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Meet illustrator and graphic designer from Singapore, Hafizah Jainal aka HAFI.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m HAFI, an illustrator and graphic designer of Malay and Javanese descent based in Singapore.

My illustrative works mostly stem from my personal journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance – and being comfortable with the body that I‘m in.

Growing up, I suffered a lot from body issues (being overweight and having psoriasis) I didn’t really know how to deal with it and ended up hating myself. Illustration gave me an outlet to calm myself down and re-evaluate myself as a person. I learnt so much about myself by drawing nude self-portraits – in a way, I’m fine showing my vulnerable side to everyone because those things do not define me as a person. It wasn’t easy getting to where I am now as it required a lot of inner strength and quiet confidence, which I am slowly gaining throughout the process.


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Singapore is a teeny tiny fast-paced urban island in Southeast Asia. I was born here, grew up here and I live here (so I’ve been in Singapore since forever). Living in Singapore all my life has definitely influenced the way I work and perceive things. I love working in an urban city that still has pockets of diversity, culture, and tradition.

Singapore may look sterile on the exterior but if you dare to peel the layers of tourist traps, malls, and capitalism, you might be surprised at what you’ll find at the core of it.


My illustrative works mostly stem from my personal journey of self discovery, self acceptance – and being comfortable with the body that I‘m in.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Best thing: Diversity in culture

Worst thing: Lack of representation in diversity


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Work in progress


How did you start your career in art?

I am a formally trained graphic designer who went through the traditional art school route. I have a diploma and degree in Visual Communications and I minored in Art History (which surprisingly made me more critical of my design work and helped me a lot with my visual analytic skills).

When I was figuring my creative self out, I started out doing a lot of illustrative work but I didn’t want to be known only as an illustrator. I wanted to be more than that and I didn’t want a particular discipline to define me.

I work as a Design Lead in a marketing team during the day and do illustration based side hustles after work hours. Doing this somehow helps me separate work and my art practice.

I like that I am able to do work for others and also do work for myself and be great at doing both.


I like that I am able to do work for others and also do work for myself and be great at doing both.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I’m really fortunate to have very supportive parents who encouraged me to work on my strengths and pursue my passion. They know that I’m a person who value purpose in my work and I am the happiest when I constantly get to grow both at work and through my creative side hustles. I can never imagine myself doing anything else besides creative work.


What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

My goal is to set up an online merch shop next year and illustrate subject matters that tells a story about my Malay and Javanese heritage.


If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Definitely Rihanna aka badgalriri. I love how she managed to turn her creative energy into a hugely successful business. Her Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty line are awesome. She’s definitely an artist I look up to because she’s more than just a singer, she has branded herself to be an all-encompassing renaissance woman.


How would you describe the women around you?

Throughout my career, I’ve always been surrounded by really talented, strong and independent women in the industry. Even after we switched jobs, we still keep in touch with each other and remain really good friends. It’s nice to have a support group of like-minded people. The fact that we lift each other up and watch everyone grow to their fullest potential just shows that if women support women, we are able to do great things.


The fact that we lift each other up and watch everyone grow to their fullest potential just shows that if women support women, we are able to do great things.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

When I was a really, really young creative, doing my diploma in visual communications, my lecturer invited a few illustrators to give a talk at my school. One of the illustrators invited was Kristal Melson. I remembered being so in awe with her free illustration style and how it was so different from what I was usually exposed to. That point in time truly changed my life as I learnt that I could be experimental with my craft when it comes to illustrating. It was one of those life lessons that school could have never taught me. I knew I wanted to be like her when I grew up into a fully functioning creative. I became Kristal’s intern at a branding agency. We kept in touch throughout the years and different job changes. Now we’re working at the same place (but in different departments) – it’s amazing how things came full circle. I still look up to her as a creative mentor even till this day. I admire that she is still able to do what she’s doing (full-time career and side hustles) whilst juggling motherhood (her baby is so cute btw).


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

In my career, working in Singapore, I’ve not had any experiences of being treated differently because of my gender (and I hope it stays that way). What I found challenging was that I only had a few people I could really look up to in the industry who were like me.

This snippet from Timothy Goodman‘s Instagram story is really accurate and relatable in the context of Singapore’s creative scene and I will share it once again “I will keep reminding people who look like me in this industry about how the “we should pick the most talented people regardless of color” argument is wildly incomplete. This is not about filling a quota. It’s about representation and opportunity for equally talented people who don’t have the same visibility because of systematic and institutional oppression that trickles down in every single facet of life, including our very well-to-do industry. It’s also about sharing the landscape of different stories and backgrounds of different kinds of people who represent the world”


Create your own opportunities to shine.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Create your own opportunities to shine.



Photos courtesy of HAFI.