INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring PORTRAIT Samantha Shan
Cape Town-based designer and illustrator Daniel Ting Chong has created countless brand identities, designed the looks of hot spots in South Africa and abroad and collaborated with brands like PUMA and OkayAfrica on sneakers and tees.
We caught up with him to find out more about his love for design, stand-out projects and what went into the creation of the new Design Indaba 2019 campaign.
When did you know that you wanted to be a designer?
I have always been interested in the creative industry since I was young. I used to draw a lot and my parents would always encourage me. When I was in high school, my design teacher Andrew Putter posed a question to the class: could we produce a piece of design that was commercially viable? I was 16 at the time and a sound designer, 3D designer and I got together to produce a digital magazine called I Eat Soup. I Eat Soup was a design platform that gave young creatives the opportunity to display their work. We had no idea what we were doing. We taught ourselves the basics of Photoshop and Flash to produce the magazine. Our naiveness was the best part of the entire project, as we were learning through playing and failing. We burned the magazine onto mini CDs in our bedrooms and printed the covers at a cheap local printer. We managed to get the magazine stocked at a South African boutique store called Bread & Butter. We were fortunate to sell a handful of copies for our first release. This was validation for me that I could make a living from being a designer.
What do you love about being creative on a daily basis?
Every day I’m lucky enough to work on various projects that require me to solve problems with creative thinking, using different tools and methods to manipulate typography, photography, colours and shapes – what doesn’t sound fun about that? I love the fact that I have to create something out of nothing and give empty spaces an emotion and personality. I love how rapidly the world is changing and how technology influences and expands the creative possibilities of what I do.
Take us through your new campaign for Design Indaba 2019. You view the campaign as a collaborative effort between yourself and computers. How did you come up with the idea of making use of AI?
How did you go about choosing the colour palette for this campaign?
Fundamentally, the colour palette would need to work well in digital and physical environments due to the different rollout scenarios for Design Indaba. In a digital space, the colours are vibrant and rich but they carry well in tangible executions too. We wouldn’t be able to utilise litho printing for all the executions so there had to be a good balance where the colours would display beautifully through digital printing. There seems to be a big trend about “the future of design” and what that visual language looks and feels like and I always felt disconnected to the approaches I’ve seen lately. I intentionally decided on simplistic shapes and colours that gave an emotion of fun and brightness but that also harmoniously worked well as a brand identity colour system. Because of the nature of next year’s theme I intended the visual identity and colour system to be accessible and simplified.
You’ve designed for brands like adidas, the New York Times, PUMA, Nike and Diesel, as well as created looks and identities for spaces such as Dear Maria and Baba-Boom. Is there a project of yours that particular stands out?
I truly value each project that I do, as each one wouldn’t exist without the other. Being commissioned to do international work always feels great, to be recognised on a global scale, however all the local projects are so rewarding. I love working with new businesses and existing local brands to communicate people’s stories through design. Maybe I’m being biased but I feel connected to the local work more, as those projects can add value to the South African landscape and I could have a small role in that positive change.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a few projects. There will be a project launching with PUMA early next year and this will be a South African-based project that’s utilised on a global scale. I’m working on a coffee shop in Saudi Arabia at the moment and I’m looking forward to that, as it is female-owned and carries a beautiful story to be told in their business.
Closer to home, I’m working on a few brand identities for a new jewellery brand with an extremely talented designer, a new menswear label only utilising fabrics and production in Africa, and then lastly a local food agency that has big ambitions to showcase food from an African perspective.