2023 Hot New Things: Mikaela Pacis, Bachelor of Design Visual Communication at Wintec

2 weeks ago by

Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.

Today we speak with Mikaela Pacis who studied Bachelor of Design Visual Communication at Wintec. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m Mikaela, 20 years old and a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Visual Communication. I love Illustration and Graphic Design. I’m especially passionate about expressive, engaging and detail-driven design. When I’m not designing, I’m probably at secondhand bookstores collecting vintage books, taking photos with my film camera or cozying up to watch a good horror film.

What did your graduating project focus on?

For my final project, I wrote and designed a publication called ‘Am I still Pinoy?”.

As a young Filipino immigrant living in New Zealand, I have recently been feeling more disconnected from my culture and country. With few representations of Filipino culture present in my life, the definition of ‘Filipino’ gradually becomes blurry. Resulting in a deep fear of forever losing my culture and becoming ‘un-Pinoy.’ 

This publication is an attempt to further investigate these fears. Aiming to explore this dilemma by navigating my cultural identity, learning more about my culture and finding ways to stay connected to one’s roots. It is a narrative-driven publication that aims to utilise graphic design and storytelling techniques to create an expressive and impactful design, helping to share my story, as well as my family members’ stories with migration and the Filipino identity. 

It ultimately attempts to answer the question that has haunted me for years — Am I still Pinoy?

Why did you choose to study at Wintec?

I only knew about Wintec’s design programme after hearing about its hands-on courses and thriving creative scene. I knew I wanted to study somewhere that reflected these qualities, so I gave Wintec a shot and I’m so glad that I did! It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. 

I loved learning in small classes. I find that I’m able to get the necessary one-to-one help from my tutors. It was also easy to get to know my peers. The culture within the design department was so lovely, with both staff and students closely working alongside one another, it feels like we are a close-knit community of like-minded creatives. 

I’m also grateful to have experienced tutors that go beyond their way to help their students. They’re all passionate and have a great love for their craft, which I find deeply inspiring.

What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?

I think I’m one of those people that enjoyed everything about their course. 

Classes were always fun and engaging! There was always something new to learn and discover. The assessments were challenging but always created endless learning opportunities, both about you as a designer and your craft. I was always excited to see what new ideas I could come up with in each new context/scenario. I also liked the creative freedom I had during my study. I found that I was able to be myself and also explore limitless possibilities

I also enjoyed being surrounded by talented designers. I find that I get motivated and inspired when talking with my peers and tutors. We’ve learnt a lot from one another and we always encourage each other to do our best. I will forever cherish our intense design discussions and all the times we’ve comforted each other through the design stress. My study experience would not have been great without the people at Wintec. I’m proud to have spent all 3 years with them, and it’s so exciting to see how much everyone has developed over the years. 

Now that my study has come to an end, there are a lot of things that I’ve taken away. I will always cherish the relationships that I’ve built over the years and the memories that I’ve made with everyone. I’ve learnt a lot of things that have shaped the designer I am today. I’ve also produced a lot of work that I’m super proud of and excited about. Overall, I feel quite prepared to take on my future thanks to my time spent at Wintec.

Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?

I think discovering my love for typography was exciting. I come from an illustration background so typography was new territory for me and something that I couldn’t understand no matter how hard I tried, until now! One thing I learnt from my study is that you have to try something before you can fully dismiss it. This year I took a course on Typography and by the end of it, I gained an appreciation and new love for the medium. It also helped that I had an amazing tutor to teach me about the wonders of this medium.

I love Typography because it’s a combination of history, design and storytelling, which are all things that I consider play an important role in my craft. It was fascinating looking into the history of typefaces and how they’re designed. 

I think I’ve turned into one of those designers that randomly stop at anything just to judge its use of typefaces. My friends would often catch me saying ‘Wow, that’s SUCH a nice typeface’ haha.

What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?

My passion and love for graphic design would also be one of my biggest issues as a designer. I’m an ambitious person always in the pursuit of doing better, but in doing so I would end up subjecting myself to high pressure, ridiculous expectations and unrealistic standards. I also struggled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, which affected my work negatively.

What helped me to overcome this was to take breaks from designing. I found that when giving my all to Graphic Design would often result in losing myself, so taking a step back to do other things helped me to take back control and reframe my views. I’m privileged to have a great support system to always back me up. Through my friends and family, I’m able to ground and humble myself, able to come back to my designs with a fresh and more positive outlook. 

Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick Graphic Design as a career path?

I would have to say that my Art, Design and Graphics high school teachers were the ones that showed me a career in Graphic Design was a possibility.

Their passion for their craft was inspiring and had a profound impact on me.

They taught me that design was looking beyond aesthetics and thinking about the feelings, purpose and goals you want to achieve with the design—It changed how I approached my craft from early on.

They were my first introduction to the world of Graphic Design, I remember feeling captivated and instantly falling in love with this wonderful world. From then on, I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

I have a few works that I’m proud of but the one that comes to mind would be

My ‘Legend of Pinya’ Storybook, which I illustrated and designed. It’s based on one of my favourite Alamats (folktales) from the Philippines, where I was born.

Growing up, representation of Filipino culture was lacking in my life, inevitably Kiwi/Western influences became a replacement, shaping my identity. I felt increasingly disconnected from my culture and often feared that I was becoming ‘un-Pinoy’.

A lot of my Filipino friends also shared my concerns. I saw a strong need to reconnect with our cultural roots and have more representation for young Filipino migrants.

This motivated me to illustrate a children’s storybook containing a Filipino folktale that exposes Filipino children to their country, values and customs.

Retelling this Alamat (folktale) through the use of storybooks is essential in allowing Filipino children to feel valued and represented; empowering them to be proud of their identity and culture from a young age.

It was a meaningful and transformative experience because It was one of the first designs where I incorporate influences from my culture enabling me to learn and reconnect with my culture. I also felt like I wasn’t just designing for myself but for a common cause that will hopefully have a positive effect on a lot of people. Overall I’m really happy with the result.

What’s next for you?

The first thing I’m going to do is to get started on some passion projects that have been piling up throughout the years. Now that I have the time and knowledge, this is an opportunity to test my limits, find out what kind of design excites me and finally redefine my creative process.

Career-wise, I’m eager to get my foot in the industry and start the next chapter of my design journey. I’m currently applying for design jobs, and I’m super excited and nervous at the same time. It’s my dream to work in a like-minded design studio that has a great team culture but is also passionate about creating expressive, engaging and detail-driven design

How can people get in touch or see more of your work? You can reach me via my email (studiomikaa@gmail.com) or my Instagram account (@studio.mikaaa). I do have to admit my Instagram is a bit empty as it’s going through a bit of an exciting rebrand. Make sure to watch this space and come say Hi!

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