Interview with MUTI

“Sometimes people just have creativity oozing out of every pore, those are the lucky ones. Others need to have the desire to be creative and the determination to push and learn at every opportunity.”


Hello Miné, Brad & Clint!
As far as we know, MUTI involves three creative minds. How did you guys come all together? 
There wasn’t really much happening in South Africa in the way of illustration courses/training when we, as owners, were studying. It’s been great playing a part in building this industry. Brad studied Sports Science, Clint Graphic Design, and Miné Visual Communication but through friends and the industry we all ended up working together. 8 Years later, our creative mind is now made up out of 9 very passionate parts.

You also work with lots of illustrators. How do you keep your illustration style while working with different illustrators?
We’re a team of 9 creatives so we pride ourselves in a diversity of style. Whilst each individual might have a few signature styles they specialize in, we always encourage people to experiment and evolve, even if it’s in small increments. We don’t think MUTI necessarily has a particular style but we certainly approach each brief in a similar manner.  There’s always a creative director involved in a project and no doubt that guidance gives the final work a MUTI feel.

What does MUTI mean? 
MUTI is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa, derived from the Zulu word meaning “tree.” There was also intrigue in the dark and magical connotations associated with the word. Clint started a clothing label back in 2001 with the name MUTI. When we started the illustration studio in 2011 we adopted the name because it felt like it let us retain a South African identity even if our work also held an international appeal.

Can creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
There’s a bit of both really. The way one approaches a project, one’s method in conceptualizing can certainly be learned to harness the creative mind. Sometimes people just have creativity oozing out of every pore, those are the lucky ones. Others need to have the desire to be creative and the determination to push and learn at every opportunity.

Can you say the advantage & disadvantages of working as/in a studio?
Having a team means we can take on larger or multiple projects, which opens up a lot of opportunities. It also allows us to create a studio culture and a sense of camaraderie. The catch is that you sacrifice your time to be there to guide projects, look after individuals and the group, putting yourself second.

You are also doing animation/motion design. What is the most enjoying part of an animation project?
Breathing life into illustrations through animation can be really rewarding. Having a vision of how you want motion integrated into work and then see it realized is so satisfying.

Have you worked with an illustration agency to represent your work? If yes, how do you feel about being part of an agency? 
We’ve been represented by our London-based agent Folio since 2013. Having a rep can be a great asset in contractual negotiations and also provide you with an air of legitimacy.

How does living in Cape Town affect your creativity? How is the creative scene there?
It’s tough to single out one aspect (apart from our mountain) but we love the sense of history here, most evident in the architecture. Cape Town has many beautiful, historic colonial buildings as well as some impressive Modernist structures. The fact that it’s far smaller than most other international cities makes it a more intimate living environment, with a very supportive creative community. It’s culture and beautiful surroundings seem to attract like-minded creatives that feed off each other’s energy.

Have you ever had any bad client experience? If so, how did you handle it?
We have had a few experiences where the outcome was not ideal. There can be various misunderstandings or expectations for each job. We always try to please our clients be doing great work and will put in extra time to make them happy, but there is a point where you can feel that no matter what you do it’s not going to work. At that point, you can let the client know that you don’t think that you will be able to complete the job and state your reasons. It’s important that you have an agreement in place that deals with a kill fee for such an occasion. 


Do you have any clients you wish to work with?
Creating an illustration for the cover of The New Yorker magazine would be amazing!

What are your top five songs on your playlist?
Them Changes – Thundercat
Seabird – Alessi Brothers
Anemone – Slenderbodies
Painter in Your Pocket – Destroyer 
Raspberry Jam – Allah-Las

Where are your favorite spots in Cape Town? Food, coffee, shops, etc. 
There’s a lot of choice in the city. Here are a couple of places we find ourselves:Market: The Oranjezicht City Farm market Coffee: DeluxeFood: South China Dim Sum / Junior Burgers / Ferdinando’s Pizza. Shops: Design market at Biscuit Mill (on weekends) / Famke / Bo-Op / The Watershed.

Have you found any inspiration in an unexpected place recently?
Brad: The imagination of my 4 yr old!

What other illustrators/designers are you digging these days?
We’re a big-ish studio so it’s hard to pin down just a few, but we’re inspired by people who’ve made a success doing what they love. Everyone in the studio is passionate about illustration and this builds an environment that inspires you to push yourself creatively.

If you weren’t working in the creative industry what you be doing?
Miné: I’d be a ceramicist or a waitress. I’m the only person I know who LOVES waitressing.
Clint: Don’t really have a plan B but maybe something that involves being out in nature.
Brad: A possible combination of surfing and horticulture. 

Could you give us three fun facts about MUTI?
1. Every Friday the studio eats lunch together.  Deciding what we’re going to eat can become a hotly contested debate.
2. Our offices are situated in a 100-year-old Edwardian National Monument.
3. We don’t all speak the same first language.

Finally, is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
No one has ever asked me if I ever doubted myself. 

Thank you!