Choosing a career path is one of the most important decisions in one’s life. It can, however, be very challenging and confusing if not planned properly. Some young people get into a particular career path without knowing what it actually entails.
Our “So you want to be…” weekly series aims at assisting young people in the process of choosing a career. We will be speaking to a practising professional who will let us know what the field is actually like. We will also speak to a first/second year university student who will tell us how they are finding the course. Was it what they expected or not?
This week, we look into a career in web design.
We caught up with Serena Boon, a 31-year-old owner of graphic design company Serena Babina Creative, which she started a year and half ago. She currently resides in Vredehoek, Cape Town. We also spoke to Ronewa Matsheketsheke, who is a second year web design student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Q & A with Serena Boon
Simamkele for Live SA: Where and what exactly did you study?
Serena Boon: I studied multimedia design, graphic design and illustration at City Varsity and graduated in 2001.
Live SA: Please take us through places you worked at post-tertiary.
Serena: After graduation, I moved to work in Vancouver, Canada but found that the market was hesitant to hire South Africans, and so I ended up doing basic design work as a freelancer for a small record label doing small amounts of design and Photoshop work. But you learn your best career lessons from the sh*tty jobs, so I’m happy I had that experience. A year-and-a-half later, I moved back home and at some point worked as a junior art director at a Cape Town advertising agency, earning peanuts and working around the clock.
I learned how to manage my time and balance my life. When I moved to a little design studio called Blue Ocean Design, I discovered my passion for typography. I had taken a module while studying and had always been fascinated by fonts and type. I would recommend this to others because typography is the foundation of design; it teaches you for good design must not only look beautiful, but needs to also work.
I started my own company. With over 10 years experience in the industry, I feel I have the expertise and I can focus on all elements of design I’m passionate about: typography, brand development, small e-commerce solutions for young businesses, design and illustration. Plus it pays way better.
Live SA: What subjects are, in your opinion, key to this profession?
Serena: You need a creative subject like art and graphic design.
Live SA: What personality traits does one need to be a web designer?
Serena: You definitely need to be creative, focused and patient. You must be a logical thinker because for a design job to be successful, you need to break down the problem and find a creative solution. You’ll need to look at all the elements, from all angles, and visually and technically bring it to life.
Live SA: What are some of the biggest challenges in this field?
Serena: The market is saturated and there are so many designers out there so when you get work, treasure it and take it graciously. It’s also a job that takes up a lot of time but if you can learn to manage your time and work-load, the balance will come.
Live SA: How easy is it to find work in web design?
Serena: In this day and technological age, there is a huge demand for digital work but you need to be on top of your game if you want to get it. There are opportunities for growth within the industry as well if you push yourself hard enough.
Live SA: What are the most exciting projects that you have worked on?
Serena: When working in advertising I was amongst the team of creatives who redeveloped the look and feel of two world renowned brands (Phillip Morris & Pick n Pay). I also worked on a collective of brands for The Foschini Group.
Live SA: Does the job pay well?
Serena: First, get your foot in the door and earn your stripes as a junior. If you do that well, eventually a good salary will come as you work your way up. I work for myself now. The money can be inconsistent, but there are so many opportunities if you drive yourself to work. And I can earn four times more than what I would at an agency just from one small design job.
Live SA: What advice would you give a current web design student?
Serena: Always do your research, ask questions and remain inquisitive. The more you ask the more you will learn. Always keep your eyes open to what’s going on around you and make sure you are always finding things to inspire you.
Q&A with Ronewa Matsheketsheke
Live SA: What made you want to study web design?
Ronewa: I was always on the internet in high school, checking out various websites. The colours and the pop-ups caught my attention, and I really wanted to know how they were created.
Live SA: Please tell us about your experience studying web design.
Ronewa: I am enjoying every moment of it. Web design on its own teaches you how to think outside of the box. You have to think of the consumer because it’s always about attracting the user, which is not always easy.
Live SA: What did you and did not expect from the course?
Live SA: Which direction do you want to take within the web design industry?
Ronewa: My dream is to work with well-known companies such as John Brown Media, which is a big media company, and hope to be given the opportunity to manage the content as I also have an interest in writing. Most importantly though, I want to be both a web designer (who focuses on how the site looks and how customers interact with it) and a developer (who focuses on how the site works and that it runs effectively).
Live SA: What would be your advice to a student who wants to study web design?
Ronewa: First, you must know what you want and have a clear vision about where you are going. Then you need to be inquisitive and a hard-worker. Be deadline-driven, creative and love the career. You must also expect to meet different clients and to travel more often.
Here are institutions that offers web design:
CPT 021 466 6800
JHB 011 242 6360
021 959 6767
Telephone 012 420 3111
031 373 2000
Follow me on Twitter: @Simamkele_M