It’s been said that Creativity is “the tendency to generate or recognise ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others” and that in order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or have the ability to views things from different perspectives. SA is home to a number of talented creative people, who are highly respected in their fields of work and this would easily play out as testament if one just looks at the many achievements or breakthroughs that have been accomplished by our local creatives. One creative that has set major platforms for himself and done so in a way that can only be absorbed as amazing to the common individual is non-other than Cape Town illustrator, designer & artist Daniel Ting Chong, who has not got any impressive list of achievements but has also managed to fully function as creative being in all that he does and we at HYPE got the opportunity to talk to him about his story from humble beginnings to him becoming such a major player in the creative world.
You’re an illustrator, designer & artist, how did you become the person that you are today?
I have always been drawn towards creativity in some form or manner. When I was younger I used to sketch a lot, however it was only in High School when design became more tangible for me. My design teacher posed a question to the class to produce a product that could be viable to sell commercially. I teamed up with a sound designer and a 3D designer to produce a digital magazine called ‘I Eat Soup’ who were a platform for young creatives (7-18 years) to showcase their work. Being in High School, we were not technically trained in the software to produce the magazine but that was the best part, the exploring & self-taught method is so much fun. We managed to sell the magazine at Bread & Butter which was a small creative boutique store in Cavendish (Cape Town) and The Zone (Johannesburg). Our first volume sold over 300 copies and we couldn’t believe this being High School students and especially that people would be interested in buying a digital magazine that we made in our bedrooms. The magazine was created in Adobe Flash which is pretty much obsolete now, but at the time it seemed relevant & suitable for our project as we could incorporate interactive elements & sound within the magazine. It was from this self-motivated project that I decided to dedicate my life to the creative industry. Whilst in matric & my tertiary studies, I worked for a few YDE doing print collateral for their ranges. After studying I worked at a small design studio in Cape Town called ‘The President’. I worked with an amazing creative director, Peet Pienaar, who taught me so much about print design and ways to redefine mundane design communication. After The President I decided to go into freelance and currently I’m still freelancing at a studio space in Woodstock.
With such an impressive list of occupations, it would be interesting to know how you keep your creative juices filled up, so in other words, who or what inspires you on a daily basis?
Every project demands different types of objectives and that will always continue to make your brain tick about new ways to solve problems through a creative means. You can never look for inspiration, searching for it would make you frustrated. It is often everything in your life that you can pull ideas from. I always try keep myself up to date with technological advancements because as a designer, you can only create new and old things with tools you have knowledge of, but most important is the research. Research lays down the foundation for all good ideas and the way it looks is only the decorative part. I also think having a balance in life helps a lot; you can’t sit in front of a computer or sketchbook all day. I play basketball for a local club and part of a running crew, which helps take your mind off the deadlines, allowing space for good ideas.
Are there certain challenges or lessons you had to face in order for you to reach the stage/level that you have reached today?
Definitely, failing, failing and failing. In every project there are challenges and something to learn from. Being a freelancer, you need to be educated about things outside of actual design work. For example, things like tax, pricing, production methods and managing clients are things I’m still trying to improve on or be more educated about. You have to sacrifice a bit of yourself to allow space for who you want to become as a designer and it goes without saying that you can’t get better if you’re not willing to fail.
The whole idea of being a “Creative”, seems to be an on-going trend amongst the youth lately, what would your definition of a “Creative” be if asked to describe the term? And do you think there is a certain misconception in the way we perceive the role of being a “Creative”?
I definitely think the term “Creative” has a big misconception. A general perspective of a “Creative” nowadays is very blurred and disingenuous. I really think everyone is creative in their own way. People in government, medicine, science are creative in some form but they don’t consider themselves creative because of the ideology of the word. For me, a creative person is someone who questions objectives and solves them in the simplest and most positive manner.
You’ve worked with a number of well-known brands, is there a certain quality a brand needs to have before you make the decision to collaborate with them?
I would work with any brand that I honestly connect with and feel is doing something positive. If I feel the brand is unethical based on the specific project or their trade profession then I would turn down the project politely.
How would you describe what you do?
“A designer and illustrator for local and international brands commissioned for brand identity and illustration work”.
What’s your opinion on the development of South Africa’s Street culture?
It is really great, full and getting much stronger. Over the last couple of years I’ve seen really amazing things happening in the scene from local guys like 2Bop and Sol-Sol getting international recognition for their work and rightly so. International product has become more accessible to the South African market but at the same time, lots of local street wear brands and music producers are getting major exposure internationally. We are in an interesting space where we still look at the international scene and aspire to that but South Africa’s Street culture scene has grown it’s self-belief, developing its own aesthetic, whether it’s making their own music, sneakers, clothes or style of dance. South Africa has its own way of doing things and there is an interesting mash up of local & international aesthetics coming through. We can only hope the culture gets better and stronger in South Africa.
What’s the best advice you have gotten?
I’ve been given so much great advice in my career and I wouldn’t be where I am now with only considering one piece of advice, but something that has resonated with me recently is “You can choose to work hard or you can choose not to work hard.” Sometimes people ask me how I got to the level that I am now. What does it take to become a good designer? There is no guide showing you the A-B-C’s on how to be a good designer but it comes down to hard work and dedication to learning and practice.
Any future projects you currently working on that we can look out for?
I’m working on two shoe designs for a global sports brand that I can’t mention yet. A project that is close to my heart is that I’m doing the brand identity for ‘Lightie’ which is a solar-powered light that fits into a Coke bottle, which is hopefully going to be giving light to over 2 billion people in Africa.