Zack Adell is a multidisciplinary designer & art director based in Nairobi Kenya. With a passion for well-crafted (Digital & Physical) experiences, he believes in beauty as a means to empower ideas.
You just collaborated with Blinky Bill on his latest single featuring Khaligraph and Manifest, Inaweza Haiwezi. Did you always want to be the guy behind the camera? How did you think up the amazing concept and direction for this video?
I have always had a passion for film and have always wanted to work on a few projects that would make a difference visually. To be honest, I’m not surprised that I’ve come this far as I have worked on so many different videos and edited ads for years. I consider music videos to be art. I think they are a unique form of expression. The idea for that video came during the song conceptualisation stage. There were many ideas but the moving digital magazine made the best sense for this project.
What other disciplines do you play with, and does this leak into the work you generally do with WHTNXT? Was directing and art a way for you to live your passion, or did you stumble upon it? Did you go to school for what you do today?
I am a painter and an illustrator first. My roots stem from interacting with comic books at an early age, and Kung Fu movies. I always wanted to draw or paint things, so I taught myself how to draw and paint with the help of software to digitise my ideas. I went to school for very different things. I studied pharmaceutical chemistry in college, but that did not stop me from pursuing my passion for being a dope African visual artist. WHTNXT was a by-product of meeting like-minded friends who wanted to do something different in the digital space.
You say beauty empowers ideas. Is this why you do what you do? When is the last time you were inspired by beauty, and what did it make you do?
I say that because human beings are visual species. I am human last time I checked (chuckles) and I get inspired by looking at gorgeous aesthetics. Think of even people who travel. They go to the coast and all that…when you look at the whole experience it boils down to the visual cues, the beautiful ocean, the light fixtures in your Airbnb, the beautiful architecture and different cultural fabric textures. That is what gives you that feeling of rejuvenation and inspiration. Well-crafted spaces or layouts are very inspiring and that is the same thing I go for whenever I am working on a project, to always share a sense of wonder and inspiration.
I was recently watching a documentary on shooting for dark skin and was so inspired by the beautiful shots taken by photographers and film makers working with dark skin models. That partly inspired my decision to film with dark skin models for a project coming out soon.
We see a lot of conversation about creatives not being paid enough. Do you think this is true, and if so, do you think it is changing? How can we make it change, faster?
That is partially true. There are amazing creatives who are well paid and there are some who are on the opposite side. What I’ll say is this: You cannot just be amazing at art or singing and expect the cash to be thrown at you. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to creatives and compensation. For example, how you talk about your work and how you present it, what impact it has (and I don’t just mean followers). Over the years I have been a visual designer. I have learnt that skill is 20 per cent of the package, and presentation takes up 80 per cent. That’s why you hear people complain that a mediocre artist gets paid too much. It is because you don’t know what that ‘mediocre’ artist says or presents when in a room full of investors. To make a change, I would advise creatives to learn from others on how to properly showcase their work. Followers don’t automatically translate to a bigger cheque.
What is your next visual project? What is your favourite project, either from the past, or something you really want to do in the future?
I am currently working on an art exhibition for next year, which I have been planning and designing for long. Hopefully, we shall do more videos with Blinky Bill too. My favourite project is not even out yet, but I’m done working on it. I’m looking forward to the next three months, as there are loads of surprises coming, including the return of WHTNXT media.