I moved office a few months ago and my Asilia team and I are finally opening up our doors to welcome our clients, collaborators and friends.
Drop by our new studio in Brockley, London, any time between 4pm and 8pm on Thursday 5th March.
You’ll get to see some of our work and enjoy some nibbles, and of course, our company.
Some of my art will also be on display, including a mural in progress. Lusungu will be showcasing his screenprinted goods and if we're lucky, there just might be a demo and opportunity to try the technique for yourself!
The address is:
Following the great response I've been getting to my 'African Cities' greetings cards, I'm working on a new set of greeting card designs and would love your input.
I’ve put together a questionnaire which, you can complete in 10 minutes here. As a thank you, I will send you a free piece of art to download for your personal use.
If you’re in the UK and have 20 minutes to spare before or on November 1st, I’d love to take you through the questions, over the phone or via Skype. As a thank you, I will post you a limited edition art print. Simply email me on lulu [@] weareasilia [dot] com with three times that work for you.
The information that you share will be used to help me determine which greeting card designs to produce and, how best to get them to people who will find delight in them. This information will not be used for any other purpose and will not be shared with anybody outside my company, Asilia Ltd.
Spreading the Joy
Please submit your responses before the 1st of November and, do feel free to share the questionnaire with others who, might enjoy looking at some colourful images and giving feedback too.
Here’s the link to view the designs and complete the questionnaire: http://goo.gl/forms/10B26zBiyt
Thank you in advance!
View more work in progress on Instagram.
All images copyright Lulu Kitololo/Asilia Ltd.
- Project Stories: 'African Cities' Greeting Cards
- Project Stories: Brand Identity for Toghal
- Selected Asilia projects
You may have already gathered my excitement, from Facebook and Instagram, about one of my latest projects – a series of greeting cards I’ve titled ‘African Cities’. Here’s a little secret: they were a bit of an accident.
Context is everything
I was working on calendar designs and I was inspired to embark on a side project, taking abstract elements from the drawings I’d created and reinterpreting classic festive themes. Upon experimenting, I realised the beauty of this approach was that the cards could be seen as holiday-specific but, they could also very much work well for any occasion, any time of the year.
This made a lot of sense to me. Growing up in Kenya, I didn't experience white Christmases. Nonetheless, all the greeting cards you could find depicted snowy landscapes, reindeer and other icons rooted in traditions, and places, far far away from us. It was hard to find designs that represented or spoke to our particular experience.
For that reason, these cards fit so well with my general mission to create contextually appropriate alternatives, for those of us from cultures outside the dominant Western one. And for all of us who desire something a little bit different – some diversity to add to the mainstream narratives.
I wanted to celebrate African cities. My team and I did a lot of visual research, looking at images from different countries. Pictures of architecture, cityscapes, landscapes, people and crafts. I did some initial drawings bringing these elements together.
Then, pattern-obsessive that I am, I started to to pick out shapes from all these images and imagine how I could bring them together in a different way. I didn't want to just recreate cityscapes – I wanted to create compositions that had a rhythm and playfulness that would intrigue and delight those who saw them. As I experimented with this process of abstraction, I noticed that a lot of the shapes could be read in different ways by different people.
Take the image below – are those trees, sails or pyramids; are those hills, waves or fish scales?!
Bringing them to life
We worked with one of our favourite printers, London co-operative, Calverts, to produce our first run of cards, on 100% recycled paper. We launched them at the 2014 Africa Utopia festival and received a wonderful response.
Shortly thereafter, we set up a photoshoot. Asilia’s graphic design intern, Nuri Abdur-Rauf, happens to be a great photographer so, she took the reigns.
I also got to indulge my plant obsession – it made sense (of course) for the art direction that I had in mind. I found some beautiful natural adornments to complement the cards.
Everybody on the team had a turn at styling and the whole experience was a lot of fun. It proved how much you can accomplish without fancy equipment and a huge budget (more behind-the-scenes photos here)!
I’m still over the moon with how the photos turned out. You can see many of the final selects on Asilia’s BigCartel shop.
The celebration continues all month
Throughout the month I’ll be sharing more stories behind the cards, as well as celebrating the African cities that inspired them. This will include a handful of blog posts right here, some Instagram action and almost daily activity on Asilia’s Facebook page.
I need your help
I will also be undertaking some market research this month, mainly to inform my future product lines. Would you like to take part? If you’re interested, please get in touch via studio[at]weareasilia[dot]com and I will send you some more information.
Last but not least, I’d love to hear what you think and which cards are your favourites. See them all here.
All drawings, illustrations and designs by Lulu Kitololo. Photos by Nuri Abdur-Rauf, Lusungu Chikamata and Lulu.
- Project Stories: Brand Identity for Toghal
- Selected projects
- This is what my visual research looks like – Afri-love on Pinterest
- Ways to Use Pinterest as a Creative Tool
- Creative Muses: Plant Life
I recognise that the story behind the work is often more compelling than the outcome. It’s through these stories that we understand the full context within which something exists. We get an insight into the creator’s intentions and inspirations, as well as into their process. And so a new Afri-love series is born: Project Stories. I hope you enjoy it – let me know what you think in the comments.
About a year ago, Dayo Forster approached my graphic design studio, Asilia, with regards to developing the visual identity for the homeware brand she was launching.
Toghal was born out of a love for textiles, African heritage and the huge diversity of pattern, form and expression found in traditional African fabrics. Co-founder Dayo wanted to take inspiration from these traditional designs and keep their heritage alive by reimagining them in a fresh, contemporary way.
She came to share her vision and her product with us and I could barely contain my excitement. It is projects like this that I live for – projects whose subject matter resonates with my own passions and interests.
In this case – designing a fresh and contemporary brand identity that reflected Toghal’s African heritage in an interesting, non-cliché way.
I love that I can bring my skills and ideas to create design that invites a wider audience to discover, engage with and become patrons of a brand.
Step 1: Research
After the deal was sealed (we sent a proposal, Dayo and I discussed it, agreements were signed and a deposit was made), the fun truly began!
Dayo had spent a lot of time already working on her brand so, she was able to share plenty of information on the inspiration, the products and the big plans.
Our first step when working on identity design projects is always research. We take all the information we’ve gathered from our client (from a questionnaire and from our initial meetings in person, or via Skype/Google Hangouts/telephone) and then indulge in a serious scour-the-internet session.
In this case, we looked at:
- Brands similar to Toghal – whether in terms of inspiration, mission, values, target audience etc. We looked at how these brands presented themselves visually.
- Homeware brands with great design (regardless of where they were based or what their influences were)
- Different African scripts such as Bamum from Cameroon (pictured above)
- Colour combinations that were in line with Dayo’s vision for the brand
We then thought of different aesthetic themes that could be appropriate for Toghal. We found examples of great design to illustrate these themes, creating a mood board for each. We sometimes do this by sharing Pinterest boards that we’ve curated (e.g. below).
We presented our findings in a visual document so that we could discuss them with Dayo. It is usually through these interactions with clients, during the course of the project, that the best breakthroughs occur.
Step 2: Exploration + experimentation
Our next step was to present logo design directions, exploring different ideas, informed by the discussion with our client thus far. This stage of our process is, if you like, our version of the ‘rough sketch’.
Toghal means ‘to sit’ in Wollof and, this inspired a lot of our initial designs. In the final logo design, you can see that the ‘A’ is reminiscent of somebody sat cross-legged.
Step 3: Focusing and refining
Next, we developed the direction that most resonated with Dayo – fleshing it out fully to create a comprehensive ‘kit of tools’. This included: the logo, and variations where appropriate; the colour palette; recommended fonts and a typographic style and; design elements that will complement the brand and help to build recognition (e.g. patterns, iconography etc.).
Step 4: Collateral design
We then started thinking about the actual communications materials that we would be designing and applying the identity elements to them. In this case, we designed business cards, letterheads, compliments postcards, tags, stickers for packaging, a promotional flyer/card, PowerPoint presentation template and graphics for social media.
A couple of rounds of iterations later, we had arrived at signed off materials that both Toghal and Asilia were happy with. We could now prepare the materials for production (preparing artwork for the printing company) or for dissemination (getting graphics ready for Facebook and Twitter).
(These designs are for stickers. When you receive your Toghal order in the mail, they’ll be on the packaging! A fun way yet relatively easy way to ‘brand’ your packaging)
We also put together a visual identity guidelines document which, the Toghal team can use for internal reference when creating documents in-house and which, they can share with other service providers to ensure consistency across all the materials created and that the brand’s integrity is kept intact.
(A sample page from the guidelines document)
Back to the present
We’ve created various promotional materials for Toghal since first working on their identity last year. It’s such a thrill to see our designs in use and great to know they are helping Toghal to reach more and more people.
(the Toghal stall at Africa Utopia, earlier this month)
If you're interested in collaborating on a brand identity design project, get in touch with me: hello [at] weareasilia [dot] com.
- Interview with Dayo Forster, Co-founder of Homeware Brand Toghal
- Asilia’s portfolio
- Ways to Use Pinterest as a Creative Tool
- Buy African: Who Said Beige is Boring?
- Buy African: Eva Sonaike Furniture, Home Decor and Fashion Accessories
We’re just one week away from a special festival looking at what can be learnt and celebrated from Africa and the African diaspora. I’m looking forward to this second edition of the Africa Utopia festival for 3 main reasons:
1. The Great Line-up
My top 5 picks include:
- A Brief Look at Dance in Africa – a lecture/demonstration looking at the variety of dances across the continent, using performance, percussion and film.
- Africa Calling – work by new and established designers from Africa and the diaspora spanning furniture, fashion, graphic arts and more.
- Africa on the Catwalk – a selection of fashion and accessory designers who originate from or are inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Africa (including Asilia client, Adele Dejak!)
- Afropolis: New African Aesthetic – From the catwalk shows of Yves St Laurent to the windows of Topshop and Zara, style-wise, Africa is everywhere. What are the deeper aesthetic and socio-cultural dynamics at work behind this phenomenon and what impact does it have on African regional and cultural identities?
- Simply Soweto Encha – a five-piece a cappella group from Soweto township that sings gospel, soul, jazz, doo-wop, r’n’b and celebrates South African oral and dance traditions. I have a super weak spot for a cappella!
There are so many other great events throughout the weekend that I hope to check out. View the full programme here.
2. Asilia's Social Media Workshop
Following my workshop at the Women of the World Festival, earlier this year, I’ve been invited back to run a special session at Africa Utopia. Come spend an hour with me to explore how to use the web and social media as tools to:
- Celebrate and share your experience, perspective and vision with the world
- Connect with kindred spirits
- Monetise your activities
- Contribute more of your passion to your community and the world
More info here.
3. Asilia’s Stall at the Africa Utopia Marketplace
We’ll be launching the first of our brand new holiday line and we’ll also have a limited number of our Tropical Paleo, Miriam Makeba and Frida Kahlo art prints on sale. It’s also an opportunity to place your order for custom portraits. They’re great as gifts and it’s never too early to start your Christmas shopping! Creativity and Noise will be joining us too with a selection of hand screenprinted tees from our collaboration.
- Design, Music and Good Vibes at Africa Oyé 2014
One of the things I'm really enjoying at the moment is all the art that I'm discovering, experiencing and making. Here are some photos from recent adventures …
A few days later, I finally checked out the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition at Somerset House. Created and curated by photographer and filmmaker, Dean Chalkley, and fashion-industry creative director, Harris Elliott, the exhibition “showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces” (exhibition site). Beautiful photography and amazing style – inspiration to up my own game!
The exhibition features a few rudegirls too. Here: Zoe Bedeaux.
I was digging the colours, textures and patterns in this corner of the We Are Cuts barbershop/salon installation.
A few days after that, the Asilia UK team went to check out Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America, at the Saatchi Gallery. You’d think from this picture that I forced them to go!
I loved the colour, lines and layering in the work of Cameroonian artist, Boris Nzebo.
Kathryn and Lusungu mesmerised by a painting by Ivorian artist, Aboudia.
This is a detail from a piece by Dakar-based artist, Vincent Michea. This and the piece below celebrate African music. Vibrant, simple but striking.
Over in my maker's corner …
A couple of years ago I shared my desire to spend more time creating. Even though I own a creative business, over the past few years, I’ve found that I haven’t been doing as much making as I’d like. You may have caught my post from a couple of months ago – "Beyond Making" – explaining all the other things that are involved in running a creative business.
I’m happy to declare that, things are changing! Particularly since June. I’ve been getting my hands ‘dirty’ much more and not only has it brought me much creative satisfaction but, opportunities too! I’ve been receiving such a great response to my illustrated portraits, for example. Here are a few snippets of things I’ve worked on recently.
I’ve been designing the upcoming album cover for musician, Namvula. I created a pattern, inspired by some kitenge (wax print) fabric on a dress she owns. The first step was painting the elements that would make up the pattern.
I then played around with them on the computer and the pattern began to take shape. It was a really hectic week for me – moving offices and preparing to travel, while trying to keep on top of the usual demands. For the first time ever, I took to working on the bus, between meetings and errands! I prefer taking the bus to the tube anyway, especially when it’s as hot as it has been lately. Since the bus usually takes longer, I thought I’d capitalise on that time and be productive.
Above, detail of a drawing I made to be used as a background for an illustrated portrait I was working on …
… for marketing whiz, Lizzie Phillips. This is the final product. Another satisfied Illustrate Me customer!
And that's all for now. Follow me on Instagram (@lulukitololo) for daily adventures in appreciating, finding inspiration for and making art.
What are you working on this week?
- 30 Ways I’ll be Living More Creatively This Year
- In Our Own Hands: An Interview with Artist Kesha Bruce – Find out Kesha’s thoughts on what it takes to make a living as an artist; how important it is to work with other artists and; how you can use your own initiative to advance your career.
- Creativity: On Manifestations, Why We Create and What Conditions are Most Conducive for Sparking Ideas
- Last Week in Pictures: Tropical Hints
- Creative Muses: Plant Life
Over the past month or so, I’ve been doing lots of self-directed making. From creating fun photo ‘collages’ for Instagram to getting into a regular drawing rhythm. Funnily enough, a lot of this has then been co-opted for business purposes. For example said collages for the Creativity and Noise designs I made came out really well and had such a great response that they had to be used for promotional purposes!
It’s a somewhat similar story with the hand-drawn illustrated portraits that I make. I started making them a few years ago when Asilia needed team photos. Our team was spread across London and Nairobi and we wanted a solution that would be scalable. It was clear that photography was going to be challenging. Furthermore, we wanted the portraits to be quirky – reflecting who we are as individuals and as a company. Illustration was definitely the answer, not least because it gave me an excuse to do some more drawing and indulge in some colour, texture and pattern fun.
The great response we’ve had to our team illustrations, as well as to those I’ve created for others (e.g. Mandela, my Dad, Maya Angelou and Asilia client KP Fox), prompted us to make it easy for anybody to commission one for themselves or their loved ones. Introducing – Illustrate Me: hand-drawn custom portraits.
As time goes on, new use-case scenarios emerge. Here’s a running list of uses:
- Team bio/profile pictures
- Social media profile pictures
- Magazine articles – look out for the upcoming issue of New Internationalist Magazine where I illustrated an article about a conversation between 2 feminists.
- Illustrations in books – we illustrated 30+ interviewees in the book Passion Pays by Genevieve de Lacaze
- Gifts for loved ones (e.g. a portrait of your kids for their grandmother)
- Album covers
- Event flyers + gig posters
- Business cards
How would you use an illustrated portrait?
All illustrations by Lulu Kitololo
- Illustration and design for the London via Lagos Theatre Festival
- Female Relations – a series of painted portraits of some of my favourite women
- Inspired by Shine Shine – the illustrative work of South African designer Heidi Chisholm
- Inspired: Robert Pruitt's Women at Studio Museum Harlem
- Inspired by Dimitra Tzanos: For the Love of Africa
It was World Intellectual Property Day this past Saturday – an opportunity to think about our rights as creatives and why it's so important to understand them. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in running my creative business is communicating that ideas = money. Ideas are some of the most valuable things we have, especially being that we live in the Information Age.
When people commission Asilia to create something for them: part of the fee covers the fact that we can use computer programmes that they might not be able to; part of the fee covers our design and technology skills; part of the fee covers the collective experience that we have, especially given our different backgrounds and perspectives but; as far as I'm concerned, the true value that we bring is through our creativity – our ideas.
Last month, I spent a good deal of my time developing the 'African Flowers' collection of customisable event stationery, for Asilia's new online shop. The collection comprises of hand-illustrated save the date cards, thank you cards as well as wedding-specific materials such as wedding invitations, wedding order of service/menu cards and table number cards.