Be hungry, be creative, and be curious. Words from Angie Hattingh, creative director at Havas Boondoggle South Africa, who has a career that includes everything from SEO and fashion editor to branding. Here, Angie talks about carving out a career in the digital age.
So, how did you get started?
Well, to help pay for my varsity studies, I designed and built websites for small businesses. When I got my first real job as a receptionist at an IT startup, the company started to get requests for website builds, and I was quickly promoted to designer. But they later realized that building websites wasn’t their thing. So, I then did some SEO for a travel agency before taking time off for a year of traveling.
Upon my return, I did a Neuro-Linguistic Programming course, which involves looking at the human experience and how neurology, language, and programming play into that.
I loved it so much that I ended up working for the company that held the course. I did everything from branding and course material creation to coaching.
Finally, I decided that I wanted to pursue my childhood dream of being a fashion designer. I won a scholarship to attend London International School of Fashion (LISOF), the top fashion design school in South Africa, and moved to Johannesburg.
While at LISOF, I became the editor of an online fashion industry platform, iFashion. It became so successful that after I completed my studies, my editor job became a full-time job. After seven years, I needed a change and entered advertising part-time, as a content strategist for MetropolitanRepublic. As digital became a more important part of their business, my role changed so much that by my third year there I was the digital creative director. That is how my journey into advertising began.
And now I am creative director of Havas Boondoggle, located in my hometown of Cape Town.
Digital is such a broad term. What is your specialty?
I am a generalist. I have experience in strategy, UX, UI, design, digital marketing, and content generation across a number of channels and industries. From all of this, I’ve learned that being able to marry business needs to user needs is essential to achieving success in this space.
How has digital changed over the years that you’ve been working in it?
When I started, it was the Wild West. We all had the freedom to forge new frontiers, but that also meant that digital experiences were sometimes as rough as outback living. As the internet has become integrated into daily life, we have become more sophisticated in our approach. There are standards and expectations now that need to be both adhered to and improved upon. We have a lot more data points to consider, more years of behavioral research to help us, and we have tested innovation processes, like design thinking, to create from.
How do you incorporate design thinking into your work?
I studied psychology, so I have always had a deep interest in understanding people. I also like to solve business problems. Design thinking is a user-centered approach for problem-solving. So this methodology suits me well. And because it is a methodology, it means that it is simple to implement across all types of projects—from UX innovation to campaign planning. All project briefs start with the problem statement and all work starts with understanding our audience/user.
Where will the industry be in the next, say, 10 years?
I think 10 years is a hell of a long timeline. Part of the reason why it is hard to write near-future science fiction at the moment is that innovations change industries on an annual basis, if not quicker. But in general, there needs to be a more personalized approach to communications. We need to find a way of fitting into a person’s life, rather than trying to kidnap them or disrupt them. Creative disruption is over. Creative integration is the way forward.
What advice do you have for novices who want to break into digital?
People come first: the people you work with, the people you are working for, and the people you are creating for. Be hungry to learn about people. All the rest will follow.