'ijusi': Juicing design's engines

Work by Paul Garbett features in the Nelson Mandela issue of ijusi.

Work by Paul Garbett features in the Nelson Mandela issue of ijusi.

As a new South Africa was being realised, so the idea for ijusi was being developed; an idea for a publication that would encourage and promote a visual design language rooted in our own South African experience.

A maverick by his own admission, founder and graphic designer Garth Walker has never been good at following the herd. The same can be said for ijusi (isiZulu for juice), a project that has spanned more than half of Walker’s career.

Walker began his design career after graduating from Technikon Natal in 1978, when he went to work at a small family-owned printer in Durban for 16 years before starting his first design studio, Orange Juice Design, which was eventually acquired by Ogilvy. Walker is now the founder of a second design studio, Mister Walker.

Somewhere in this midst of all of this Walker began ijusi, an experimental design magazine. It is a passion project in the truest sense, though still not income-generating.
The idea emerged in 1994: “I had no clients and lots of time. So I decided, as one does, to design a design magazine.”

Using his collection of local tribal craft as the basis, the first issue, titled Afrocentric Design Adventure, was published in 1995. All the design work for the issue was done by Walker, with Siobhan Gunning writing the text.

Soon ijusi captured the attention of the international design network, bringing about an interest in South African graphics. This is what kick-started Walker’s travels: “I’ve lost count of the countries and even more the cities [visited] – ijusi has taken me to most of the planet now.”

Included in Walker’s highlights through the years is Issue #6 (V8 Power), which he conceptualised while doing a workshop with Milton Glaser in New York. Another, Issue #11 (Typografika 1), won a Grand Prix at the Loeries. Jury chair Brain Webb remarked on it: “I came to South Africa to see something I’ve not seen before. And this is it.”

Shifting focus slightly, Issue #24 (South African Stories) published stories by local writers and designers. “Oddly, the writers produced a better book cover for their text, and the designers wrote better texts. A lesson in there somewhere,” Walker notes.

After 20 years and 29 issues so far, one has to wonder what has motivated him to keep at it.

“I’m a stayer. So I just keep going,” Walker explains. “ijusi is now so far down the road that to stop would be a crime. Some things in life are meant to keep going, and ijusi is one of those. At least that’s the idea.”

For more information visit ijusi.com. This article is adapted from an interview with the artist that appeared on the creative showcase site Between 10and5, 10and5.com

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