Tanya, a dream designer

By Honorine Kaze
November - December 2015

Massimo Vignelli, a famous multi-talented Italian designer explained that the life of a designer is a life of fight. “Fight against the ugliness. Just like doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is cure it somehow with design”, Vignellis states.

With a similar thinking, Tanya Turipamwe Stroh created Turipamwe Design Studio with the aim to collaborate with her clients to produce curative visual designs to express their views.

Like her Herero name Turipamwe, chosen by her dad primarily as her middle-name means ‘we are together,’ Stroh emphasized the fact that she and her clients form a team towards the realization of a visual message.

Turipamwe Design Studio is a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in print, brands, digital, industrial and web-based media designs, created four years ago.

Not only is she set on finding visual communication which inspires and impacts the intended population for her clients, but she is also involved in impacting the community through art and visual communication.

The multi-award-winning Stroh, who scooped the Economist Young Business Woman Award 2015, Namibia Film and Theatre Award (NAFTA) Production Design Award in 2014 and finalist at the Namibia Breweries’ Limited Ambassador of Arts in 2014, is proud of the recently-unveiled Katutura Mural art project at the non-profit after-school educational project the Bernard Nordkamp Centre (BNC). The mural project was a collaboration between Turipamwe Studio Design and partners, and seeks to reinterpret art and life in the city.

“It was a highlight moment for me to be able to witness the unveiling of this piece of art to the community as it is meant to be an inspiration for them”, Stroh excitedly says.

Besides being Turipamwe Studio Design owner, she is also the creative director taking part in the creation of the perfect designs needed by clients.

“Sometimes, clients have a clear vision of what they want, and my work is to gracefully put it into visual art which speaks the message.

Sometimes they have an idea, but need assistance on putting down a clear vision of what they are thinking. In the creation phase, one needs to understand the product from its inception to what it is meant to achieve to be able to give a very expressive product”, she explains.

She further explains that finishing a product can take from one hour to a month as creativity and inspiration is something you cannot control, as you can be inspired at 2 am in the morning.

“Everything around me can inspire me. Seeing a movie, [seeing] art [or] reading a book can all have an effect on my creativity”, she stated.

Having started her business four years ago in her mother’s house with just N$20 in her account, Stroh is amazed at how her business had grown in leaps and bounds. With a staff complement of five people, Stroh has done design work for companies such as B2Gold Namibia, Pulse Fitness, Casa Mia, FNCC and UNICEF.

Turipamwe recently did rebranding work for the Safari Hotel for the first time since 1965; while the University of Namibia (UNAM) has also commissioned Turipamwe to design the Toivo ya Toivo biography book’s cover.

Besides being a talented art designer, Stroh is also known for doing production design work on the Namibian film sets as she was awarded the best production design by NAFTA last year.

“The first short movie I worked on was called Hundred Bucks. It was quite an exciting time, and also quite overwhelming to see how much work goes into making it all look perfect on screen.

After this movie, I thought I was done with movie production designing, but I was mistaken as the bug had already bitten and I wanted to keep being part of the magic of bringing a movie set to life.

I also enjoyed seeing how we can stretch a small budget and still do a lot of work. I ended up working on five other movie productions. However, work in this field is hard to come by, although I am convinced the film industry is growing”, she notes.

Growing up in a family of academics with a twist of artistic drive, Stroh did not know that she could make a living through arts, nor that there was a possible career in design until after high school.

She thus decided to take a gap year and travelled the world to find out what she would like to pursue in tertiary education.

“I was one of those children who were good at everything in school. However, I did not know what I wanted to further my studies in for a long time.

Thus, I travelled to Europe and survived on doing Au Pair and waitressing jobs. I visited countries such as Germany and England, amongst others. That’s where I started seeing various graphic designs, which I got drawn to”, she explains. Having always been creatively inclined, those visits to the European countries awoke her appetite for graphic design.

Upon her return home, she thus pursued education in graphic design and eventually took up a career in the field in Namibia.

“In 2006, I then enrolled into the City Varsity School of Media and Creative Arts in Cape Town for my undergraduate studies, followed by an Honor’s degree in Branding, Visual Communication and Copywriting at Vega the Brand Communications School based in Johannesburg”, she says.

Upon her return to Namibia, she started working for an advertising agency, which she recalled having been the most logical thing to do at the time.

She only stayed with the agency for two-and-a-half-years, time in which she figured out that she wanted to work on her vision. She then resigned and took a four-month arts residency in Germany.

Upon her return from Germany, Stroh started toying with the idea of starting her own business. Thus, she started freelancing in doing graphic designs.

“I started doing the work from my mother’s house, using the network I had established in previous years who needed graphic design work done.

I smoothly grew my clientele that I had to be careful not to take on more clients than I could handle then”, she remembers.

Realizing that her freelance work was quickly turning into a business, she looked for a suitable venue, which was no longer in her mother’s kitchen.

Being a Desktop Publishing lecturer at the University of Namibia at the time, she hired her first intern among her students to help her with business work.

Four years later, the same intern has turned into a valuable asset to the studio.

“I was lucky to find this house, whereby we could share the house together with a couple of other groups of start-up businesses. My first office was in a little storeroom in the house.

With time, the business kept growing, so did the team and the office space. We are currently occupying ¾ of the house which we have recently purchased”, she continues. Looking forward, Stroh can only see more growth and more opportunities to positively impact on her clients and community at large through Turipamwe.