Some argue Simba Zvogbo’s career began the moment he was born, but that’s stupid. He was baby. Growing up it became clear this child, that Disney would later name their 1992-hit animation after, was a creative child quickly growing familiar with a paintbrush and sketch pad. Falling in love with the art world Simba studied fine art and drama throughout school.
Simba continued with fine art at uni until he was introduced to Kanye West’s The College Dropout album. Twelve tracks and a pair of Kanye West Nike’s trainers later, Simba had dropped out of uni. He then remembered he had an African dad and in no time was back at uni but this time studying Graphic Design. And the rest is what they call history. (Oh, I’m being told I actually need to tell you what happened next.)
Simba’s design course saw him becoming am international designer in London, before working in New York and Italy, before returning to the capital where Simba is currently a senior designer for one of the world’s biggest youth travel companies.
Describe your background/yourself in 5 words max?
Five will make you want to get down. Sorry I misread the question, thought it was your fav FIVE song, which is a spuriously hard question to throw to a child of the 90s.
Creative. Driven. Laughter. Design. Fashion
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
How did I learn to breathe, that’s how I feel when I’m asked how I got into the creative world. Okay so I’m hearing that back, I might have to get that printed on a cushion or fridge magnet. I like cliché that’s why I design, I like to rethink cliché that’s why I am creative. (That’s another great one for the fridge.)
What do you love about your job?
What do I love about my job part from getting my money (it’s not only you, Rihanna, that wants your money)? As a designer there’s nothing more exciting, for me at least, than that moment I hold cmd + n and I’m greeted by a white page. That empty canvas is by far the highlight of my job, knowing that this page will never look the same again, knowing I’m lucky enough to start most days creating something new, knowing each day I have the chance to turn a blank page into something that could change someone’s life.
What are you most proud of?
I’m pretty proud that I’m at a place in my life where I am comfortable admitting I like FIVE, but that can’t count because I feel deep down everyone likes them really, I mean they taught us how to get down.
I always wanted to tell stories, I knew I liked to draw as child, I knew I could use this medium to get my ideas and thoughts across. I’m pretty proud years later that child survived, and I’m making a living doing what I always loved and still love doing.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson I’m learning is that are no easy lessons to accomplish my dreams. (Another one for the fridge magnet)
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
As designer Frank Chimero said, people ignore design that ignores people. I’m a big believer of this, and I think it’s crucial that all creatives must run with this. I’m very customer obsessed and want to ensure my ideas are informed by what people are being surrounded by, as well as having the courage once in a while to push expectations to the max.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Oh, I already answered this didn’t I? Instagram, this network is my wardrobe, my planner around London, my tracker of friends, my around the world travel guide and sometimes even my dating app. It’s a one stop app that always makes me want to be the best version of myself or at least throw a filter on and use some quirky hashtags.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
As a designer I look at journalists as people who share the same passion as designers, that is to share a story with the world and think this can come in many forms. So, until 2018 happened I would have said Kanye West for his ability to transcend being a music artist. But as a black person? Wow. What a time to have a selection of black people to look up to. I’m obsessed (like in a Mariah Carey and Eminem way) with Mr. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. In a similar way to Kanye West he has rebranded what it means to be an artist and really opening his PR and design appeal.
[Ed. Er, so you’re not going to even attempt to answer the question, Simba? Er… Okay. ]
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
They broke the mold when they made my mum. I’m one of those rare black children that has African parents that didn’t strongly encourage me to study medicine or law. The best advice I ever got from my mum, the same speech twice in my life when I was thinking about moving to London and Italy. “Simba, you’re not married, you don’t have kids, you have no mortgage, the world is literally yours to take.”
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
Aghhh some of these questions are like going to an all you can eat buffet but only being allowed one plate! It’s killing me only picking one campaign I like from this year. You know what? I’m going up for seconds on this buffet. The first may not even count, but Netflix has had an amazing success rate for taking any content from dramas, movies and documentaries and turning them into water cooler moments (I’m looking at you, Birdbox). I really haven’t seen such moments from a brand like this since I was child, though I wasn’t hanging around water coolers as a child I was more of a Sunny D kid.
But as someone who has interest in the way males are viewed in media and society, I took a real interest in “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” by Gillette. I think we have a long way to go in reshaping all versions of what it means to be a man in 2019, but this ad is great for opening a door to have this convo. Whether it’s a tv ad, a billboard or a PR piece, great campaigns have the power to open important dialogues.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I don’t 100% know what sectors can do if I’m being frank, (I’m normally frank after a few glasses of white wine). This question has stumped me a tiny bit. On one hand I’m a designer, some might say I’m a designer before anything else, before race, before my orientation and before my religion. On the other hand, I don’t know if sectors can find an organic way that doesn’t feel like tokenism. Representation is important, because you can’t be what you can’t see. My job is to scream and shout about how passionate I am about my job and dreams and show a new generation how far I have gone, so sectors can open the door when the knocks start coming… and the knocks will definitely come.
Connect with Simba on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Simba is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. He will be mentored by Indy Selvarajah, Creative Director, Edelman Deportivo.