Ika Jumali emerged as a graphic designer - first in print and packaging design - before being swept away by Google’s brand team. Today, however, Ika is a designer at CHEP. Alongside brand designer Maddy Merzvinskis, Ika won gold in the Design category of Cannes Young Lions Australia – only a few years into the industry.
Ika says her experience as an illustrator has been largely outside of the advertising industry.
“CHEP is my first role in the advertising world,” she tells LBB.
“My very disparate experience helps me see creativity holistically, rather than pigeonholing myself into being any creative person. At the moment, I'm a designer in ads, but I might not always be or not solely this.”
“I always flitted between trying lots of different things," she continues. “I love having different ways of working and thinking. It's made me draw inspiration from all other parts of life and creativity to avoid being too insular.”
Like many creative people just arriving in the industry, Ika is getting a huge kick out of making things.
“I studied illustration and used to make paper products, doing zine and comic fairs,” she says.
“I tried all sorts of ways of illustrating both analog and digital. I took the windy road to get here, but it's been (mostly) pretty fun!”
In her short time in the industry, Ika has been shortlisted for a number of awards. But although this may seem brave for an industry newcomer, Ika tends to think of herself as a ‘yes now, think later’ person.
“I'm not sure it was ever initially a conscious goal of mine to enter work in design awards,” Ika says. “I entered Young Lions last year for fun - we only had a few weeks to create the submission. I saw it as a chance to flex my design muscles and hopefully make something cool – I was in it for the experience. I entered again this year because I'm also the most competitive person alive, and wanted to beat my best result.”
Despite aiming to flex her design muscles, Ika is also a fierce advocate of joy-led work and idea-led work. “Making joy-led work is having an approach to creating that is led by curiosity and a sense of play,” she says.
“Instead of having everything really plotted out, I like to have some idea of the shape of the work but mainly work 'straight ahead'. This leaves some room for discovery and new ideas or questions to emerge. I think it's good to keep asking questions along the way - like 'if I did this, what would happen?' then trying it and assessing again.”
On the other hand, Ika says being ideas-led means designing with a ‘strong North star’.
“I think a playful approach needs a strong north star to provide a container for experimenting and creativity - otherwise, you can go in all sorts of tangents, and the solution can get diluted,” Ika says.
“North stars are usually a strong 'why', sometimes a 'how', but really, it's just a set of parameters to work and self-edit within”.
When Ika does set her parameters, she is thoughtful in considering how her work can reflect those without a voice.
“I think diversity and inclusion advocacy through work can happen in a two-fold way - through the actual work that we make and also the workplace community and culture,” she says.
“We spend a lot of our time honing our craft in order to be able to say things well - to connect and communicate with people authentically. It is super powerful, and I think a lot about how we wield this sword - what are we saying with the things we make?”
“In terms of workplace culture - we can't make authentically inclusive work if the places we are doing the work in don't reflect the same values. So also thinking about how we can live these values in the workplaces we are at.”
“Either way, I think it starts with a lot of inner reflection and honesty with yourself to build a sense of self-awareness of your own biases and privileges. This is often an uncomfortable process, but being able to sit with your discomfort and work through it is so important. In the actual work, constant reflection and asking the right questions - like who does this work benefit? Who's voices are the loudest here? Whose voices are we uplifting or silencing?“
Ika is eager, though, to express that her work is a team effort. When asked about what it was like to work so closely with Maddy Merzvinskisa, Ika glows with appreciation for her co-worker and friend.
“Most of the time, as a designer, it's a solitary working process,” Ika says.
“Even in bigger teams where there are parts of the process where you come together - everyone still goes off and does their little bit. The best part of working with Maddy was being able to have a sounding board through the whole process and truly collaborate. We could sense-check our ideas and push each other a bit to just keep going. Or when we were stuck in the weeds and could just support each other through the stress. We were also already friends before, so there was also a lot of shit-talking and silliness - that was really fun. There is a cool sense of comradeship that happens through creative collaboration, and I think that's the best part.”
And, to her credit, Maddy is also full of praise for Ika.
“Ika is going to be running the show one day soon,” Maddy says. “I'm constantly amazed by how fast her brain can work. She's incredibly clever, and thoughtful and has a strong sense of who she is and what she believes in, both personally and professionally. She's also just a fucking blast. Like, we worked for 20 hours straight in the second round of Young Lions, and we were still giggling and having fun while smashing out work at 3am. I think that's a pretty strong testament to the kind of person I had by my side.”
In the coming years, Ika hopes to continue to use her work as a vehicle for connection and understanding. In a way, this is the crux of Ika’s professional philosophy.
“I think the best thing about art is the way it gives us an opportunity to find connection with each other,” Ika says. “That's what hooked me all those years ago as a teen - the feeling of seeing/reading/hearing something you've felt or thought before expressed in a piece of artwork and feeling less alone.”