How To Become A Great Artist? 

The next Spiderman movie poster is turning people into trolls on the internet (photo).  

How Photoshop can be a double edged sword even for Hollywood? Illustrator Sam Gilbey just puts it so well:
“If you’re simply moving photos around though, you’re not going to get that cohesiveness that an #illustration can bring you. A skilled #artist can take all those disparate elements and weave them together into a beautiful composition, whilst capturing the aspirational ‘feel’ of a movie at the same time. Of course now the fantastic thing is that as an artist you can use #Photoshop to aid the process. The ‘problem’ is that you don’t need to be an artist to give it a try, or to understand how good compositions and colour palettes really work.”  
Ps: Corporate world, the same rules apply to your next marketing visuals. 😉
Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/2tpCaS8

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Chasing Cars

I remember when I first started 11 years ago, reading magazines and books, dreaming of a huge scintillating Wacom tablet and Steve Jobs’ Mac. No money so I started working jobs (no pun intended) and when I got it, I bought a little tablet and… a PC. Isn’t it ironic? I did upgrade 6 years later but I still have my old stuff. I just wanted to draw and tell stories, I still do. Still learning every day.

The point of all this is: tools are just tools. Remember the famous quote from the Joker “I’m a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!” We are all chasing tools today hoping they will change us. Make marvels with what you have.

In my case, ideas are born on paper and brought to fruition by technology, not the other way around.

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How I Started A Graphic Design Business In Cameroon

LionelThis is a guest post I wrote a few months ago, I’m the Owner & Designer at KILIFORI a communication agency in Cameroon. I think it really increases our learning curve and everyone involved can take something positive away from it. What we need in order to build successful Africa Businesses are inspiration, guidance, and instructions! It’s starting with a short interview that was conducted by Dr. Harnet Bokrezion for Africa Business JumpStart followed by my blog post. 

Lionel, thanks for submitting a guest post, please tell us when did you arrive in Cameroon?

I left France and arrived in Cameroon in June 2012. This was actually my second attempt to come back to Cameroon. The first was in 2009, but I think I wasn’t ready yet at the time and it was a challenge to leave my comfortable life in Europe behind. I even had the opportunity to live in the US where I was back in 1999. But something was always calling me back to Cameroon. I have been here almost two years now.

Why did you decide to leave Europe and start a business in Africa?

I like to say that I love competition, but if there is no competition like in Cameroon it is an incredible opportunity and I simply wanted to use that. My business is in the area of ‘graphic design’ this is something that is fairly new to the continent at large. You don’t need to convince a Westerner about the values design will bring to his or her business. But in Africa it is a completely different case. How do you convince an African business that struggles with  internet access, electricity cuts, and management issues to focus on design and branding? That’s the challenge. Yet I wanted to bring design into those areas and businesses, because they need it the most.

How was the process of setting up your business in Cameroon once you arrived there?

In Cameroon registration takes some time – about a month and half. The government does not really assist your business at any stage and neither do the banks. Huge companies are the only ones that get some attention, but not the SMEs. We are all start up owners really, most of the people I know anyway.

What are your lessons or tips for those who want to start a business in Cameroon or other African countries?

It is good to get some contacts and maybe even customers before you register, that will keep you going in the beginning. Opportunities are vast but everything in this country takes time.  People are not ready for what you have to offer so you need to stop selling to them and start teaching instead. The real key to success is perseverance. I’d be glad to be in touch with Diaspora or foreign business owners who would want to settle down here – they can contact me.

 

How I Started A Graphic Design Business in Cameroon

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There are so many good vibes I know about Africa. Its warmth, its generosity, its landscape, its people, and its art. African’s art is so vibrant and beautiful. But the reality is that much of this huge talent and potential often goes down the drain and that saddens me.

I’ll always remember the day when I visited my uncle’s house. We were sitting in the living room, watching some local advertisement on TV – it was a cosmetics ad, the visuals were ugly and badly executed, like they were made in the 70’s – and then my uncle mused. “I really admire Africans who are building things. I mean…real things,” he said. “There’s a great deal of creativity involved in manufacturing. I don’t know about your work, son, but there’s one thing that I’m sure of: It’s not the same. You do all that design stuff for businesses, but marketing is not creativity… and there are so many people who kind of do the same thing. I talk to them every day!”

His words left me aghast, it wasn’t the first time –and certainly may not be the last– that I’ve heard something similar since I landed in Cameroon, two years ago. But why am I still having a hard time to deal with it?

Fortunately, -I guess- I can explain it!  Let’s go back to where we were:  what did they tell you about Africa?  It’s a rich and beautiful continent, right? Great tourist destination! Most people will tell you great stories about South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, or Kenya. But you’ll never hear much about other African countries. Here’s a fact: tourism is a major development factor.  It can change mentalities, drive business, make the market in those countries more competitive and hence they will craft better products as a result. Those are the lucky ones, but what about the other countries? They clearly don’t have this kind of exposure.

Slowly but surely, their business owners became only driven by profits. Bear with me, that’s the most dangerous part: anything is good to make money and even mediocre products can make your business tons of money. “Creativity? Innovation? Competitiveness? Customer care? What for? We want profits, we need to survive! We’ll pump more and more products out there, make some import/export and staple food businesses” They say. “That will be great.”

I am not thinking that this is the “African way of thinking”, this is an issue all over the world, but the feeling runs deeper where poverty, lack of education, diseases, lack of energy and technology are involved.

Will the profits last forever? It’s easy to forget that good first impressions cement the path to good communication. Every step and every contact a company makes is a precious occasion to win new customers. I am just stating the obvious there but, unfortunately, things are not going this way. Because we live in a greedy society.

My business strategy for Africa: Teaching not Selling

So I start the way forward with my business in Cameroon by teaching. I am in it for the long-run, and this is what I ask my potential customers:

What is a company’s greatest asset to:

  • Gain exaaa2posure
  • Bring professional credibility
  • Tell a great story
  • Define a clear vision
  • Differentiate itself from the competition
  • Drive great marketing and management results
  • Make people believe
  • Make a long lasting impact

Take a wild guess?

It’s its logo !

Let me tell you what most businesses do. They ask interns to do it, or they buy cheap services. Why they do it? Because it simply does not as important as the business plan or the financial strategy in their schedule. So many in Africa get trapped into clichés.

Clichés are easy symbols we associate with things, people, cultures or countries. In Africa, eight or nine businesses out of ten will get an African continent as a logo. Make it worse, they use a country flag; and even worse than that, the planet earth.

[note by Africa Business JumpStart admin: Logo with African continent? Ok, we are found guilty of that]

So how can you increase your image and professionalism in front of investors or bankers when your competition already pitched to them with the same kind of identity?


Let me bring you a real case study: AGS

1/ The Brief

I will drive you through the logo design journey of the company Africa Global Strategy (AGS). AGS is a resin maker and supplier for the building industry. Their offices are in Cameroon and they are really great at what they do. In some parts of Africa, the humidity is so strong that the house walls start cracking and the paint forms crusts that can be removed with your thumb. ABS has a solution for that: its original resin solution can keep building foundations sealed to any form of moisture.

Problem: AGS did not have a logo.

2/ Ideas & Brainstorming

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Resin is about chemistry, molecules, a perfect balance, symmetry, a harmonious blend of small elements. These are examples, just keywords.
I write everything that cross my mind on a board. Mind mapping ideas helps me to be more focused and specific about the actual issues raised during the client’s brief.

3/ The Pen is Mightier…

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I always start my projects on a paper, it gives you freedom. You can erase, get a feeling of what is right or wrong, and make quicker decisions.
And it allows you to explore multiple ideas faster. Sketching injects a human touch to a concept.

4/ The Software

Once the sketching phase is finished, we can –finally- open our favorite software. Import our sketch and start having real fun. I use Adobe Illustrator. I find it to be very efficient. Corel Draw, can also do the job. The key is to master the tool, and stay in the vector world. Again, these are just tools. The software does not guarantee a successful logo.

“Molecules have perfect blueprints, shapes, balance and foundations”

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“Building a house is also about chemistry and foundations”

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“Then come the choice of typography.  It can take hours, days to find the perfect one…”

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“Until everything is fully assembled.”

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5/ The Rendering & Presentation

Crafting a logo is one thing. Leaving the clients all alone from this point on is a really a big mistake. I think this is particularly the case in Africa where professional logos and branding are just taking off. So I really take care of delivering a presentation to my clients that tells their identity story, and the multiple directions they can take to give a better dimension to their products or services.
The best logos are those that leave room for some imagination. Clients can use them in multiple ways: animation, t-shirt design, print materials, anything goes.

“Great logos should stand the test of time….and colors”

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“Give the client some vision”

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Final Thoughts

I think that design is at the intersection of art and technology, and both are forms of communication. As human beings we need to express ourselves, point at what is wrong and make a change; make our lives better. Designers and artists feel that sense of urgency. Through the different and unique ways they look at the world, they are problem solvers.
Telling ourselves that creativity is only living in palpable things, -and only concrete products can make money- is denying the right to every company in Africa to be different without having to pitch their products or services at meetings each time.

My uncle is 60, he is old school. But hey, prospects say “No” too!  He could still be your next big customer.

How will you make him buy your products or services?

If it is  all about the price then you will become a commodity; he will buy from you once but don’t expect him to come back again.

What if he needed more?

Your logo gives away more than you think. It defines who you are, why you started your business, your vision all those things that make you different.

African customers are very brand aware, and this is why your company needs a logo. They would say: ‘We want to belong to a brand and be proud of it. We want to tell people around us that you are the best.  “Yeah, yeah that logo with the blue bird flying, that’s them!” We’ll say. We will always bad mouth products or services we don’t know, and run to your competition with the brand. Because we don’t know you, but we know them.’

Are we in the end not all a little like that?

So how will you make us love your African brand?

Thanks

I want to thank Ms Harnet Bokrezion for being such a beautiful soul, having beautiful projects for Africa, and giving me the opportunity to speak on her blog. I think that change will come one pixel at a time. And we are very lucky to witness it. I really love what I do –helping businesses get the most out of themselves through great design-, and I really love this continent. Maybe that’s what keeps me going. It can get really tough at times and you may face many disappointments along the way. Don’t worry, keep trying! Because as they say once you can drive in Africa, you can drive anywhere.

Lionel Thomas- Owner & Designer at KILIFORI

No, You Can’t Have The Original Files For Free

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I knew it was going to happen. Even though it’s not the first time, this is leaving me aghast.

The budget is fixed, the project settled: leaflet creation. You put yourself to work, send the first drafts and final design weeks after that. Multiple modifications kicking in, because simple projects are not always that simple, who said a leaflet creation was a piece of cake? Week 3, you still pursuing your payment, the client is out of town for the weekend, and wants to make many print test runs to see / ‘make sure’ that everything’s OK. You arguing that it’s useless because the files aren’t in the proper resolution anyway. They’ll be when the final payment will get cashed in. Another modifications…okay… week 4 you see the cash..send the files. Then you get a final request: “can we have the original editable files of this project?”

This is the “are you kidding me?” part. If you slam your laptop, you’ll be out of business so you better take a walk, come back , make some tea and maybe write a blog post while you sipping it. The client call you -while you are writing-, furious, and the conversation goes like this -God, the tea does really help- :

“I thought that I was paying for the originals! Usually that’s what happening” the client says
“I’m sorry to hear that but these are the wrong practices in my field of work, we ‘usually’ charge for the originals, if it wasn’t the case there would be no designers, just clients trying to do some bad work with native files” the designer replies
“But…you didn’t tell me this before!”
“Well, you did tell me this at the very end of the project…”
“That’s impossible I’ll tear your leaflet up, you can keep the money anyway!”
“It would be a shame if you did, after all these ‘free’ modifications and back and forths on the design made for your business, design that you really liked and that will get you many new clients by the way.”
“Seriously, if I gave this job to my printer, or someone with a computer, I’d get the originals”
“Printers are not designers, computer owners are not designers, a graphic designer isn’t just someone running in a wheel with a computer , Photoshop is a professional tool that takes an entire life to master…”
“Keep the money, I’m done with you, I thought it was a friendly gesture.”
“We are a business, a communication business, this is our business…we pay our Photoshop membership (among other things) with this money so thank you…”

I hear you saying ‘oh you are not flexible, give the client what they want, this is business in Africa, this is how you are going to gain exposure, bla bla bla’. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote a post about the clients and how some may think they are king and can command to designers to do cartwheels in their garden.
Let me put it down, and I mean every words: the clients have a great nose for fear and desperation.

Yet so many designers have been scared to say NO to their clients. Fear? Reputation? Money? That’s why this job got downplayed, disrespected and under estimated. I think it can change by starting to doing it right.

The cook will not giving you the restaurant’s recipe away for free, the architect will not give you the blueprint of the house for free, the company you buying your computer from will not give you the patents for free. Why the hell you thinking designers are different? Just because you see them zoning, freelancing and knocking doors trying to make a living make you think they are desperate, craving for the money and that gives you the right to be ‘king’.

Let me charge you for this, please.

What Your Clients Will Say And Do 95% Of The Time

I never yelled at a client. It has never been part of my intentions when I first started my business. Yet, when that day came it was such a relief! As a young entrepreneur, the amount of passion, energy you put in your craft and how you care about your first clients is amazing. I dreamed big, -I still am- thinking about how I’d cater to my customers the best I could, making it the stepping stone of my company. At first, bad days were just about me being sad not making enough money to pay bills; then the reputation starts growing and you attract different type of clients. How you’re going to deal with them is important. A clear strategy is needed. Creative professionals always charge their services in two parts: the caution, to make sure everything will run well, keep the boat floating; and the final delivery payment. What happen between these two parts is sometimes drama. This is like Moïse opened the sea up and closed it at the wrong time, usually when you have the final payment invoice in your hands. Sadly our activity is more about figuring what will be the next silly idea that will pop up in our client’s mind, than the actual work on our plate. “The client is king” they say, “Long live the king” they chant… yes whatever?

//* Don’t read if you’re sensitive to spoilers // I knew a king that pissed me off so much for an entire season -or two-, and this got me wondering why somebody hadn’t kill him already. You know him well…

joffrey
When you deal with complicated clients you are always on the verge. You feel it coming. This little voice inside your head will say “You fool! What’s going wrong with you? The amount of money on the table was not worth it. Why you took it?” Wish you left it to somebody who’d be able to handle all the pressure you’re in right now. I remember reading an article about Steve Jobs, it narrated how Paul Rand – famous designer of NEXT logo- , pissed off,  banged his fist on the table saying “This is my job! I know how to do it!”. I almost stood up and gave to my computer screen a round of applause. Strange to say, clients will respect you for that. Don’t be afraid, nothing wrong will happen to you – feel the salt of the sea in your mouth already?- 😉

Here’s what clients don’t know: the process of creativity is long, tedious and hair pulling.  Strategic choices -painful ones- have to be made, time is limited. Deadlines are dreadful. We -creative professionals- are suffering, because we care about every single details that will render the big picture well. They don’t see that, let me tell you why: because cheap, careless, do-it-for-the-money graphic designers came along way before you. They serenaded awful songs to them and they liked it, thy did this awful job you are now in charge to fix!

I will write about these “design slaughters” in another article; for now let’s refocus on the designer-client love and hate relationships. This is the client’s job: lower your pricing, they are in for the “more bang for their buck”. They want cheap prices with unlimited changes, unlimited feedback’s and unlimited calls. The question to ask yourself is can you deal with all that? Here’s, in my experience, what they’ll throw at you:

“Let’s see how you do that, give us free samples to show to x, y, z decision maker in our office, then we’ll ball”
Dear client, the ball is in our portfolio. What you are calling free samples is “spec work”. We are not new to this business and if we crafted our website carefully with all our previous work in it. You should check it. Are you entering a nice restaurant and asking the chef to “get over your table in a hurry” and let you taste his/her special meal with this special sauce on it. You’d “buy if you like it. Deal?”. Not in this world. All you need to know about the menu is displayed at the front door. You know exactly what’s cooking there and you have testimonials all over internet to make a buying decision.

“We will advertise your business if you do this or that, we have an amazing network of new clients for you!”
If I could get a penny every time I hear this…
Dear client, this is not charity: I’m a creative professional. My agency is helping companies in advertising and communication fields! No one is better at self promoting than me and my business. This is what you hired us for, isn’t it? You are just saying this because you are hoping for a good rebate. Plus nothing will guarantee me that you’ll stick to your words, because nothing force you to do this in the future.
It takes time networking and promoting a business. If I’m in front of you it’s because you don’t have the time nor the expertise to conduct these tasks effectively. Here’s what will happen 90% of time: you will forget it! Few days later, I’ll be asking you “have you spread the word about my business lately?” I’ll get a vibrant no or a lie. Clients don’t have time! They are busy!  If you really want to help me, dear client, here are my business cards with my agency’s website address on it. Please do share and bring me referrals I’ll appreciate it. I’m already advertising your business on my website and at every meetings. Freely.

“Hey you owe me money remember few months ago we did so and so”
Dear client, where were you “few months ago” when we were awaiting your final payment? This is why we set up a caution. To allow us to work safely. Because we know that the business life is full of surprises. Bad ones. Just because you left a caution don’t mean we owe you money. Have you ever left a nightclub with your bottles at the bar and came few months later asking “where are my drinks? I left money here”

“This wasn’t considered as a modification to me”
Dear client, you know that in this craft we charge you for every modifications done after delivery. Why? Because we know perfection doesn’t exist. And, like us, you love perfection. We could still be on it at Christmas. Every time my stylus touch the tablet to change something for you, my time is involved. I could spend this time doing something else. Modifications are becoming downward spirals so easily when they are not restrained. We don’t want them to happen; that’s why during the process of creation we submit mockups, directions, sketches for YOU to choose. If you don’t know what you want in life it will cost you. The same goes in design and marketing.

“Could you submit other propositions for this work?”
Dear client, we are down for whatever, whenever you provide us the fuel to do so. We are running a business like you and our time -like yours- is valuable. It took us weeks to come up with a solution for you. Now that we are close to the delivery and the deadline is near, don’t ask us to work more. If you want more propositions, an additional invoice will be submitted. Fair enough?

“Are you down for the money or your client’s satisfaction?”
“Take no prisoners” type of question here. Dear client, you are playing with my feelings here. You didn’t hire me to be nice to you. I don’t ask you to like me because my work is NOT me. My ability is to build something out of the clay you gave me-client’s brief-. If I asked you the right questions, if my job has been done properly: the result is YOU.
I’m okay with client’s satisfaction. I’m always providing free tips, writing articles, interacting in forums and discussions. You could ask me questions anytime about your issues I’d be glad to answer them in my free time.
You have my number right? Let’s schedule a call anytime!

“Change the color: turn it green
Here I go “what type of green do you want? Do you have the specific code for that green?”
“Don’t know, but we know it should be green, it’s not the same green coming out of our Hp printer” they say.
“Have you calibrate your screen…? Have you consult your printer?  Do you know what will be the effects of that green to your audience? ” I reply.
“We have no clue” they snap back.
Dear client, designers are masters of colors. They know exactly how strong visual emotions go. If I chose this color charter for you, I really knew what I was doing.

Can you make the character / logo / design / illustration bigger?
How big? Let me tell you more about everything going on that canvas. In Design, elements works in harmony, they are “designed” like this. It’s how they work. When you ask something to be bigger or smaller, you are provoking the entire system to bug.

It’s 11 pm and I wanted to call you”
Dear client, you simply can’t. Like you, I have a life. If you reach me out of business hours, you give me the incentive to regret our collaboration -and hang up-. It shows me that you are selfish and self-centered. May be you think the money you engaged allows you to act like the Egyptian pharaohs?

Can you come to our office regularly?
Dear client, I came alone to this meeting but I’m not alone. I’m just the account executive and CEO as well. I’m working with a team. When you see me in your office it’s because we made our respective schedules work for that day. When I come, if you have a meeting, I’ll patiently wait in the lobby.

“Can you work with our interns on this?
Duuuuhhhh…No! We are only dealing with you because we know that your interns are not the decisions maker here. If you could spare us these useless back and forths, we’ll appreciate it very much. Thank you!

“Can I interrupt you during your presentation?”
Dear client, if you do so, my speech will be troubled. This PowerPoint presentation was gently nailed for you. We rehearsed it. Please, listen to what we are saying, it’s important. You can put your phone in silent mode, nothing is more urgent than this work we are presenting in front of you right now.

“We had your budget but it was used for another urgent matter.”
Dear client, what you are telling me here is that the work you hired us for wasn’t important. We spent time together on calls, briefs, feedbacks, and now the project’s start is rescheduled to a date you really don’t know. Next time you hire us the cost will be higher. Why? Because If we had to wait for you to be ready and in the mean time over clients came in and pay the right price for the right service.

“We could get it cheaper on Fiver or 99designs or whatever cheap sites out there”
Dear client, you don’t know enough cheap places you can go to :). It’s our business, we know very well our competition. If you want commodities, we can point you -gladly- to the right places -persons- for the job. Unfortunately, Epson, Adobe, Apple, Wacom, Western Digital, Dropbox, Internet providers and every technologies we work with on a daily bases don’t offer us cheaper products. Our employees need a pay, they have also mouths to feed.

“You are too expensive!”
Dear client, few months ago I was on the market for a new laptop. My aging laptop was bugging and that slowed my workflow and my ability to deliver. I wanted a laptop that last longer, more reliable and fast. I then made my researches online and I came to the conclusion that only Macbook Pros could give me that solution. Hell! These cats are expensive! But I know what I want. I know that I can’t sacrifice the quality for the price, I know that if I go for the cheap solutions I’ll be happy for few days / months, but when my laptop will start bugging again or I’ll change its battery regularly, I’ll surely regret my investment. What’s the point of paying the double or triple down the road, when I can pay big now? I want peace. I want sustainable solutions for my business. I want a great support. I want experts to provide me the best of their works. I’m ready to pay the price for this. No shortcuts. Are you?

“We’d like you to give us native files / codes for that project”
Dear client, you are asking for the blueprints. They worth money. We are the guardians of these blueprints. In case if something goes wrong you can fall back on us for guidance and help. Don’t ask us to give you these files because we know that you will give them to the competition or your interns, who will do -90% of time- an awful job, and after that you’ll come and blame us. As designers and creative we are responsible for every little things we put out in this world. Leave this power to us.

“We work without contract”
Dear client, a contract is not a punishment. It’s not a trick destined to trap you! It will protect you and us from those non sense conversations we will have in the future. I know that painful conversations are good and necessary. But they don’t have to be total non sense! We both agree to do the work based on common terms. The contract make sure everybody will respect his words. Please, sign this contract.

“Come on, be flexible!”
Dear client, we know where flexibility lead. You want us to work the magic out for you, that’s what we’ll do. But what about you? Are you flexible?

The path I took is not an easy one. I decided to bring my expertise to Africa few years ago. A continent where design has left -some are wondering if it has ever existed-, where all need to be done, where we are tired of non-development clichés like famine and diseases,  where people go overseas to buy great stuff they can craft locally and make it their own. Many have left, exhausted trying, some are still here because the love goes strong whenever difficulties and challenges arise. I’m bringing changes. It’s not because we are in Africa, that the sun is brighter, that we should do low level business, or flawed one. Look where it led us? Change is hard! It doesn’t happen overnight. We have stopped communicating to each others decades ago, now we are paying the price and can’t even recognize bad work when it happens. I love my clients, I really do. As a father loves his children and sometimes needs to find solutions to make them change when they go wrong. I’m not here to “play nice”, to “be nice”, may be my competition is. I go by the rule that you expect me to be real with you. This my business policy.

The Importance Of Planning

I’m not an architect, but I can draw. They say architects are not artists, but of all the architects I talked to, there’s not a single one who does not love photography. All great architectural books are full of amazing pictures. There are also topics about planning, sketches, and illustration in architecture. Because your love of photography, drawing or music, doesn’t make you an artist, it helps you build your own taste and vision. Most importantly you’ll get curious enough to quickly learn the process of creation -through YouTube videos for example-.

With all these sources of inspiration, why we always fall into the trap of not planning well our projects?

Case study: I designed this plan in Revit Architecture for a client’s construction project. (It’s actually the 1st floor.)

Months later, the client has changed all the design and feel I wanted to convey. Rooms have been reduced and he built other walls. Once the building was finished, another changes were made: destroying walls, extending some rooms, taking windows down…All these came at a huge cost! I felt sorry for him and for me, because it was my responsibility -and the architect in charge- to make this project successful. Wait…there was actually no architect in charge! The client did it all by himself.

I learned the importance of planning,  carefully follow up a project, and surround myself with professionals. It’s not okay to leave a client battling with his own choices, you need to be there after giving the project’s blueprint to him; explain why did you take some directions instead of others? Why you think they are the best solutions? Work them out with your team.  This is what I do in my other domain fields. You are the expert. Persuade your client that he’ll be better off after having listened to your advice.

Hence the most important question: “How do you persuade a know-it-all client?”

4 Ways Brand & Design Will Help African Companies Grow

If it takes about $50.000 to buy a transport truck, how many trucks do I need to become rich? Wait… why we need the trucks for? Agriculture employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product. We carry food from villages to cities: chili, beans, rice, meat, sugar. Speaking of sugar, it literally made the days of the young Aliko Dangote –the richest man in Africa- catapulting him on top of a $billion empire.

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Everyone wants to make a fortune in Africa. Selling primary products is the shortest way to get there. Unfortunately, this does not lead to profitable growth, job creation and sustainable development that Africa needs right now. Here are 4 ways branding and design will change the game:

Perception: We buy based on an impression, feelings, and memories. How many times have we told ourselves “I’ll never fly this company again, they are not professional!”; “This Smartphone is too complicated; I cannot even simply upload my pictures to my computer and vice versa.” From the brand will come the discernment that leads to customer’s loyalty.   These are consumers who are always ready to pay more to stay true to their feelings. The dream of every marketing department.

Value: The African market is staggering in terms of quality, customer service, and innovative ideas. Design can bring: valuable customers, better services and products, healthy competition, dynamic companies. Yet, people attach importance only to expensive things. “Freemium” continues to plumb a continent where people would rather buy overpriced brands from overseas.

Difference & Positioning: The trucks design might be same, logistics and management processes are different from one company to another. In an economic environment where we buy mostly because we have no choice, we are still waiting for the real game changers, with true visions that will change our lives. Nowadays the price is the only motivator. From that point on, companies become commodities.

Experience: What consumers like? What they reject? Where the numbers are? Which campaign did not work? We know none of these parameters. And we are still making commercials that miss the point all the time, because nobody takes the pulse of the market before hand. Experience is what makes us to be first in line to buy things we don’t necessarily need.

At the US-Africa Leaders Summit, John Kerry said “Business is not just business for the sake of business. It is for providing the foundation for people to be able to live their lives with opportunity, dignity, and respect.” Until Africans shift their mentality toward: quality, competitiveness and a unique positioning of their products and services; unless they align with the same standards of sophistication and consumption as seen abroad, the billions invested will be useless. China, for years, has brought more money on the table. Most of it went down the drain.