Featuring Jo Petzer from Cosmic Creations – Local Creatives in South Africa
Graphic design in South Africa
When I think “graphic design”, I used to think “Photoshop”, “ag, come on, this is easy” and “Can’t I just do it myself?”. Now, graphic design in South Africa holds new meaning and understanding. This, especially since I move heavily in creative spaces. With the influx of small businesses on the rise, business owners need to be fully aware of everything that has the potential to differentiate them and understanding graphic design is just one of them.
Local Creatives I love
Following my last feature post with the brilliant visual artist, arts writer and curator, Scott Eric Williams (who now is an assistant curator at the UCT Michaelis Gallery), I decided to feature a woman who has quickly become a source of creative inspiration. I also worked very closely with her in the design process of my new logo. And this FANTASTICAL WOMAN IS Jo Petzer!
We did a quick interview (the interview was quick, just finding the questions took forever!) and I’ve shared it below.
Let’s get into this interview!
Why did you start Cosmic Creations?
Two reasons. The first being that my boss at the time (we’re talking around 1996), in the printing shop where I worked, refused to upgrade the company’s outdated design equipment and programs but still expected me to ‘keep up with the times’ in the work I produced – so I resigned because I just couldn’t work like that. And secondly, to be at home with my needy daughter so I could spend more time with her and help her with homework in the afternoons.
Who are the people behind the scenes at Cosmic Creations?
Right now it’s just me, Jo, and 12 cats who help/hinder my work in varying degrees. I do collaborate with an established web developer, and sometimes I ‘hire’ my daughter in London to help if I have an overflow of certain work. My sister, Vic, in New Zealand partners with me on my DIY Designers project, a Cosmic Creations initiative where we help non-designer small-business owners learn about the basics of design and how to tackle their own design projects.
Why do you think good design principals and practices are so important in business today?
Marketing is essentially visual communication. With loads of brands in our faces all the time, on social media and in the shops, visual overload is a real thing. Good design helps to ensure that your business isn’t just ‘another sponsored post’ or ‘product on the shelf’. It makes sure that your product or company stands out in a crowded market place, appeals to, and is remembered by the appropriate audience.
In what ways do you help people outside of your packages and services provided?
My sister, who is also a designer (and an illustrator) and I have started a small online community called DIY Designers. It caters to business owners who want to learn how to tackle their own branding, design, and advertising pieces and is a safe place for them to ask us any design-related questions and get constructive feedback on their work. Oh, and we usually send out monthly image-pack giveaways for our subscribers to use in their designs.
If you had one golden rule for a newbie designer or someone who just wants to do their own designing, what would that be?
Firstly, I just need to say to anyone contemplating a career in graphic design (or if you’re thinking about DIYing your own design projects) that design isn’t art. Nor do you have to be extremely creative to be a designer. Design is problem-solving through visual communication. Most newbie designers don’t understand this and think that, as a designer, you have to be creative and/or artistic and that it’s ok to use graphic design as an outlet for self-expression. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have 2 golden rules. The first one is: know what good design looks like by researching it well, collecting examples of great design, and imitating those styles and concepts in your own work. In the same vein – also know what bad design looks like so you know if yours ever falls into this category.
And the second one is: always plan your designs so that they have a purpose and solve a relevant problem for the viewer. Draw up your design ideas onto a piece of paper before you go digital. This will save you a lot of frustration when you come to creating a design piece.
Oh, and here’s another one: practice as much as you can, and learn as much as you can about the program/s that you’re using by watching online tutorials and not being afraid to experiment with tools.
Which tool is your favourite and why: Photoshop, Corel Draw, illustrator, CANVA?
My personal favourite is Corel Draw – mainly because I was trained in that program and have been using it for almost 30 years. Because of that I am much quicker in Corel and can get more work done in less time – and at a higher quality – than in any other program. Design snobs tend look down on those of us who use Corel, and not consider us ‘high calibre’ designers if we don’t use the Adobe suite. But this is gross misinformation propagated by designers who have never used Corel efficiently.
Corel Draw can do anything that Adobe can do – and all in one place instead of across 2 or more applications like Adobe does. I do have the Adobe suite and use it if I have to but believe that design is not about the program you use. It’s about how you use it and how you apply the principles of design in your work. I do use Canva but only when a client wants to be able to edit their own work afterwards (ie. to set up templates for DIY Designers), and I’ll train clients in Canva to help empower them in their own businesses.
For fun: your favourite font and why!
Goodness, this is a difficult question. I love classic, minimalist sans serif typefaces like Swiss and Helvetica because they are really easy to read and help to communicate a message quickly (you literally have 2 seconds for a person to connect with your posts on social media before they scroll away). There are some hand script bundles that I like, especially those by local typographer Nicky Laatz. I tend to select fonts based on the brand style and requirements of a project, rather than because they’re my favourites or because they’re trending.
Final thoughts and thank you
Jo and her sister Vic are genuinely super nice people. They have helped me so much on my journey. Not only from advice with tools, but broadening my mind to think bigger and clearer.
Thank you so much you two!
Here’s a pic of them, just for fun 😉