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Creative Academy graduate wins Student of the Year

by 13 Dec 2019Alumni, News & Events

Communication Design student Danielle Benadé de Wit has been appointed Student of the Year in the Financial Mail AdFocus Awards. At the Creative Academy lecturers have long been impressed with her purposeful and well researched approach to design – now the rest of the country is set to discover her skills.

Just days after presenting her final year portfolio in Communication Design, Danielle Benadé de Wit faced an imposing audience. With the attention of the advertising industry’s greats fixed firmly on her, she stepped onto the stage – and received the award for Student of the Year at the Financial Mail AdFocus Awards.

This annual event recognises the brightest minds in advertising for creative marketing and advertising effectiveness. Danielle was one of three finalists chosen out of hundreds of advertising and design students around the country. Creative Academy design lecturer Clayton Sutherland had entered her on the strength of the first six months of her final year work. The judges clearly agreed with his assessment, with the result that Danielle scooped the Student of the Year prize.

We caught up with her following the awards function to get her take on the competition and her studies at the Creative Academy.

Shortly after completing her BA in Communication Design, Danielle Benadé de Wit won the Financial Mail AdFocus Student of the Year. Here she is with design lecturers Clayton Sutherland left) and Wiehan de Jager.

What does it mean to you to win Student of the Year? What was it like to attend the event?

It was such a surreal experience. I didn’t realise the scope of the awards until I got to the actual ceremony. Being surrounded by the best of the best in the industry was so inspiring and humbling, not to mention quite daunting too. But the many people I met from various agencies were really encouraging.

I feel honoured winning Student of the Year. Ending my student career on this note is really rewarding. I can’t take all the credit, though – the mentorship and guidance of my lecturers has been significant to my growth over the past three years. A massive thank you to all of them.

You’re a Communication Design graduate, but this isn’t your first degree. You’ve previously studied architecture. What prompted the shift?

I loved conceptualising and designing spaces. Throughout the course of my architecture degree, I found myself gravitating to concept and purpose more than the very technical, construction aspects of the field. I loved graphically presenting my buildings and speaking of the story and purpose behind the designed space. As a result I knew I needed to be moving more into the sphere of Communication Design.

Danielle conceptualised this mindful eating experience as part of her studies. She designed not only packaging, but also the appearance of the community platform, recipe cards, mindfullness journal and more.

How did you choose the Creative Academy?

Before choosing a school, I did a fair amount of research. The Creative Academy immediately stood out for me. Not only did it have a captivating website (visual first impressions are key!), but I was drawn to their ethos. I loved the fact that during your first year, you get exposed to all the design disciplines (Communication Design, Interaction Design and Motion Design). From there you are able to make an informed and experienced choice about what to major in.

What did you find the most stimulating about your design studies?

The conversations in and out of the classrooms. The Creative Academy introduced me to a range of creative and interesting individuals, from my peers to the lecturers. I was exposed to all sorts of conversations, opinions and ways of doing and thinking. I found this to be most stimulating and educating. It has honestly shaped the way I design and how I view the world in many ways.

Danielle’s designs are not only visually appealing but conceptually strong, with strong business insights underpinning the creative.

How does your architecture background inspire your design work?

The greatest lesson I learnt during my architecture studies was that every element in a design needs to have a purpose. Nothing should be just for ornamentation. This is something I’ve brought into my graphic design work. My design approach is purposeful and a sensitively researched one.

I would love to work within a synthesis of architecture and design. I love branding and capturing a story within a specific colour palette, type, etc. I am inspired by the brand identity M&C Saatchi Abel produced for the Zeitz MOCAA – it seamlessly brings together the creative worlds of art, architecture and design.

With your architectural insights, it makes sense that your final year research paper took the Silo District and the newly constructed Zeitz MOCAA as focus. Tell us a bit about it.

I was very interested in researching South African architecture and the psychology rooted within space. My paper explores the idea of philosophical, psychoanalytic and postcolonial enquiries into space. It questions the idea of ‘belonging’ and familiarity or non-familiarity. I deconstructed the space and revealed that multiple layers and memories exist under the surface. These not only influence the physical and conceptual aspects of the space, but ultimately influence its psychological narrative.

A logo and visual identity for an architecture firm. Danielle is inspired by work that brings together the worlds of art, architecture and design.

What are your immediate plans for the future?

I am currently completing my design internship. From early next year I will be on the lookout for job opportunities. Ideally, I would love to work in a small design agency.

Also read: What makes Creative Academy graduates so employable? Longbeard CEO Matthew Sanders reveals why Creative Academy students are successful in converting internships into careers.

What advice do you have for prospective design students?

Use your student years to fully explore and experiment with a range of different design styles, ideas and techniques. Your design studies should be platform for you to discover what you’d like to say in the world and how you’d like to say it. Enjoy it and embrace it!

See more of Danielle’s work on her Behance account or visit her website.

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