Katlego Tshuma

This week we had a conversation with Johannesburg born multidisciplinary artist Katlego Tshuma. Tshuma recently won the Nando’s Hot Young Designer competition for his “Sangu” bench design. We talk to him about where it all started, his design process when creating the bench and where he finds inspiration.

CN: Let’s start with who you are and what you do?

KT: I am Katlego Tshuma, currently I am a multidisciplinary artist focusing on design. I focus on design as a means for driving conversations in public and private spaces. I also do a bunch of other things, I do motion graphics, product design, graphic designs and I’ve worked in advertising. It’s very difficult to bring it down to one thing. The best way I can describe what I do is by saying that I solve problems.

CN: What is your upbringing?

KT: I was born in Thembisa in Johannesburg. I moved around a lot. I’ve lived in Pretoria, I’ve lived in the East Rand, right now I’m living in Ballito. I wouldn’t say that I represent a certain space. I’m moving around, I am not a tree, I have feet and with feet we can move.

CN: How did your design journey begin?

KT: I wouldn’t say that it’s been a design journey in particular. In 2013 I was working at the airport handling the baggage, then was moved to the customer service department, I quit my job and bought a camera. So, when I started out, I started in photography, taught myself photography for a couple of months, published my own book, then started my own website; ran that for a few years. Then I got into advertising as a web master, I then moved to the motion graphics department. Got head hunted by Joe Public, I worked there for a few months, I quit and then I designed the Nando’s bench and the rest is history.

Throughout his many changes, Tshuma continued learning. He learnt Art Direction, how to do motion graphics and did film post production at AAA.

Now that we have a better understanding of Katlego Tshuma as a designer and how it all started, we turn our attention to the Nando’s HYD competition which he was announced the winner of recently.

CN: When you entered the competition, what did you hope to achieve?

KT: My intention was just to show the world that I can solve problems in a competitive space and still be number one in that space. It was to show that I can solve problems best or in a particular way that can be of value to people. I wanted to show that with my work. I challenged myself, I asked myself; “How can I show the world that I am the best at doing this.” and the competition gave me the opportunity to do that.

Tshuma then says: “I approach design from an art perspective. I am aware that I am not an artist but I am a designer and I am aware that through design we can drive conversation. For example, winning the Nando’s HYD competition is now opening the conversation about Tsonga people and what is “Sangu”, it presented an opportunity to have a conversation about heritage.”

CN: What has changed in your life now that you’ve won the competition?

KT: Currently, I’m on holiday but there are going to be some changes. We’re working on prototyping and executing the bench design. Where can we get it manufactured? These are the kind of things that are still in the pipeline but at the time of this interview, nothing much has changed in my life, I’m still Katlego.

CN: What inspired your design?

KT: I’m very specific with the things I do. I’m Tsonga. If you look at the name and the shape of the bench, the letter “S” is part of the design and the name. It all ties back in with heritage. I’m Tsonga, the name of the bench is Tsonga and the colours used are Tsonga. It was a big shoutout to our forefathers. That was the aesthetic, as far as function goes; I just followed the brief from Nando’s to create a Covid friendly bench, where social distancing was still being maintained. I think that even without the colours the bench still speaks to that but when you add the colours and the texture you start getting closer to the Nando’s representation and the middle ground of Nando’s meeting Tsonga culture. That was really exciting for me, a lot of the colors in the Nando’s corporate identity is similar to the colors featured in Tsonga culture.

CN: Would you like to design more furniture?

KT: Yes I would, but furniture is very small space to design in. Design is huge. For me the idea is to start a company like Frog Design. That’s where I’m going with design. I’d like to get into architecture, systems design and town planning and designing cities.

CN: What do you see next for yourself?

KT: Besides the money, more opportunities to show the world that I can come up with the best answers and I’m looking forward to prototyping the bench and eventually having a physical bench out there. It will be different when we can get to experience the actual bench itself and not just the design.

CN: What advice would you give to young designers?

KT: I would say; don’t focus solely on your industry. I think a lot of designers go to school and just want to focus on being a graphic designer or a furniture designer instead of looking at design as a whole. Design encompasses a lot of things in our everyday life. I’d say the best course I’ve done was a three week course on EDX by Harvard, the course is called; “The Architectural Imagination” , that course genuinely helped me understand design processing. After that I’d say look for inspiration outside of your industry. If we are all looking for inspiration from the same places, in the same industry, we will end up all looking the same. As much as I say that I’m not an artist, I’m still looking at art everyday. Have a broad approach, but specialize in something specific.

CN: Where do you find your inspiration?

KT: I read a lot of books. I have more books than I have friends. I can live with characters in books, I can’t deal with characters in real life. Like I said, don’t just read books about design. Also, YOUTUBE! Instagram also has some nice content that I’ve been consuming.

Katlego Tshuma is a great example that small things can turn in to great successes. From working at the airport placing luggage into the aircrafts, to purchasing his own camera and now winning the Nando’s Hot Young Designer competition.

We hope that reading this leaves you inspired and creates an appetite for more. We urge you to look beyond what you see right in front of you and soon you will realize the possibilities for your creativity have no end.

Rae Mdeza

Find out more info on Covid 19