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Visual communication designer Magnolia Wild has been inspired by the beauty of nature since she was four years old. Now a design graduate with a talent for illustration, she's using her skills and experience to develop a nature video game, design posters and much more.

We ask Magnolia about her love of te taiao, how it all began and new role as Hub leader for Forest & Bird Youth's network in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.

What’s your story Magnolia? What’s your whakapapa and what has your life journey been?

I was born in Ōtepoti Dunedin. We then lived in Taranaki, where my father is from for a few years, before settling in Island Bay, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington where my mother is from. I grew up right by the ocean on the south coast of Wellington, where I developed a strong connection to the sea and its creatures. 

I am a creative person and have been drawing and making for as long as I can remember, inspired by the beauty of nature and animals around me. This led me to pursue and graduate from Toi Rauwhārangi Massey College of Creative Arts with a Bachelor of Design with Honours. Being around animals brings me great joy, especially horse riding, a passion which began at the age of four when I rode a miniature pony.

What is your first memory of nature? How did you first get involved with environmental work? 

My first memory was when I was four years old, and I ventured into a kauri forest with my parents. The warm sun filtered through the towering trees and trickled down to the forest floor, casting intricate patterns. I remember looking up at these giants of the forest and being impressed by their strength and power. My love for the ocean began when I moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. Long summer days were spent exploring the rock pools of Taputeranga Marine Reserve.

I have always felt a strong connection to the natural environment. This passion led me to attend the first School Strike 4 Climate march in 2019 when I was a Wellington High School student. Nature often inspired my design work at Toi Rauwhārangi Massey College of Creative Arts. My honours design project – an educational video game about the marine reserves of Aotearoa – revolved around conservation.

Magnolia near her local marine reserve, Taputeranga. Image supplied

Magnolia near her local marine reserve, Taputeranga.

When did Forest & Bird Youth enter your radar? When did you become a Hub Leader? 

I became aware of Forest & Bird Youth (F&BY) in my first year of university and knew I wanted to get involved. At the beginning of this year, I saw the graphic design volunteer roles open for application in the national F&BY Communications Hub. This was the perfect opportunity for me to contribute my design skillset to conservation efforts. I was then very excited to become Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington Hub leader in February 2024.

Tell us about your current hub – what is your vision for it and your work within it?

I am a graphic designer for the national Youth Communications Hub as well as leading the local Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington Hub. My ambition is to create graphic design that educates and inspires people to actively support and promote conservation efforts and events. I envision developing a range of graphic design resources, including science communication infographics and interactive user experiences that highlight the diverse species and conservation areas of Aotearoa.

How do you best express your connection to nature? 

I have been a nature and animal lover my entire life. I always take the time to be in nature by hiking and swimming in oceans, rivers and lakes. I also connect to nature through my creative process. I take constant inspiration from nature and apply it to my design work.

You’ve made some fantastic posters for awareness around the Fast-track Approvals Bill. What was your process in making these? 

My design process varies from project to project. Sometimes I have a very clear vision of what I want to create, other times I need to dig deeper to find the best solutions. I begin by collecting design precedents through various forms of research. From there I sketch out multiple ideas on paper, select the strongest three and refine them digitally. I seek feedback from my peers and mentors to identify which design is engaging, clear and impactful. If things aren’t flowing, I take a break and return to work with a fresh headspace.

How do you personally see art and design intersecting with environment, conservation, and sustainability?

Design is an effective catalyst for positive change. I see design being used to create strong visual narratives for campaigns and projects, to inform and prompt people to take meaningful actions. Design is a powerful and essential tool to bridge the gap between experts in their fields and the public on complex issues such as the Fast-track Approvals Bill. 

What have been your personal challenges in environment and sustainability as a rangatahi?

Modern lifestyles often prioritise convenience over environmental sustainability, leading to challenges in making sustainable choices as a consumer. Essential items such as shampoo and fresh produce are frequently packaged in single-use plastics, contributing to environmental pollution. Plastic-free alternatives often cost a premium. Greenwashing by brands claiming to be environmentally sustainable further complicates decision-making when making a purchase. These daily distractions can divert attention from critical issues, such as protecting the planet and preserving local biodiversity.

Join Forest & Bird Youth

Forest & Bird Youth is a nationwide network of young people (aged 14-25) who are protecting and restoring Aotearoa's wildlife and wild places. Join this nationwide community and get involved in opportunities, events, competitions and more. This is also a space to support you in your involvement and journey within the network. Grow as a leader, a volunteer, and as a conservationist.

Find out more on our Forest & Bird Youth webpage
Visit the Forest & Bird Youth Facebook and Instagram

This article first appeared in the April 2024 E-news.

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