We recently caught up with Augustine Makachemu or simply Mak a graphic designer who is the brains behind GrafxTV a web service that is dedicated to teaching graphic design. The service which Mak hopes will be the graphic design equivalent of the Khan Academy is available via a YouTube channel and was borne out of Augustine Makachemu’s out of his journey to become a Graphic Designer. Through GrafxTV, Mak’s aim is to spread knowledge about design to other enthusiasts. GrafxTV’s Youtube channel has total views just shy of 450,000 a figure which has been achieved in just over a year.GrafxTV features easy to navigate categories such as “Brand identity design”, “Illustrator video tutorials”, “Learn web design online” free and so on, with some videos are also available in HD.
What we found cool about GrafxTV is the professional production ethos of the videos. So it was not too much of a surprise to learn that he spends 5-6 hours in producing each video. There are now 53 videos available, you do the math and that’s a lot of man hours! One small but neat feature we observed when going through the tutorials is that whenever the voice over gives keyboard shortcuts these are visually highlighted making it easier to remember and take note of. Tutorials are mainly in Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 environment, which can present a slight challenge for audiences where earlier versions say of Photoshop are predominant. It’s not a great hurdle but the interfaces differ to some extent. GrafxTV recently added an iTunes option availing podcasts allowing subscribers to get free updates. When a new show is added to the iTunes directory, everyone who has subscribed to the show will be able to download it onto their iPhone or iPad. Here’s our interview with Mak about GrafxTV:
So what is Grafx TV
Grafx TV is an online design show where I share graphic design tips and tutorials. It’s a show for anyone who wants to learn about graphic design. Users can watch all these videos absolutely free and also subscribe to be updated via email when new tutorials are posted.
Explain the popularity of your Youtube tutorials?
A lot of people like my style of teaching. They find it easy and accessible and this is whatmotivates me to continue working and producing tutorials. There is a lot of positive feedback from the channels, which is very encouraging.When I first started, I made one video and posted on Youtube. The video went viral (that 1st video “How to make your photos photographs in 3 easy steps” has 150,000 views) and that just pushed me to make another one and now have I have 53 videos.
How did you come up with the idea for GrafxTV?
Drawing from my experience after high school I realised there was really nothing out there that prepared you for industry so I feel there needed to be a bridge between high school and the professional design environment. Grafx TV give you an insight to what to expect in the industry because some of the tutorials are based on real life projects. The challenge for anyone interested in pursuing graphic design professionally in Zimbabwe is the transition form art at school to the professional design environment.
When did you discover you were talented in Art/Design
I discovered I had talent in art from a young age, I remember my first drawing being displayed the the headmasters office in grade 2 and also winning a creative writing prize in the same year. I was also the best student in Art at Prince Edward for the years 1995 and 1997 also achieving a prize.
How long have you been in the UK?
I have been in the UK for12 years in but my intention is to return to Zimbabwe and setup a design academy.
So have you been working on GrafxTV for all this time?
I have been working on GrafxTV on and off for about a year. I began the project while I studiedgraphic design at Birmingham University.
Where do you get most of your traffic?
The bulk of my traffic is from here in the UK,Canada, Austrailia, USA and India,unfortunately not much from Zimbabwe.
Looking at the traffic on your site, have you done any marketing to achieve this?
No. I haven’t done any marketing for the site and all traffic has really come from youtube and user referrals. I’m looking at doing a marketing campaign soon.
Do you see bandwidth as a challenge in Zimbabwe?
Bandwidth, yes is a challenge but I believe the bandwidth situation there will improve and when it does I want to have something in place for people to access.
So are you doing this fulltime?
No. I have my own company, Creative Astro, I mainly focus graphic design and web development for small businesses.The market here is saturated with graphic designers and web developers and this is a way (through GrafxTV) that I can present my work to clients and potential clients. I’ve worked on Creative Astro for 6 years.Currently I’m doing the production for GrafxTV a small team but in future I’m looking to expand my studio.
Do you make any money from this?
No. I’m making no revenue from this and that’s why I’m hosting on YouTube as it’s basically free. I have recently been contacted by YouTube as they have seen the high number of views and subscribers, with an offer for them to place ads in my videos and have some ad share with them. But this is just starting now and there is not much revenue yet.
Are you looking at providing other formats especially for the Zimbabwean market?
It depends on feedback I get from Zim,I could put all these videos on a DVD so users can watch from home. I’m looking at producing DVD’s that can be made available at variouspoints of sale in Zimbabwe.My current plan is to make one video per week.
How to you come up with ideas for what to feature?
The content is created based on specific requests from viewers but occasionally I put out videos on what I think will benefit designers. I’m working on adding a Forum on GrafxTV wheredesigners can registerand interact with me and other designers. Basically a community of designers that through discussion will foster creative growth amongst members.
Do you have a newsletter and how many subscribers are on it?
I do have a newsletter with about 470 subscribers and it’s growing by the day.
Your tutorials use Adobe’s Creative Suite any chance for other packages?
My experience with design agencies I have worked for, the Creative Suite is the default package butI’m looking at introducing some tutorials on free and open source packages like GIMP, but it depends on demand, so at the moment I’m concentrating on Adobe Creative Suite.
What’s the future of GraphxTV?
In 5-10 years time I see GrafxTV as Design Academy wich offers students knowledge and expertise to work in the design industry. I also would like to provide certification covering topics such as filming, video editing, animation, motion graphics and so on.
Any parting words for aspiring graphic designers?
Graphic Design can be challenging for any aspiring designer and I would say to anyone wanting to go into design don’t wait until you go to college or university. Design is about experimentation and generating ideas. it’s not having a qualification that makes you a good designer. There are so many great designers who don’t have any qualifications. It is important for any designer to showcase their work on the Internet or any other media. It’s important that people to see their work, you never know where opportunities come from. I started my company before I even went to university.