Jamie Windell — From Self-Taught Designer To Studio Founder
Khula’s Founder, Jamie Windell, went from dabbling with Weebly and Adobe Illustrator to building a successful design studio.
From stumbling into the design industry in his mid-twenties to leading an award-winning creative team spanning four continents — this is Jamie Windell’s design and creative story.
Jamie’s always had a creative side. His love of brands — or more specifically, brand names — began in high school. Instead of doing homework, he used to sketch or re-draw logos for fun.
At 25, Jamie left a corporate job to start a logistics business. Not only was it his move into entrepreneurship, it was also his first taste of design. That’s because launching ‘Think Africa’, in Johannesburg, South Africa, needed a logo, business cards, a website, and social media posts.
To create these design elements, he collaborated with a local graphic designer. Back then, Jamie knew nothing about design, but he quickly grew to love working alongside a designer. ‘Think Africa’ was a labour of love, and a dream business for Jamie.
Here’s what those early designs for ‘Think Africa’ looked like back in 2014:
When friends noticed Jamie’s branding and website for ‘Think Africa’ they reached out to him to help craft their own brand identity and online presence. Whilst a graphic designer handled the logos, Jamie built the websites on his own using Weebly — a very simple drag-and-drop website building and hosting tool — nothing like the no code/low code solutions available today. Determined to succeed, Jamie learned the tool and launched a few websites for his friends.
Fast-forward 3 years. Having worked at various companies in operations and project management, Jamie got the chance to work for renowned interior design studio — Design Partnership (DP). He loved looking over the interior designers’ shoulders to see their creative 2D and 3D work — usually mood boarding and sketching. Adrian, Callie, Mimi, Calvin, Roberto, David, Carina, Jacqueline, Justin, Elizabeth, and Natalie — were in Jamie’s words “super cool and inspiring to observe”.
While working at DP, Jamie began learning logo design — colours, fonts, and styles — diving deep into Adobe Illustrator. Thanks to Google and YouTube, this developed into designs for flyers, business cards, and social media posts.
On this journey of self-learning, Jamie also learned WordPress, designing websites using templates and theme builders, a far cry from what Khula Design Studio does today. Looking back, it wasn’t the best way to build websites, but it got the job done. Recently, Jamie and the Khula team actually got the chance to redesign and rebuild DP’s website in Webflow. You can see it here.
While working full-time, Jamie began designing logos and building websites on WordPress in the evenings and weekends. Friends started to notice, and word started to spread. He was becoming known for design, specifically helping startups launch their brand.
So, with his friend Perren, Jamie started a design agency called KITStart My Business. They helped startups and existing small businesses with logos, websites, and stationery design. At that time, neither Perren nor Jamie knew how to run a design agency. And they hadn’t studied graphic design or coding and engineering. They learned on the fly, staying up to the small hours of the morning, designing, and practicing their craft.
Within a year or so, KITStart My Business had designed logos and websites for over 30 local businesses — all through word of mouth. The pair enjoyed exploring their creativity and pushing the limits of what they could achieve. As two average high school students from a logistics background, they felt they didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies. But they surprised themselves — they did it!
As time went on, Jamie dabbled in many business ideas. He loved starting businesses, but didn’t get to see any of them through. He was a wannabe serial entrepreneur who didn’t want to give up on his dreams of running his own business.
First international business trip as a consultant to Botswana
In 2018, Jamie moved into coaching and consulting startups, while still doing the odd design piece here and there. He produced a few social media post designs for a YouTube influencer and Podcast channel called The Passionate Few.
Remember when these styles of social posts became a thing on Instagram? Yep, he designed a few for Omar at The Passionate Few. A cool little gig.
Then in 2019, Jamie relocated to the beautiful British Columbia province of Canada in search of new opportunities.
On arrival in Canada, Jamie knew he wanted to work in the creative industry. So he joined a digital creative agency in Vancouver, called Skyrocket Digital. For a year and half, he got to learn about design from really talented brand strategists, graphic designers, UX/UI designers, web developers, and marketing gurus Mo, Yulia, Kris, Kayan, Yung, Yong Hee, Dave, and Ethan. It was like a masterclass in great design.
During this time, Jamie loved seeing the creative process and how an agency could be run. With proper frameworks and processes that delivered high-quality design work, his learning propelled him to new heights, and beyond his own self-learning journey.
“If you want to truly grow fast, dive into the deep end by taking on real-life practical work applications and experience.” — Jamie Windell, Founder, Khula Design Studio
At Skyrocket Digital, Jamie discovered no-code tools, such as Figma and Webflow. He started learning these tools in the background. Again, he loved the creative side and dabbling in the ideation and exploration side of things.