The future Nigerian Graphics Design capital that Mokola-Ibadan is

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I co-own a design agency that works from its Akure office (Ondo state), in what shocks many people even upon my attempt to justify why. However, this is not an ‘expected’ out-of-Lagos city promotion. This is about Ibadan, which is not only Nigeria’s largest city in terms of land size, but also arguably the biggest home of CorelDraw users: X3 specifically.

I know it sounds like the typical act of putting Ibadan on the spot but as much as I recognize the great works of professional designers and creative agencies in the city, this is more about the teeming number of young people in and around Mokola, the printing press headquarters, who resume work everyday answering to the ever-urgent clients for their immediate design needs.

Typical ‘quick and on-the-go’ Graphics Design from Mokola

“Just put something together and let it be very colorful”. Talk about the daily work of serving to satisfaction, the ever-rushing contractors who come to print funeral programs dead in the night in the last hours to the final rites.

On a list that includes agriculture, trade, public service employment, as well as rich delicacies (Amala precisely) of areas the Ibadan economy thrives on, leaving out the printing press would be way too conspicuous. Printing has naturally led to a corresponding boom of a graphics design industry that has discriminated no one, not based on skill or expertise. The size of the demand and the characteristic urgency of the projects has rather encouraged “anything that works”. This has meant over the years, an effortless market entry for every young guy who owns a PC, is able to find a way around installing a design software and can combine a picture with text, say ‘Celebration of Life’, or ‘ 10th Anniversary” and other typical event details.

The result over time is a city that boasts of several young people who have chosen the “Graphics Designer” career path, fallen in love over time with the joy of being labelled badass by satisfied local print contractors, and have crossed the hurdles of equipment, software skill and confidence.

What however is an open secret from within the quarters of professional designers and agencies across the country, especially in the 2-hour-drive-away Lagos, who have built careers with better training, exposure and focus on design quality, is a perception of mediocrity. The Mokola designer is a popular joke that has simply not being told ‘in his front’.

Based on the hurdles earlier highlighted as crossed in a country where these basic things have entirely incapacitated several career-wannabes, I see huge potential. I see a waiting treasure-store of young guys who have got every other thing set and only need some help and guide here and there with a purpose-approach as well as the best standards of graphics design out there beyond their locality.

I believe industry stakeholders, art directors and ‘senior designers’ out there should begin to see the ‘Mokola design guy’ from this point of view. From trainings and mentorship, to starting design agencies, organizing meet-ups and marketing resources to that teeming audience, or even start a design academy, so much lies in Ibadan waiting to be done.

(I wrote this article on February 1, 2017).

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