Welcome to the fifth episode of my creator spotlight series where I talk to Jamaican creatives about their lives, their work and the contributions they make to Jamaica through their art.
Today’s interview will be with Kenneil Smith, a Jamaican Graphic Designer, Photographer and Dancer. Kenneil is a past student of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts with a BFA in Visual Communication, Illustration and Graphic Design and a former member of the National Dance Theatre Company. He now works as a contractor at the Jamaica Gleaner providing graphic design support to the news publication.
We recently connected over LinkedIn to talk about his life as a creative and this is what he had to say.
Who is Kenneil Smith?
Kenneil Smith is a self-motivated and determined visual communicator who pushes the boundaries and the standards of our visual communication, leaving the seed for people to explore, discover, create, think, and communicate.
He is passionate about user experience and strives to become a multidisciplinary visual communication designer that focuses on human-centred design. In addition, he is not only just a visual communicator but a dancer as well. Improve to create a fascinating movement that morphs into storytelling like a pen writing on paper.
He wishes to also become, in addition to becoming a multidisciplinary visual communicator, a choreographer.
Where are you from?
I am from Kingston, Jamaica.
What is your specialisation?
Well, I am specialised in Graphic Design
Where are you working now?
I work at the Gleaner Company (Media) Limited.
What does your role at the Gleaner Company involve?
As a Graphic Artist at the Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, my role is to create various ads such as notices (Wants, Legal), Career Opportunity, Meetings, Banner, Cover Designs, Death/Memorial, commercial adverts for the different newspapers the company publishes. Such as the Daily Gleaner, The Star, Financial Gleaner, NA Gleaner, and the UK Gleaner.
For each of these publications, I would have to ensure that I know all the sizes to create each advert given daily. It also applies to the pre-flighting section of my job role, which implies that any internal or external adverts are in the correct size. In addition, to also color correct the adverts to ensure that it printed correctly within the newspaper.
Where did you learn your craft?
You know I have never pursued any courses at the Edna Manley College to become a graphic designer but rather an illustrator. I can recall doing an introduction to it, but I just never felt I should do it. But either way, they say the best illustrators are the best graphic designers.
I learned in-depth graphic design by being around two of my visual communication lecturers, Ms Susan Lee-Quee, Ms Shauna Murray. I would constantly seek bits of advice and small teachings for them. That has carried me to where I am now in my graphic design career.
How long did it take to complete the program?
The bachelor’s degree in fine arts: Visual Communication took 4 years.
Would you recommend Edna Manley to others?
Yes, of course! Go and get the experience because it would pay off at the long run. You will not focus on just attending to learn to draw, create graphics but also learn about our art history, etc.
What was the most important lesson you learnt during your BFA?
Wow! They are many to be exact but the most important one was that “simple is best”. Sometimes we tend to think overdo the work, which tends to at time suffocates the work.
How do you handle rejection or criticism as a creative?
When we first stepped into the art world, we were very sensitive with our works. I experienced that where when individuals reject or criticise my work. I would take offence to it automatically, which I immaturely dealt with it. But now, once I received rejection or criticism, it doesn't affect me as to how it did back then. The learning process through the years at the Edna Manley had moulded me into a mature artist. By learning not to take anything personally and remember, it is the clients' work. Not yours!
How would you describe your design style?
I would describe my design style as strong, bold, creative, abstract, and not only looks good but communicates visually. I would also add that it carries movement that tends to flow within my work which you can see in my dance poster/flyer.
What design tools do you use daily?
I use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign
What projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on a project for the Black King’s Rising second campaign called the #CreatorBros, which is going to be launched on Tuesday, June 29. This project was created by Joel Nomadarkham to highlight different Jamaican men from different art fields, who uses their talents for social good.
What’s your favourite type of client?
My favourite type of clients is the ones that have their work thoroughly planned out. Once they explain their vision for the project/s, it is clear and understandable; allowing the project to run smoothly and not all over the place. Hence, allowing you to give them professional advice and trust in your professional creativity.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment so far as a Jamaican creative?
My great accomplishment as a Jamaican creative is when I entered the 6th International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) in 2018. I placed my work Nubian Queen in the student category, where I came 28th out of 40 students from various countries within the world. Which then exhibited in the UK, Germany, and Jamaica. In Jamaica, two exhibitions were held at the Sangster International Airport (2018) and the National Art Gallery (2019), showcasing the different posters of the competition. But the exhibition that standout for me was the National Art Gallery. In which was the Nubian Queen was used to promote the event. It was a big accomplishment that I held dearly to myself, as it sparked the pushed to become a great visual communicator even further.
What’s your daily routine like?
Well, I wake up at 5:30 a.m., then pretty much do 5 minutes stretch to open up the body for the rest of the day. After taking a bath, I pray to God then I prepare breakfast. After consuming my breakfast, I check my emails and my phone for messages from clients/friends. Then head out at 9 to head downtown to go straight to work. Practically as I reach work, I'm greeted with work at my desk to complete. Which would go on from 10 a.m. to 6 or 5 p.m. Thursday and Fridays are busy days, which tend to extend my work hours to late nights. Even after work, I still have freelance work to complete for various clients.
Yes! I know it sounds like a very dragged day every day, but it’s worth it at the end.
What do you like to do outside work?
Other than work I would find a space to do dance improv, to loosen up the body from all of that intense sitting down around the computer every day.
Any trends in the industry that have caught your eye?
Ahh! Yes, there are many to be exact but there are a few that I love. These would be Surrealism, Electric Fade, Figure Isolation, Silver of Light, and Wavy Gravy,
Who are some content creators that inspire you?
The content creators that inspire are The Futur and Unorthodoxfox.
What’s next for Kenneil Smith?
Let's see! I would probably do an exhibition because it has been a while since I have tapped back into my depth art side. Other than just be doing a lot of posters, flyers, logos, etc. Even maybe travel or relocate to a different country and enhance my career as a designer.
How can people find you?
Any pointers for newcomers?
Always be creative and be professional, don't let anybody's criticism of your craft degrade you. Use it as an upliftment to push forward in your career. That time you spent alone reflecting helps everything else you do. Knowing your peace is the most important and, know that you're going to be great one day.
Anything you wish you had known before becoming a Graphic Designer?
I wish I knew that you have to have a stable mentality when going into this career. Because things we as artist go through with clients daily is hard. But moving forward in life, I gradually learn how to deal with it and act accordingly.