Garth Walker

 

Garth Walker

Story Written by Leon Jamarie

Garth Walker is a passionate and articulate designer and the driving force behind Orange Juice Design, one of the most well known design studios in the country. The company also publishes a creative magazine I-jusi.

Born in Johannesburg, Walker moved to Durban in the early 70s to study design and was captivated by the city. He began his career in the 80s documenting what he called the  ‘world around him’ with an emphasis on ‘street design’, and the then emerging graphic styles of Durban’s pavement traders. That collection now numbers some 5000 images of everything from Hair Salon fabric banners to granite ‘biker’ gravestones from every corner of South Africa.  But he considers that sort of work merely a sideline. “Like all graphic designers, I’m primarily focused on 'corporate or consumer design'. Design for business - that’s what pays the bills. Street design is a personal project”, he says.

He formed Orange Juice in 1995 creating a corporate international design style but with an African element. According to Garth, “we really have been pioneers in the mythical 'African' design language (we publish I-Jusi to do exactly this) “. He says that starting the studio was by no means intentional,  “I started it by accident, most studios start that way. There is generally no 'grand plan to open a studio’. I wanted to produce creative design for clients who wanted it. Sadly, I was naive. I live in hope; so I still run my studio that way, but I’m now more realistic.

Walker’s obvious success can be attributed to his immense passion for his work. He accounts the ordinary South African as his inspiration. “The ordinary people of the streets and townships of South Africa. I have been everywhere, and this is still the world’s one truly creative nation. Why, oh why does our Government not see it?”

He also accounts the success of his work to his clients: “design is fluid, so all that changes are influence and inspiration. That said one still needs a 'good client' and a 'good brief'. After that, it’s up to the designer...”

In 1995, Orange Juice published the first issue of their experimental graphics magazine, I-Jusi. Published twice a year, each i-jusi issue is themed on topics relevant to contemporary South Africa. The magazine is strictly non- commercial, distributed globally, and limited to 500 copies. Creatives from all disciplines are encouraged to experiment in freedom their personal views on “I am an African...”

Garth has presented his take on African design styles in over 14 countries. His work has also been published in over 100 books internationally and his work is still exhibited worldwide. Garth has helped  put African graphic design on the world map. He says all he wants to do is “to simply begin the discussion, "what makes us African"...”

He now lives in the Berea area with his wife and two daughters in a home, which he says he would not leave “assuming I don’t suddenly become rich, and can build my own. Like all designers, I have a few ideas...” he says.

I asked Garth about his connection with Durban:

Describe your most memorable experience growing up in Durban?
I grew up in Jozi, came to Durban to attend art school (tech) in the early 70s. Still here...

Why would you never leave?
My work is here, and everything that makes (my work) what I am is here.  For me, and what I’m known for, Durban has all I need. It’s the one city anywhere, I can drive/walk around, and its all “just there, ready and waiting...”

Why would you leave?
Only if I felt my family were threatened or I’d received (a career) offer  ‘too good to refuse’. Only then for a limited period. I’m too old to ‘pack for Perth’

What, in your opinion, makes Durban great? What distinguishes it from other cities?
Durban is the most ‘creative’ city I’ve been to, and I have been to so many cities that I’ve lost count. Part of the reason is that we don’t really know what we are; Durban (despite the politicians making prophetic announcements) is a true fruit salad. Everything will be ruined if we ‘discover what we are’ - so lets remain confused.

What would you like to see happen/ develop in the near future?
That the city fathers realise they are sitting on the greatest marketing opportunity ever given any city. We could be a global brand with minimum effort. But in so doing I fear “what makes Durban Durban”, will be ruined.  So let sleeping dogs lie. In many ways, one discovers Durban by accident and like a blind date, when there is a true connection, they are eternal...

If you can, describe Durban in one word.
Hodge-podge

As a designer, how would you design your interpretation of Durban/ East Coast?
Design a platform that allows for constant change. Durban isn’t any ‘one thing’, and its more nuanced than ‘many’. And please , ‘real Durban’ not the silly “where the fun never sets”...

For more information on Garth and his projects visit www.ijusi.co.za or www.oj.co.za.

References:
http://www.soak.co.za/htdocs/news.asp?nid=33
www.designindaba.com/conf/master.htm
http://bell-roberts.com/?artist=150