Mention Cyrus Nderitu
Interview by Lyla Johnston

“Every day is a school day”: We meet graphic and motion designer, Cyrus Nderitu

It was during his first year at Camberwell College of Arts that Cyrus Nderitu discovered a love for digital design. Looking to further pursue a more specific path – and after convincing his parents to let him take a gap year – Cyrus spent his time working on a host of personal projects instead, and was even shortlisted for a D&AD New Blood Shift award in the process. Since then, he’s graduated from a fashion promotion degree at Ravensbourne, and has work for Vice, the V&A and the BBC already under his belt. Here, Cyrus shares some of his favourite projects, and explains why you should learn to embrace all situations with a positive mindset.

Cyrus Nderitu

Cyrus Nderitu


Job Title

Freelance Graphic and Motion Designer

Based

London

Selected Clients

Vice UK, V&A Museum, BBC Creative, Sony Music

Previous Employment

Graphic Designer, Squint/Opera

Place of Study

BA Fashion Promotion, Ravensbourne University London (2016–2019)
Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, Camberwell College of Arts (2014–2015)

Website

www.cyrusnderitu.work

Social Media

Instagram

What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I’m a graphic and motion designer based in London, who specialises in 2D and 3D animation, as well as typography. I work typically in advertising focusing on animation, visual identities, branding, social media content and digital design.

My work uses creativity and empathy to find solutions and appeal to audiences in an impactful way. I mostly work from my home studio in East London.

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
I draw inspiration from my surroundings and also my everyday conversations with people. These two things have brought more meaning and purpose to my work; something I have learnt to appreciate more during the COVID pandemic.

My influences come from a range of online and offline sources. I have been particularly been drawn to Richard Mosse’s photography work and Noma Bar’s design work.

“I felt the responsibility to recreate work that would not only push creative boundaries, but also uplift myself and others during the pandemic.”

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
My favourite project yet is my latest one titled The Gap (above). Last year, I challenged myself to work on re-interpreting an amazing animation piece created by Daniel Sax and based on a powerful narration by [American radio host] Ira Glass. I felt the responsibility to recreate work that would not only push creative boundaries, but also uplift myself and others during the pandemic.

The type animation is inspired by my year-long type exploration on the theme of movement and play. The basketball game serves as a visual backdrop throughout the animation, paying homage to one of the all-time basketball greats, Allen Iverson. Iverson’s tenacity, fierce ambition and ability to challenge the status quo matched perfectly with the main message from Glass’ narration in the animation.

Working on this self-initiated project helped me develop my creative voice and perspective. After launching it, I received constructive feedback from people I admire, which has been very valuable.

Cyrus’ workspace

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
To begin with, I think you need a great deal of initiative and ambition. I learnt skills online through School of Motion, Youtube tutorials and Skillshare. One crucial way I learnt faster is by setting myself a brief after I had gone through the tutorials online. Practice and practice.

If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?
(Below) Part of my job is sending out work, hoping that is the final edit and that there’ll be no more last-minute changes from the client.

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I did art and design in college, then secured a place at Camberwell College of Arts to study graphic design. After my first year, I took a gap year with the aim of gaining industry experience and building professional relationships. In my first year, I learnt a lot about traditional approaches to graphic design, but I was really interested in the digital side of design. I had to convince my parents that this was the right step and that it would produce results.

During that period, I was fortunate to get shortlisted for a D&AD New Blood Shift award. This was a great opportunity as it plunged me into the advertising industry, and gave me access to the right professionals to guide me in my career. I also began working on self-initiated projects that have led me to discover my individual creative style, and consequently helped me secure opportunities. I’m glad I made the decision to take a gap year, as it paid off.

Smile it out animation for B-side London
Colour texture background for The Advisory &

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Getting plugged into a creative community is has been pivotal to my career. Platforms like The Dots have enabled me to connect, share and find both clients and collaborators. This has given me the opportunity to make strong professionals connections, find jobs and receive valuable advice. Finding like-minded individuals who are in a similar field to you helps you understand that you’re not in this alone.

A good book I was recommended is Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. It talks about ways in which you can gain confidence in your work and sharing it with the world.

And finally, A New Way Of Seeing: The Inspirational Power Of Pattern by [creative organisation] Patternity. I came across this book in my university library and refer to it quite regularly. It visually demonstrates how everything is interconnected and that inspiration lies all around us.

“Finding like-minded individuals who are in a similar field to you helps you understand that you’re not in this alone.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Accepting uncertainties. There have been a lot of changes and unexpected twists and turns in my career so far, but gradually I have learnt to be open and embrace all situations with a positive mindset. At first I found it difficult sending cold emails to a client to offer my services, or negotiate my contract rate, but the more I did it, the more I got better at my communication and approach.

Cyrus Nderitu graphic designer creativelivesinprogress 03

Friday Late Event artwork for V&A Museum

Cyrus Nderitu graphic designer creativelivesinprogress 02

Friday Late Event artwork for V&A Museum

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any learnings to share?
Social media is essential to promoting your work. It’s greatly helped my work become accessible and visible to potential clients and collaborators. I try and keep it professionally curated with my individual voice in it.

I don’t do as much as I would like to in terms of self-promotion. I try to engage as much as I can and share not just my work, but my everyday life interactions, too. If you’re looking to starting promoting your work on socials: first, take time and think about your work, why you’re creating it, who it’s for, your tonal voice and the brands and companies you’d like to align with. This will give you a better idea of how you’d like to present yourself.

“Think about your work, why you’re creating it, who it’s for and the brands and companies you’d like to align with.”

Reach out to professionals or people who you think are doing great at presenting themselves online. Don’t forget to have fun. Experiment and try out different content, captions and post times. Be patient – nothing happens overnight.

Lastly, and most importantly, be yourself. Once you’re happy with what you’ve gathered, find a way to make it personal and authentic.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Money is everything. I consider it when making decisions on taking creative opportunities. In the beginning, I spent all my time and effort on the creative side and didn’t pay much attention to the finances. It cost me heavily.

At the end of the day, you have to earn a decent living to sustain yourself. If you can get paid for what you love and are good at, bliss!

Maker Personality animation for Scentlogue brand
Lead with your Life typography animation

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
I keep these three quotes close to my heart and remind myself of them often:

“This journey is not for the faint-hearted. It won’t be easy but will definitely be worth it.” Keep at it and you’ll not regret it.

“Nothing beats a willing heart.” If you have a hunger and willingness to learn, you’ll achieve more than the average.

“Every day is a school day.” Be open to learning from anyone and everywhere.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I’d start by saying that you’ve got to embrace a mindset that will accept challenges, persist, and see them as a path to mastery. Then, learn from the feedback you are given, and find lessons in the successes of others – and not just those who are in the creative field, but in other spheres of life.

Practically, I’d start by researching what it takes to be a graphic or motion designer. Look into successful people in this field. Study what they do, what makes them stand out and try to understand how they achieved great levels of success.

I think what’s usually left out or not given much attention is software and hardware requirements when starting out. From the most ergonomic keyboard to the best practices using Adobe After Effects, these are also an essential part of your creative career.

Mention Cyrus Nderitu
Interview by Lyla Johnston