The origins of graphic design can be traced all the way back to the genesis of human existence. From archaic cave paintings and ancient Roman graphics to manuscripts of the Middle Ages, Babylonian clay brick inscriptions and Egyptian hieroglyphics. It’s not a new profession, but the advent of computerised software did change the playing field for modern graphic design.

We caught up with Matthew Marais, founder and Creative Director of Inline Studio – a full-service graphic design, multimedia and web design agency based in East London. Matthew matriculated from Selborne College in 1994 and was accepted to attend Rhodes University in Grahamstown to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Art. After completing his first year at Rhodes, he realised that a career as an artist was not his calling, so he enrolled at East London Technikon for a diploma in graphic design through Port Elizabeth Technikon.

“In 2000 I packed my bags and moved to London. After a few years of working and travelling abroad I returned to SA and decided to spend a year studying the emerging field of web design. In 2003 I started my first web design business and in 2007 I launched Inline Studio…”

Hello Matthew! What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities as Creative Director of Inline Studio?

As the owner and only designer for many years, my responsibilities included, sourcing clients, client meetings, administration and all the web and graphic design work. Now as the Creative Director I am still involved with the client side of the business, but oversee a lot of the design work being produced.

Describe a typical day of work for you.

Email is the main source of client communication, so first thing is always to check emails. I then need to prioritise the work for the day and manage any continuing work or campaigns that we are still currently busy with. Some days include leaving the office to meet with clients to discuss their work or potential work. I need to monitor any work being produced and keep the design flow moving. My head designer, Julia Pols came on board at the beginning of this year and manages most of the client design work, while I still head up all the web site development.

What are the tools of the trade (e.g. software) that you use the most?

We rely entirely on Adobe Creative Cloud. Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, Dreamweaver, Animate and After Effects are the most commonly used programs for us. They handle design work from standard print media to websites, animation and motion graphics.

You’ve also been lecturing for 15 years at institutions like Damelin East London, CCS IT and ELMI College. How do you fit that into your schedule?

In the early years it involved very late nights and working weekends to keep up with my client work. Now that the business has grown and Julia has come on board, I have been able to get both jobs done mostly during normal working hours. The lecturing does vary in times, so some days I spend six hours in the classroom, while on others its only two.

What do you think are some common myths about your profession?

That we just make pretty pictures…

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Getting to understand a client and their design needs, often only through a few conversations, then formulating a plan of action and delivering the finished products. When the client reports back that the campaign, website or even a simple logo or business card is exactly what they were looking for, and has helped them achieved the initial results they were looking for. That’s the satisfaction.

Also, as a man with a family, getting paid at the end of every month also feels good. LOL!

What are the greatest work-related stresses, what keeps you up at night?

Deadline, deadlines, deadlines. Clients need their work completed in order to fit in with their marketing and promotional strategies, so the deadlines cannot be compromised. We generally avoid any issues through time management and constant and clear communication at all times.

What would you say are the best ways for a young designer to get his/her foot in the door?

This is a skills-based industry, so getting the right skills is imperative. Education in a skills-based environment is essential to become a designer. Also having an open mind, willingness to learn and to take feedback is very important.

Any other advice you can give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in graphic design?

Be prepared to put in a lot of work, long hours and difficult clients at times. But as a whole, if you are creative and have a passion for communicating visually, this is an amazing profession.

It is also getting more in demand as the world moves further and further into the digital media realm. Everything around us has been designed by someone somewhere, and graphic and new media designers are going to be at the forefront of designing the interfaces and digital media of the future.

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