Lulu Kitololo Studio design and illustration highlights from 2016

Happy new year! I hope you had some time to rest and rejuvenate as the year turned. A good chunk of my holiday was spent in Moshi, Tanzania. I stayed at my late grandparents’ home – resting, reading and spending time with family. I came back to Nairobi with renewed enthusiasm and clarity! There are several big (and slightly scary) adventures – design and otherwise – on the horizon this year, for me and for the Studio. I look forward to sharing them with you.

The first one starts next week, when 3 creative friends and I set off for a 15,000km+ road trip through southern Africa (see below).

As we prepare to set off, I wanted to share some highlights from 2016. Many of you have been a part of these projects and endeavours and I thank you deeply for your different contributions. Continue reading “Lulu Kitololo Studio design and illustration highlights from 2016”

Project Stories: African Women’s Development Fund Logo and Website Revamp

AWDF World of African Women

Every now and again, a project comes along that speaks to my heart, mind and soul (I’m really grateful that, after almost 5 years in business, this is becoming the rule rather than an exception!).

Working with the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has been one of those projects. It’s merged the things I care about: 

Continue reading “Project Stories: African Women’s Development Fund Logo and Website Revamp”

Finding the right graphic designer for you – dos and don’ts

This post was originally written for Your Radiant Business – a blog created by my homeopath, Tracy Karkut-Law, and I, born out of our shared passion for the web and social media. On the blog we share everything we know about building a great online presence. It’s targeted towards homeopaths but a lot of the content is transferable for people building a business in other fields. This post fits that bill and I thought I’d repurpose it a little to share with you.

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People are naturally very visual and, like it or not, many of us make judgements based on how something looks. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a common warning for a reason!

It’s important to think about whether your communication materials are aligned with the personality of your business, your values, what you want to be known for and how you want to make people feel. All of these things can be expressed through the design decisions you make, be it the colours and fonts you choose, the style of your imagery and how you put all of these elements together.

Let’s face it, this can be fiddly. And it’s hard to know if you’ve got it right. What might seem sufficient in your eyes, may not be effective in communicating your message to the world and, specifically, to your prospective clients/customers.

How can you create materials that let people know that you’re the right option for them (and keep your sanity at the same time)?

Continue reading “Finding the right graphic designer for you – dos and don’ts”

Project Stories: ‘African Cities’ Greeting Cards

African Cities Greeting Cards Asilia
  

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.

 

African-Cities-Xmas-Foliage-Trees-Asilia

 

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. 

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Travelling is Learning

 

Inspiration

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.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Initial Drawings

 

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?!

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Starlit Asilia 2

 

Bringing them to life

African Cities Greeting Cards Proofs

 

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.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Photoshoot

 

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.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Complementary Plants

 

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)!

 

African Cities Greeting Cards LowTech Photoshoot

 

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. 

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Photoshoot Composing 

 

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.

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Related:

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Project Stories: Brand Identity Design for Toghal

Toghal-African-Textiles-Inspired-Homeware-Flyer-Design-Asilia

 

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. 

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The brief

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.

 

Toghal Traditional African Textiles Reimagined Homeware

 

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.

 

Toghal-African-Inspired-Homeware-Flyer-Design-Asilia

  

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. 

 

Bamum Script Cameroon

 

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). 

Pinterest-Boards-Curated-by-Asilia-Design-Tools

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.

 

Toghal-Homeware-African-Textiles-Reimagined-Logo-by-Asilia

 

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.). 

Toghal-Identity-Design-by-Asilia 

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.

 

Toghal-Traditional-African-Textiles-ReImagined-Homeware-Social-Media-Design-Asilia

 

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). 

 

Toghal-Homeware-Brand-Identity-Design-Stickers-Asilia

(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.

 

Toghal-African-Textiles-Reimagined-Identity-Design-by-Asilia

(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. 

 

Toghal-Homeware-Africa-Utopia

(the Toghal stall at Africa Utopia, earlier this month)

 

Find out more about Toghal and browse their beautiful homeware here.
Read my interview with Toghal co-founder, Dayo Forster, here.

If you're interested in collaborating on a brand identity design project, get in touch with me: hello [at] weareasilia [dot] com.

Identity and promotional material designed by Asilia. Photos courtesy of Toghal. Bamum script image from here.

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Related:

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Inspired: Chinua Achebe Book Covers

1 Chinua-Achebe-Things-Fall-Apart-A-Man-of-the-People

 

Since Chinua Achebe's passing last Thursday, my Facebook feed has been inundated with great quotes from the inspirational writer. There is a particular statement that I love and that resonates so perfectly with philosophy behind this blog:

"Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am, and what I need, is something I have to find out myself.”

Chinua Achebe's literary works inspired great book cover designs and this post showcases some of my favourites. 

Continue reading “Inspired: Chinua Achebe Book Covers”

Defiance by Design: Chaz Maviyane-Davies

Chaz-Maviyane-Davies

As a student, it was difficult to learn about African graphic designers, let alone ones concerned with channelling the power of design for good. I remember the excitement I experienced when I finally discovered Chaz Maviyane-Davies.

Here was somebody creating striking, clever and provocative work. Challenging several perceptions at the same time:

Continue reading “Defiance by Design: Chaz Maviyane-Davies”