Submissions for this year’s 1.618 Education Initiative are now closed and we’re close to beginning the judging process. This is an intensive process that involves input from our expert panel of judges, who come together for a full day of combing through the competition entries to select 10 finalists, and then ultimately the winner.

We’d like to start introducing you to these judges, who invest their expertise and passion for South African design and architecture into the 1.618 Education Initiative. We’re starting off with Livia Coetzee-Stein.

Livia is the Creative Executive at DHQ. She graduated with distinction from the Inscape College of Design and for more than 14 years she has been designing for many of South Africa’s blue-chip companies, focusing largely on the hospitality and retail sector. As DHQ’s Creative Executive, she is responsible for leading a team of designers to develop and implement innovative interior design concepts for both local and international brands.

We asked Livia about her work, her involvement in 1.618, and her advice for young creatives in South Africa:

Why do you believe 1.618 Education Initiative is an important event?

The event helps students showcase their talent and ability to implement design solutions in line with a brief. The winning prize is world-class and allows the designers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It also allows designers an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, which should pave the way for their careers in design.

What does it mean to you to be a judge?

This will be the second year as a judge and I continue to be humbled by being chosen to go through the submissions to find the ultimate winner. Giving back to young designers remains one of my passions.

What would you tell yourself if you could go back and give younger you some advice while you were still studying?

Push your boundaries, stay authentic and design with the end user in mind and, of course, enjoy designing without a budget while you can.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

In my role as the Creative Executive, I enjoy seeing my design team grow, push the limits and provide world-class design solutions for our clients. I also love the brands I work on and the people connected to those brands.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Creating great designs within a very tight budget.

What are you hoping to see from this year’s 1.618 entries?

I want to see more depth, thought and authenticity in how students interpret the brief – not just brilliant renders, but a brilliant big idea that drives the entire concept. The designs need to be all about “thinking big, thinking differently and pushing limits”.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Being a shareholder in DHQ and the hard work that came with getting to this point.