. The project is focused on raising more awareness on gender-based violence.

 

Q

:Would you say graphics and art are becoming an important discipline on the international stage? If yes, what can Malawi do to tap into this growth?

A

: Graphics and art are becoming more prominent yes, because right now almost every product we see has some sort of design attached to it. Whether it is from the development stage or after a product comes to life, someone has to design it first before production. So, the industry is big and Malawi needs to also have good designs but that will require having good designers to help the country tell its story in a way that is competitive on the global market. A good example is packaging. Most Malawian products can be easily distinguished on the market because of how they look. We need more graphic expertise to help us change some of these branding problems and this can be done by mostly encouraging art subjects from the root, like primary going up. We do not have a lot of that, even in secondary schools, we are lacking art and design subjects. At tertiary level, there are very limited courses on designing. We need to improve our design education system and also support the people that are already doing that.

 

Q

:With so much entertainment around, it may be difficult for youth to be focused and remain on a career path that would transform their lives in the future.  What advice do you have for them?

A

: My advice to the youth is that they just need to stay focused, have goals in life and stick to them. As they say, when you stand for nothing, you fall for anything. So, youth need to stand for something and have an eye on certain goals to work towards and remain focused. Fun things will always be there in life but chances to make something out of your life might not come twice.

 

Q

: What subjects does one need to be good at to pursue a career in graphic design?

Q

: Mostly, design is something which is inborn or inherent, so, to be honest, the person just needs to have an eye for design and art. You just need to first take interest in drawing and creating things because design is all about visualising and putting together ideas and bringing them to life. Art classes can help. And now with the internet classes are free, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube. I have personally learnt a lot of things off YouTube. Other subjects that also help with design are social studies and mathematics. Social Studies because design deals with offering solutions to people, so, a designer needs to understand his social context in order to deliver a good product and mathematics because we deal with a lot of angles and measurements.

 

Q

: What are your future aspirations?

A

: For now, my future aspirations are just to make sure I get to that level where, when people think of good graphic design, then they should think of me as the go-to person for that job, basically making a name is my main goal at this point so that when I am set, I can offer solutions and help create jobs in my society. n

 

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