South Africa’s World Design Capital year 2014 brought with it a sense of reimagining and enhancing a grand vision. Decorex certainly wasn’t what it is today. As with all of the design world, time moved design forward in huge leaps and bounds and the seeds sown for the celebration of local and African design at large, are reaping exciting rewards less than a decade on. Bielle is part of moving that grand – and ever-growing – vision forward as Executive Creative Director of RX Africa.
So where do creative gals ideate? Bielle walks us through her day, which usually starts quite gently with coffee at her favourite restaurant Salt, followed by a serene dip in the sea or a trot around Kalk Bay where she is currently based. Then in true industry fashion, things start escalating at a dizzying pace…
I spend much of the day using terms like ‘paradigm-shifting’, ‘synergize’ and ‘game-changing’ with a straight face in meetings. As well as coming up with a million different ways to say ‘I don’t like it’. My job also often involves explaining design concepts to non-designers in a way that makes the ideas seem remotely relevant and exciting. I basically have an honorary degree in talking nonsense.
THE GREAT PRETENDER
A significant portion of my day is dedicated to pretending to be very confident in my decisions, even when I have serious doubts. While I’m genuinely convinced by many of the unconventional ideas I champion, I do often doubt myself, and my abilities, and my good fortune at being able to do my dream job. But I have to guard this secret fiercely in the moment. (I’m dodgy like that.)
I often find myself getting lost in the details, obsessing over seemingly trivial pursuits, like the perfect shade of lavender, chartreuse, or periwinkle, or agonising over which cover image would be most powerful for a sponsorship proposal. I also absentmindedly open the fridge and stare at its uninspiring contents multiple times a day, and check my Instagram feed more times than I care to admit. But this is all an important part of my process. I also spend way too much time crafting unfunny replies to my workmate (who literally sits in the same room as me), on whether or not there are secret carbs in multivitamins, and other juicy questions she comes up with to distract me.
In order to push boundaries and explore new ideas, my job is to take risks and be open to failure, which means I spend a good chunk of time apologising. I’m also constantly reassuring the team that I’ll send the deck in the next hour, or finish the design for the XYZ tomorrow, or send the list of the speakers names by COB. All of which they know I won’t, but they gently nod. They are wise to my ways, and infinitely patient.
Much of my job is about striking the right balance between creativity and practicality, between staying on schedule and delivering quality work, and between trusting my own instincts and seeking feedback from others. It’s a delicate dance, which is exhausting and utterly thrilling. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
MEETINGS, MEETINGS AND MORE MEETINGS
I’ve come to accept that you need a meeting to discuss which way the escalators must be programmed, you need a meeting to discuss the optimal font size for an outdoor poster, what flooring we will use in the Shoppable Apartment, what snacks we’re serving at the opening party (and who the DJ will be), what the perfect call-to-action for an instagram post scheduled for two month’s time could be. And… to rig, or not to rig? The steady stream of caffeine that I rely on, and more than a few very deep breaths, makes the back-to-back-to-back meetings possible, and bearable.
My world is run on favours, and I spend many hours pinging mates on whatsapp to see who can pull a rabbit out of the hat the fastest. In this industry, relationships, trust and networking are crucial. I take pride in the fact that I belong to a community of trusted professionals who I can count on, and who can count on me in return I hope. Together, we elevate each other and help each other grow. It’s truly a collaborative effort.
More often than not, things don’t go according to plan. So I spend at least 2 hours a day coming up with new, weird and wonderful solutions. This constant need to improvise keeps me on my toes, and makes every day an adventure.
And then, as I lie in bed after the day is done, staring at the ceiling, doubts and questions seep in. Am I just another cog in the capitalist machine, perpetuating the cycle of consumerism and materialism? Can I reconcile my love for design with my desire to live a meaningful and sustainable life?
I have to remind myself that design has the power to shape our world, to inspire and delight, to challenge and provoke. I am fortunate to work with a team of passionate and dedicated individuals who share my values, and who strive to make a positive impact through our work. So, despite the nagging doubts and uncertainties, I look forward to another day of creating, innovating, and pushing boundaries. I hope that showed in the Cape Town chapter of Decorex – it really is the meeting of passionate minds.
Stay tuned for more on what inspired Bielle ahead of Decorex 2023.
Featured image: Supplied