Graphika 2020: On Hobbies and Passions that Lead to International Projects with the Second Batch of Speakers on Day 1

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Three more speakers went onstage at the latter half of Graphika 2020 Day One, with just as much motivation and inspiration being passed onto the crowd as one speaker went after the other. A big overarching theme in the stories shared by these particular group of speakers was to focus on the things we do at our spare time, as all three of them talked about honing hobbies, and how doing so eventually led to client work.

The Not-So Free[lance] Life

Illustrator and street artist, Jappy Agoncillo, came onstage with a youthful energy he easily shared onto the crowd. He said that he strongly feels as if he is just “one of us”, being someone who was merely a spectator in the audience of the previous Graphika Manila conference. Agoncillo’s presentation was focused on what it takes to be a Filipino creative freelancer — everything from networking, to getting projects, and even discussing the harsh truths of clients who pay very (…very) late.  

Similar to a lot of young freelancers, Agoncillo’s earliest projects started from the network he had at the time he spent in university. Studying in one of the Philippines’ top schools, he was acquainted with a lot of families with businesses of their own, or school organizations with design needs every now and then. Through this network, he created his first murals in the small establishments his friends’ families own, first illustrations for events his school orgs would hold, and first commercially-available designs through stickers he would sell to his friends and schoolmates. 


Now we see his creations in large scale murals as key visual elements in local stores of multinational brands such as Shake Shack, Heineken, and Johnnie Walker, to name a few. His vibrant and eye-catching designs have also decorated streets all over the Metro, as well as in international streets in places like New York, and India. 

On getting projects, he emphasized that the importance of putting yourself out there through social media, networking, “findability”, and self-promotion (cards / leave-behinds). Once these have landed you a client, he shares the process that follows afterwards from initial contact to execution, and to getting paid somewhere down the line (it apparently varies depending on where you are in the career). 

To close, he shared some of the things he wish he knew about freelancing early on:
  • Focus on improving yourself, not on being like others
  • Initiative is key
  • Do everything in service of your goals


Saying yes!

Next onstage was Method Studios Executive Creative Director Jon Noorlander who shared how his dabbling in different art styles and practices led him to the walls of Adobe’s headquarters, and more client work all over the world. 

From the get-go, Noorlander’s session was filled with pieces of advice for the aspiring creatives in the Graphika 2020 audience. With each tip he gave, he shared a story or a piece of work that embodied the points he was making: 

  • Be a die hard optimist.
  • Keep having fun. 
  • Keep exploring.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Learn things outside your comfort zone. 
  • Don’t overthink it. 

“Design by exploration”, he said. That means giving clients options that are more different and exploratory than the last one to showcase a wider range of skills and capabilities. He also stressed the value of agreeing to requests and inquiries made by potential clients, even if it’s outside your comfort zone: “Be the guy who says YES and figure it out later.” 

As for the designs that landed him to work with Adobe, he recalled how he was merely playing with different animation styles on 3D (“Sculptures”) and sharing them online. As this got more and more attention online and offline, he was invited to host an exhibit in Mexico, and eventually to do the graphics for the 2016 Adobe Remix. 

What a Life! 

The last artist to take the stage on Day 1 was a returning speaker with such natural charm, it has led him to live an overwhelmingly exciting life with a career that is impossible to encapsulate in one word. Robert Alejandro, to put it simply, is an artist — in every sense of the word. 

He does travel illustrations, publication design, community design, TV, product design, space design, branding, mural painting, interior design, architectural plans, and so much more. He shared all this onstage, bewildering us and even himself on the amount of work he has done through the years all by himself. What a life, indeed. These were also projects that naturally led to one another through word of mouth. As he put it, “a good job will give you your next job.”

On the topic of hobbies and passions leading to life-long careers, he urged everybody to pay extra attention on the the things they do on their spare time. “Take notice of what you’re doing when you’re not working because it could lead you to wonderful surprises”, he shared. Surprises such as hosting a children’s TV show in the 2000s on art and creativity (“Art Iskul”), designing mall spaces (from fun food courts to the whole structure of malls like Starmall, Alabang Town Center, etc.), and more. 

He wrapped up his presentation by disclosing some personal stories that led him to his happy disposition today — from being diagnosed with a serious condition, to choosing to rise above it and live the life he always wanted. Sharing his inspiring story, Alejandro brought out some tears from the crowd, including some speakers and some of our teammates. He closed the conference with some moving words:

“Living the life you wanted is possible. Now or later is cool. No pressure”, “You can take your time finding yourself” and, “Let your life be your greatest design masterpiece.”

With that, Day One of the biggest creative conference in the Philippines closed with an emotional bang, leaving us with the inescapable desire to go out and try to execute the things we learned out in the real world. From street art, illustrations, 3D, motion graphics, and to so much more, we wrapped up the first day of Graphika 2020 with minds overflowing with so much inspiration, it’s a wonder that we were still able to digest even more the next day. 

Partner with adobo Magazine

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