MUTI is a creative studio founded in 2011, based in the city of Cape Town, South Africa. We’re a dedicated team of illustrators, animators and designers who are passionate about producing original and inspiring artwork, from lettering to icons, digital painting to animation. We’ve had the privilege of working with various companies across the globe: Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Nike, Goop, Fortnite, Gates Ventures, Red Bull, Uniqlo, Samsung, Virgin, Adobe, TIME, British Airways, Monocle, ESPN, Lonely Planet, The Washington Post, Adweek, Wired, Timeout, Forbes, Fast Company, Nobrow, Sports Illustrated, GQ, National Geographic, Huffington Post, Men’s Health.
Tell us a bit about Studio Muti. Where is the base? When did you start? Who came with the idea? And of course, what exactly are you doing?
Muti is an illustration, animation and design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa. We’re a team of 12 working from a Victorian building above a bookstore.
Muti was started in 2011 by Miné Day and Clinton Campbell, who were later joined by Brad Hodgskiss. From there, the team grew to the 12 of us we have today.
We work for a wide range of clients from small mom and pop startups to large corporates, on projects as wide-ranging as simple stickers to packaging, books, film posters, animation and more. Anywhere where illustration can be applied, really!
What do you think are the advantages of working in an agency, as opposed to freelancing, for an illustrator? How about the disadvantages?
The team is by far the best benefit. Having folks to lean on, bounce ideas off, teach each other and grow together is incredibly rewarding. Having a team with varied styles and approaches means we get a wider variety of work and are constantly exposed to a range of different requests that we may not have been were any of us working solo.
On the downside, it does mean that, with a bit more responsibility on your shoulders, you can’t go surfing whenever you want!
Do you think it’s important for artists who want to work with clients to first get a job in an agency before going out on their own?
We tend to think so. There is a lot to learn about not only the creation of work but the ins and outs of the industry that isn’t always covered in tuition. The additional experience gained from working with a team is invaluable.
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
There’s so much! The variety of work, the team, the challenge of a new brief, the relationships we have with long-time clients and collaborators.
But if we had to pick one thing, it would be great feedback from clients. Nothing beats the feeling of getting feedback like, “Wow! We love it!”
Can you remember some of your earliest influences?
There are many and varied influences amongst all of us in the studio. Here is a couple from the team; Where the Wild Things Are, Mad Magazine, Disney movies, comics, skateboard graphics and record covers.
Which of your projects has been most important to developing your studio?
The studio is constantly developing and evolving; it’s more a slow burn than any major project.
When someone commissions a project from you, what’s the first thing you do? Where do you start? What are the steps you take from the moment you get the brief until it’s ready to be delivered?
Sketches are the foundation of any project, so we always start there and work on locking down a solid base to start work from.
If a client doesn’t have a particular style in mind, we would then move on to a style test on either a small portion of the sketch or a single execution if we’re working on a series of illustrations. We’d then use the completed and signed off style test as a benchmark for the remaining work.
It sounds simple enough, but there are a few rounds of work in progress presented in order to get feedback as we progress and make sure we’re working toward the client’s ideal. We’re constantly taking that feedback in and adjusting the work as we progress to make sure we’re reaching the best result.
Color seems to have such a special place in your drawings. How do you choose the colors for each illustration?
We LOVE color.
The choice of color for each project we do is either up to us as we feel, fits the subject and style or dictated by the client and any corporate colors that need to be included.
Can you please tell us about your project, Pulp Fiction?
This was such a fun project. As an homage to one of our collective favorite films and to celebrate its 20th anniversary, we decided to create a set of illustrated posters and a series of character illustrations inspired by vintage cigarette collectors cards. This was a passion project done purely for our enjoyment and love of Pulp Fiction.
What criteria do you use to analyze and rate your work?
This is a tough one as it’s less of a menu that we can list off and more of a feeling, but one thing we can say we use to rate our work is client feedback. Feedback is a great tool for assessing work and its direction.
Surely you’ve had bad experiences with clients. What was the worst thing that you had to deal with in your career?
Sure! Not everything can be smooth sailing all of the time, but while things may have felt a bit like “the worst thing ever” at the time, in hindsight, those experiences always hold some value, so we can’t really say anything has been that bad to be classified as the worst experience.
Another project related to the film is Exploring Hogwarts. Can you describe it?
Exploring Hogwarts was a super project. We were so thrilled to work on it. The title is essentially an illustrated exploration of the various film sets, elements and inside stories from the Harry Potter series of films.
Jody Revenson, the author, gathered some great research and insights from us to draw inspiration from.
How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?
Feedback is always valuable, whether from the Muti team members or clients, and we always take it into account when pushing forward with work and explorations.
What about Cape Town International Animation Festival? What was your involvement in the festival?
This was another fun one. We created a short animation of a vertical pan of the city of Cape Town (featuring a lobster being beamed up by a UFO) that was then used as the branding for the 2018 festival, with elements of the work being used on posters, social media, festival slides etc.
We were also invited to be one of the speakers at the festival.
What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most challenging? The most rewarding?
At the moment, we’re busy with rather a few projects. We’re working on some illustrations for a smartphone launch, lettering for print ads for dog food, illustrations for an engineering book, a book about a certain superhero, branding for a podcast. This list could go on and on.
Every project is different in terms of its challenges and rewards.
One of our favorite projects is Lighthouses. Can you tell us more about it?
Lighthouses always hold a certain mystique and tend to be located in remote locations, so we find them intriguing. Southern Africa has a vast coastline with tumultuous oceans that have seen numerous shipwrecks. We went on a virtual coastal road trip to find a selection of our favorite ones.
How would you sum up your style in terms of the emotions you want to evoke in people and the general approach to what you want to represent?
As we have so many hands contributing to the work coming out of the studio that we can’t say we have any particular style, but we do strive for a common quality in our work, and that’s a joy – whether that’s joy in creating the work, joy evoked in a viewer or the joy of a client at the result of our efforts.
What advice would you give for someone wanting to do what you do?
Explore, play, test, get messy. Play with as many styles and types of inspiration as possible (and not just visual and not just other illustrators!). You have to do a lot of groundwork to find your footing in your style and niche in the illustration industry, but work and play are incredibly important and rewarding.
Where can our readers find you online?