The Design Soul of Verve – Zanalee Makavani


Graphic designer, Zanalee Makavani, puts her soul into Verve magazine, experimenting  with design, imagery and text in a way which expresses her own unique style, balanced with the publication’s elegant and minimalistic look. 


Ever since she was a teenager, Zanalee was interested in design and photography. She would design and encode her own banners on MySpace; experimenting with images of her favourite rappers and artists to express her love of underground rap music. 


As a result of this passion, Zanalee moved from Sydney to Auckland to pursue a career in design, where she completed her design studies with a Bachelor’s Degree in Design. Following this accomplishment she landed an internship at Verve! 


Zanalee joined our team as an intern two years ago, and it wasn’t long until she became a full-timer, “thrown into the deep end”. She spends her days designing the magazine cover, advertisements, and interior layout, putting together imagery, and administrating digital and social media content.  


Zanalee’s talent and eye for design has resulted in her career’s progression. She enjoys working within the Verve team, as they are open-minded, and encourage creativity and confidence; helping her “come out of her shell”. The graphic designer says that her team rarely disapprove her work; and even then, it is usually just simple changes.  


The “experimental” nature of the team at Verve gives Zanalee the space she needs to flourish and encourages her unique talent for design. The favourite part of her job is, “Opening up a blank page and just going wild with it, doing something a bit wild, and then they approve it.”


Zanalee surrounds herself with “arty” people; many of her friends are graphic designers and her sister studies photography at Whitecliffe. 


Outside of her job, Zanalee works on her own design projects. She plays around with photography and fashion with her friends, and creates her own “rough edits”, abstract drawings and zines.


Zanalee explains that zines are self-publication design projects. Artists often put together magazines, booklets, or other publications where they document their individual style and passion for design. Zanalee shares her designs and draws inspiration from others at Auckland’s annual Zinefest.


When creating her own projects, Zanalee loves layering images and text and creating collages. Or as she expressed: “Jamming the page with heaps of stuff!” At the moment, she is working on a zine series called Trash, where she is compiling film photography from a vintage 35mm camera that she found in an op-shop for $5! 


The graphic designer was brought up in Sydney, but her culture is Niuean. Niue is a small Pacific island often referred to as “the rock of Polynesia”. As Zanalee’s heritage is Polynesian, she is very interested in one day starting her own business and putting together her own magazine for POC (people of colour); namely for Mãori and Pacific kids of New Zealand. 


Zanalee imagines this would be fun and inspiring, as she would be able to express her own style, as well as provide a place for POC kids to document their art, have interviews and talk about their style and what inspires them.


Zanalee puts her “soul” into her work. She loves what she does, and it is inspiring to know she has business goals of her own. She says she is learning so much at Verve; from design, to working with supportive people, to the business side of things. Her skills are an asset to her career, and to the magazine!


Words— Alix Dougherty
Photo — Melody-Jazz Makavani


Follow Zanalee on Instagram