Vintage Espresso is filled with laughter and chatter as Bel greets me with a smile. I return the gesture and assume this is what a blind date must feel like, as we make eye contact and work out we are each who the other is meeting. I ask how her day has been and she laughs when she replies with ‘busy’. And it is no wonder, with a list 4 titles long that follow her name- Bel Pangburn: Art Director at Metro Church, Creative Director at Enhance Magazine, Owner of Trigger Happy Images and finally, Co-Owner of DB Collective.
With four different professional outlets that each call for their individual brand of creativity, I am not surprised when she tells me that being artistic runs through her veins. Her mother was an artist and she spent her childhood surrounded by art and creative expression. It wasn’t until a need arose in her church for a designer that she began to be creative on purpose. With a degree in fine art under her belt, she became a designer by accident, never being formally trained. With a natural eye for the beautiful things, Bel set off around the world to travel and returned home to infinite possibilities.
One of those possibilities was graphic design. Setting aside her original plan for full time ministry, she put together a digital portfolio, and the rest, as they say, is history. It landed into the right hands at UB Creative and those eyes connected to the hands obviously liked what they saw. They took a chance, recognising her innate talent and potential and hired her. By the time Bel left the agency, they were asking her to stay.
Her career at UB, and the jobs that consequently followed, started before they even began, with a powerful portfolio. It was quality over quantity and finding the balance between showing her range and staying true to herself that allowed her potential to be showcased. This is advice she gives from experience, telling me to portray my work at its strongest and it will speak volumes to its audience.
A strong portfolio however, is not always enough when faced with the challenges of freelance work. As a photographer, designer and an all-round creative, Bel has seen her fair share of freelance work, in all it’s guts and glory. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes: from the lack of inconsistent work to a potential loss of motivation and discipline, but like most great challenges, they can produce ever greater strengths. It is these strengths, both new and old, that have resulted in not one, but two, successful design avenues. Her clients are plentiful, and she credits positive word of mouth as well as a strong and current online presence as playing a large part in her success.
This success is also a result of her discipline. Bel see’s speed as a life skill and uses the pressure of working under deadlines as a character builder, noting that there is a difference between stress and pressure. Getting emotional over things won’t change how quickly they are completed. Sometimes all you need is to take a step back, breathe and then continue, using the pressure not to cause stress, but to incur motivation. It is evident from the short while we have been talking that the presence of design in her life has become so much more than a job. It is a representation of hope, of grace, of beauty and of devastation. Not only does she use design the pay the bills but to also tell her story, and the story of others.
Someone once said that imitation is the greatest from of flattery, and I am glad because Bel’s career is one that I would love to experience for myself. With a list of credentials that is filled the to brim of stunning work, it is clear to see that design is one of her passions. We are similar, both harbouring a love for people, a passion for changing lives and an affinity for the beautiful things in life. As our afternoon draws to a close, I ask her about her greatest lessons she has learnt as a designer. Bel smiles and turns her gaze outside, trying to find the words to sum up years of creative expression. When she turns back, her answer is a simple, and an honest one: trust in yourself and look for the lessons to hold onto from every season in your life, because they are always there, waiting patiently to be found.
and can currently be found working on a multitude of projects.
Special thanks to Bel and Vintage Espresso.