“Be like water my friend”. This is one of Taariq Latiff’s favourite quotes. It also exemplifies the way he has tackled the growth of his Cape Town-based design agency, Chocolate Sauce. The story for Chocolate Sauce began when he started doing freelance work in 2009 during his third year at varsity. Two months into his first job as a POS designer for makeup products he felt like he should be doing something more. He then left to start designing a boutique interior for a branch that was opening up in Johannesburg. Unfortunately the plans for the store fell through, leaving Taariq with his biggest life lesson. Soon after this he began building a luxury leather brand with his friend Chad and his wife Erin, called Research Unit. Although orders grew, Taariq was not content with designing one type of product. He encountered one more major setback, after which he was offered another freelance job at a start up online store. However, it was not long before the feeling of his creativity becoming dormant began to creep in again. “I had an anxiety attack and quit one morning. Sitting in my room I wondered where I’m going to find work from clients. Around lunch that day I got a call for a client looking to start a kids brand,” explains Taariq. The next day he had his first client and a 50% deposit. “That day I bumped into Rushana, my first freelance gig during campus, and she was looking for a designer. So from there to now… [It’s] quite a rush to be honest considering I’m just a kid from Grassy Park, parents never had much yet still gave as much as possible. Knowing that’s how I was raised, to add value without having anything of monetary value,” Taariq expresses.
The name for the agency, Chocolate Sauce, comes from playing with the experience of association. “I wanted to leave a pleasant, gourmet taste in people’s minds…Chocolate sauce is also your base additive when dressing a dessert. It’s ‘simple’ and ‘extra’ all together,” Taariq explains. The agency is known for its meticulously crafted concepts, and aims to provide multi-sensory and functional designs that work for their clients’ needs and desires. Having started off in Cape Town, Chocolate Sauce does work for clients all over South Africa and some projects for international clients. “It’s not just a one man show anymore…Transitions are pretty daunting, but I’m addicted to risks and find myself in a constant state of emotion…Our projects are getting bigger and we get to work a lot more systematically when [a] client hands over various facets of his business for us”. The agency began its journey focusing on industrial design and has since broadened its scope, now working on branding, product design, website development, fashion and interior design. Chocolate Sauce has been involved in development and visual styling for fashion and utility accessories, visuals for a rural water filtration system, a collection of marks and logos that Taariq has crafted over the years, as well as worked on many other projects. Some of these projects include the Skate for Great project which involved coming up with an illustration on a skateboard for a non-profit organization, as well as working on 2BOP‘s AW16 designs by creating illustrations based on the love for 6 Bit games.
When asked about the difficulties of starting a design agency in Cape Town as a person of colour, Taariq explains that he tries not to see them but he knows the quality of his work is often judged according to him being a person of colour. He also explains that it has been difficult breaking the mindset of what he feels he should charge and then cutting himself short by not charging enough because of attitudes of clients. Starting and building relations with new clients have also been a lot more difficult for Chocolate Sauce. Despite these challenges, Taariq and his team have an inspiring philosophy behind their work, which is a reflection of Taariq’s meticulous nature. His explanation of their philosophy was simple and to the point; “work to code, you need to follow guidelines, research and be thorough”. Cleaning up and prepping for the next project is key!”. Taariq let us in on the reason for his recent trip to Japan, explaining that this was a childhood dream. However, business was not far from his mind as he is also looking for inspiration and opportunities to set up a branch there.
“My deepest desire is to create inspiration and eradicate false beliefs and fears of success,” says Taariq in response to how he hopes to have an impact on young people and his broader community. He is trying to get the message across that people can use whatever resources they have available and start immediately. This is reflected in the kind of work that Chocolate Sauce produces in that the work they create is “simple, modular and expandable at any time”.
His vision for the future of Chocolate Sauce is one which includes a space that houses a design cafe; “a space for prototyping and inspiration that surpasses mediocrity,” Taariq explains. To get hold of the Chocolate Sauce team and to keep up with the kind of work they are doing check out their website as well as their Facebook and Instagram account.