The media industry is full of creatives in all sectors and the ability to capture one’s attention is a skill that not everybody seems to understand. Within music it’s been said that appearance is everything, how you market yourself visually & physically, leaves a huge impact in the way people perceive you and your music. This time HYPE had a Q & A with Green Robot Design agency owner Kgomotso Mautloa, which included discussions on how & why he decided to take his career and his thoughts on the importance of marketing and visual presentation.
You are the owner & creative director of Green Robot Design, an agency that believes in turning thoughts into functional ideas that will (and we quote) “leave a lasting impression”, nobody can go against GRD after looking at the agency’s achievements. Could you tell us your story on how & why you decided to take on this career…?
Well the company was started a couple of years back by myself and a good friend of mine. We were two varsity students who identified a gap within the design market. We essentially wanted to bring really good design and concepts through to the smaller companies who couldn’t afford the main stream prices. But more so over and above that, we were really two creative students who wanted to make a mark and leave a legacy behind. For me, personally, I had a goal to try and live up to what my parents started; they are both well-known artists and it seemed like I should follow suit and really push to be the best that I can be, and pursue and nurture my creative talents. I’m happy to see where we are at the moment.
Green Robot Design has created websites & marketing schemes (in the form of album covers and designs) for some of SA’s top artists and DJs such as Khuli Chana, Mo Flava, DJ Dimplez and DJ Vigilante to mention a few. Many people do not recognise the importance of marketing and visual presentation, especially when it comes to artists. Is the process as easy as people think it is?
Marketing and visual presentation is very important, it’s really vital if anything. Most artists overlook the fact that people often see your artwork before they hear your music. You need to capture your audience visually before you can even engage with them. So mildly put, it’s not that easy. We need to be on top of trends, look at what people like, what they don’t like, and to add onto that people consume so many visuals on a daily basis that it’s imperative that one stands out. Let’s take hip hop for instance. There are so many artists that are trying to get out there and so many are releasing new material every day; what’s going to make you stand out from first glance? The visual aesthetic of your artwork. I think even social media and the marketing elements that tie into that are also important, but artists don’t realise its importance.
The GRD team consists of extremely talented, young & driven individuals. Do you look for specific credentials or attributes when building a strong team?
Surprisingly most of the guys that are working within the team are guys that have approached us to work for the company. That shows me that our team are proactive and take the initiative. They’re go-getters. There’s a certain characteristic that some people possess who just show that they are someone who will add value. Most people are trying to cut a cheque, some people want to add value and they know what type of value they can add, and I can respect that. Someone who wants to see themselves grow and see their company grow – that’s what I look for. There are those who are looking for a job, and those who are looking for a career. I enjoy working with people who form part of the latter – people who are in it for the long run and have a passion for the field. I feel super blessed to have the people I have in my team: Lebo, Mdu, Xoliswa, Tiro, Lungelo, Junior and Ndumiso. An awesome bunch to say the least…
GRD opened its doors in 2007. What difficulties did you face when you were still in the “construction” stage of your agency?
Every possible struggle any entrepreneur faces: stability, cash flow, equipment & employees. But you need to keep your eyes on the prize; you need to set your goals out; identify and plan how you’re going to get there. It’s without saying that the goal posts change frequently, but that comes with an ever changing climate. But more than anything, I’ve realised the biggest difficulty has been opportunity. We all want the opportunity to showcase what we can do. A lot of people don’t want to give the opportunity to the next man, for whatever reason. It’s a mind-set that we need to change, now!
Some of your noticeable achievements have led you to being saluted by Hansa Pilsener for being such a big dreamer & further more being announced as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans by the Mail & Guardian. What would you say is the formula to being successful? Considering many young South Africans tend to lose hope in making their dreams come true.
There’s no clear formula especially because success is interpreted in different way by everyone. Seeing me on a billboard doesn’t essentially make me successful, in that instance I was noted to be a big dreamer. I really feel that hard work and determination, and clear goals and good support really goes a long way. I’m really privileged to have a great support structure from home, work and friends. As long as I’m doing good for them I feel I’m successful in that regard because they have to some extent made me who I am. When it comes to chasing your dreams, no one will push you to pursue your dreams, they are your dreams and no one is here to see you fulfill them; you need to do it for YOU!
What are your personal opinions on the growth of our local music industry?
It’s really interesting to see, especially from both angles that I sit on. From the consumer side where one sees and listens to so much happening within the industry, it’s definitely growing and there’s definitely a lot of work being done. From the design/marketing/service provider angle, you really see the level at which artists and promoters are pushing; a lot more thought, a lot more is being done to further artists careers and more so they are seeing the relevance of being visual and being audible at the same time. If we are all working towards doing that, we’ll have a really good industry that artists can actually live on, maybe even retire on…
Which artists are currently on your playlist?
2lee Stark, Cassper Nyovest, Cassie Veggies & Zakwe. There’s a lot more though…
Where do you see GRD in the next 5 years?
[Laughs] Still in Newtown where we are currently based. On a more serious note, I’d like to see us grow from strength to strength; to be a more diverse agency. I currently like the size of the business, but sometimes you don’t foresee the growth and you’re overwhelmed when the company does grow. But like I’d like to keep the growth very organic – that will help keep us niche and very unique in our methodology.
Any advice you could dish out to young people trying to build successful businesses such as Green Robot Design?
Keep at it, don’t get deterred by anyone or anything, just keep pushing and do good work. Good work always has a way of reaping rewards. Like my dad use to say to me, ‘Do what you can do NOW, while your mind and body still allow, cause you don’t want to be 40 years old and pulling all nighters’