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Meet Illustrator Jael Umerah-Makelemi

Originally published on April 20, 2020 on milicakrstic.com


Experienced art director, Jael Umerah-Makelemi is an established creative person that brings value every day in different forms. She is here today to share with us part of her path and to support you with her story, to never give up.

As an art director who loves to bring ideas to life, Jael likes to create work that is vibrant and has her own stamp. What inspires her the most, are brands that can engage a new audience through the power of design. It shows her that the possibilities are endless- she says that she may not be able to save the world as a designer, but she has the ability to engage with people on a large scale.

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What is truly like to be an art director?

It is so rewarding! Being able to see your ideas grow from start to finish is a feeling I can’t describe. It is a fast-paced role that often requires you to juggle different projects. At times you can feel overwhelmed, but I personally thrive under pressure. You often get to work with companies that you use every day or ones that you’ve never heard of. You’re always innovating and at times will have a creative block, but you’re encouraged to just go out, see the world and soak up as much as you can.

It is hard as you often get so attached to your ideas. You put so much time and effort into crafting an idea that it becomes your baby- then someone comes along and annihilates it. You definitely have to have thick skin.

You need to have the ability to keep creating, share your ideas with others and be prepared to be shut down. With all that being said, it’s the most amazing job that constantly excites me. There’s never a dull day!

What do you like most about your job?

I love the fact that no 2 days are the same. One day, you could be working on a fun and exciting brief that’s over within the blink of an eye and the next you could be working on such a gritty project that can really make an impact or positive change. It really keeps you on your toes.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start in the industry?

Just go, even if you don’t know where you’re going! Keep pushing and keep creating. I didn’t go to university so had to pave a way for myself. I didn’t have any industry contacts, so I took any and every creative opportunity in the hopes that it would get me closer to where I wanted to be. I was already at a disadvantage (not going to uni) so I didn’t have a mentor or anyone that could help me break into the industry. I networked (even though it scares the life out of me,) I stayed proactive and most importantly, I kept creating!

Growing Girl

What was your first big break in the industry?

My first big break in the advertising industry was when I got a place on the D&AD New Blood Shift program. D&AD New Blood Shift is an intensive night school program that places an emphasis on raw, untrained creative talent. On the course, I discovered my love of art direction. I learnt so many new skills and was able to make great friends and important industry connections. Since graduating, doors have continued to open. I’ve had the opportunity to work at amazing companies like Iris London and Apple. It was by far one of the biggest and best learning experiences in my life. I definitely recommend this free course to all creatives.

As seen in your portfolio you are creating content around art and self-development, how did you come up with the idea to merge those two?

Over the years, art has become my therapy. At a time where I was and still am battling with mental health issues, my creativity has given me an outlet- a way for me to express the way I think and feel. The content I’m currently creating focuses on self-care and development through art. As we get older, we associate creativity with children. I wanted to highlight the importance of creativity for self-development as an adult and look into the different ways that creativity could become a type of therapy.

My Growth

Your portfolio is amazing, and you were working with many well-known brands. You were a designer at Apple, can you tell us what you learned in Apple and what is different in Apple than in other companies that you worked for?

Thank you! Apple was one of the best experiences. I learnt a lot about myself as an individual and a creative. I was a very shy individual prior to my experience, I liked to put my head down and get on with my work. But that can only get you so far. I learnt that I thrive off of collaborating with other trailblazing creatives. Whilst I’m still a bit of an introvert (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, being an introvert has its perks) I’ve become a lot more confident within myself- I believe in my own sauce.

Taking up space

What habit has most influenced you to become who you are today?

I never give up! No matter how many times I’ve been rejected, or if something isn’t going right, I keep going anyway. I will feel defeat once in a while, but that’s quickly replaced with determination.

How do you maintain inner peace?

For the past couple of months, I’ve been practicing meditation. I do struggle a bit as my mind often strays elsewhere, but it definitely helps me to just relax and stay in the present.

Check out Jael’s Instagram account: @nubiartuk