For this week’s Hot Seat, we talked to Shadani Jai Fleming, whose work is soon to become one of the most widely circulated designs on the island – namely, the new number plate. The St. Maarten-born and -raised young professional tells us about her winning design, her artistic inspiration and her passion for graphic design.
Please introduce yourself and your work.
I’m Shadani Jai Fleming, also known as “Shadi”, and I was born and raised in St. Maarten. I am 23 years old, and I work as a graphic designer. Branding & Identity is my speciality. This includes designing a mark/logo or name, business cards, posters & flyers, typography, email signatures and package designing. Apart from graphic designing, I also paint and do digital art/illustrations.
Can you tell us more about your winning number plate design?
My intention was to stay away from the design of SXM national symbols, which, in one form or the other, have been on almost every license plate we have had. Instead, I wanted to highlight what makes St. Maarten different from any other island in the Caribbean. Since tourism is our main industry, and tourists LOVE our airport and the experience of feeling the blast from the planes, I thought it would be a good idea to transform that experience into a national icon.
I used the sun, sea, and a palm tree to form the shape of St. Maarten with a plane flying overhead in the golden sunset. In my mock-up, I used St. Maarten’s area code as the license plate number. For the background design, I opted for simple, yet bold colours that would stand out and embody the experience of being on a tropical island.
How did you get into graphic design?
I was first introduced to the world of graphic design by my aunt, who is a designer herself. Her amazing work for Disney and other companies in the United States really sparked my interest in the field. In my early years of high school, a Graphic Design elective was introduced in the curriculum. I fell in love with it, and it soon became my passion.
After a year, when the class ended, I continued to practice, learn, and develop my designing skills in my free time. I eventually designed flyers and other art for school events. In 2016, I left St. Maarten to study Graphic Design at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned a Bachelor’s degree.
What is your favourite thing about designing?
I love that designing has no limit to creativity and imagination. I absolutely love to try new elements of design and be different with my work. Focusing mainly on one style of design bores me quickly. I’m drawn to designs that create a WOW factor.
How does your Caribbean background influence your work?
When people hear that you’re a Caribbean artist, they automatically think you paint mainly palm trees and beaches. While this may be good, I try my best not to be too predictable with my art. Instead, I draw inspiration and get ideas from my upbringing, family, friends, and how I live my everyday life here on the island and develop these ideas into my own art style.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from a variety of places. In college, during my Conceptualization & Perspective class, I developed the skill of seeing art in simple things. This inspires me to transform basic objects into great pieces of art. I sometimes ask for opinions from family and friends so I can get a different perspective on whatever I am creating. YouTube and Pinterest are also two sites I visit to stay up to date with the latest design trends from well-known artists and designers.
What would you advise your younger self or other people looking to follow a similar path?
I would tell my younger self not to compare my work to other artists’ successes, because we are each at different stages in our art development. In my early years as a designer, I struggled with finding my own identity or art style. I was very hard on myself and felt as if nothing I created was good enough.
As a designer in the beginning stages, constantly comparing your work to that of professional artists is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Be inspired by their work, but also be patient. Take your time discovering your niche, what you like and don’t like and, most importantly, your identity. Your work will always reflect your personality and define who you are. Keep practicing; creativity has no boundaries.