MORE THAN A BOY: Meet Taiwo Samuel, A Visual Identity Designer.

My journey in design and tech so far.

Obialo Ndubueze

1 month ago|8 min read

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*Static… Click… Click…*

“Are you ready?”

“Sure, sure.”

*Click…*

*Static…*

*Starts recording.*

Tell me a little about yourself?

Okay, my name is Taiwo Samuel, and I’m a boy.

*Laughs*

I come from a family of five. I have an elder brother and a younger sister. I’m a Christian, and from a growing age, I’ve always loved the creative process of things.

How did you start your career in design?

Well, I got exposed to Hollywood at an early age so I’ve always been keen on excellence and creativity.

I saw a lot of cartoons as a child, and I just loved everything creative.

Fast forward to when I was about 16,17, or 18, I began my journey in design. I started with smartphone designs because I couldn’t afford a laptop at the time, and since I had a passion for design, I couldn’t sit and wait till whenever I got one.

I even had to repair a phone that was lying around the house to be able to start design.

Now that I think of it, it makes me smile. I’ve put a lot of work into design, and I’ve put a lot of effort into learning and building myself.

I did smartphone design for two years, 2017 to 2018, then I got my laptop in 2019 and focused fully on design as a profession.

A lot of people see design as a side hustle, but I see it as a full-time gig.

I gave my all. I started with CorelDRAW, which was a software I was exposed to. But as my vision and ideas grew, as my goals and milestones developed, I saw that if I wanted to be where I aspired to, I needed to leave CorelDRAW and learn a recognised industry-based software, which is Adobe creative suite.

I started with Adobe illustrator. It was a hard transition process for me because I was already used to CorelDRAW.

After a while, I stopped learning Adobe illustrator because if I could do the same things on Adobe illustrator as Coreldraw, why kill myself for Adobe?

But, one of my goals was to be featured on the ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD SHOW before the end of my design career. And you must be an Adobe product user to get featured. So, I had the opportunity to push myself.

I told myself that if I tried for one month and it didn’t work, I was going to stop design entirely.

During that month, it was intense for me. There were nights I would not sleep, everybody was asleep and I would be on my phone, on YouTube I would just learn, then in the morning, I’ll practice.

By the end of that month, I was able to master Adobe illustrator and that was how I stopped CorelDRAW forever.

*Laughs*

After Adobe Illustrator, I moved on to Adobe PHOTOSHOP and then other Adobe products like Xd and InDesign, which I mastered later on in my design career.

So, for me, design has been like a driving force. I’m about the solutions design provides, I’m about the experiences people have when they interact with products.

For example, when I see a pack of biscuits on a shelf or a car, it’s all about the design for me.

Design fuels me in general.

Interesting stuff, Samuel. Design is vast. What exactly do you do at the moment in the design space?

Currently, I’m a brand identity developer or designer. I love to use the word- Designer, not developer because it’s much more direct for me.

So, I’m a brand identity designer but I do digital illustrations which I delved into recently, and I’m a certified UI/UX designer.

I prefer to call myself a user experience UX designer because I love the user experience part of designs more than the user interface UI.

I’m not so much into the designs per se. I focus more on the UX than the UI.

So, I’m a brand identity designer, a digital illustrator and a user experience design enthusiast.

A design enthusiast, that’s cool. You know, design is a creative work, and creativity needs ideas. How do you come up with that?

I always tell newbies that the best way to be the best creative is to be the best copycat. I’ve also heard a saying that,

“The ability to steal like an artist is what makes you a real creative”.

So, most of the time when I’m faced with projects and I need to bring ideas forward, my ideation process involves visiting places like “behance.net” cause on Behance you have loads of resources from awesome designers from all around the globe doing amazing things.

I fuel my creative process by doing much research work or putting effort into viewing what others have done in the creative industry.

For example, if I were to work on a brand identity project for a fashion brand, I just go on Behance and consume lots of brand identity projects on fashion. I go on dribbble.com, too. These are my go-to places.

I spend hours on these sites browsing through those projects and somehow it finds a way to feed my creativity. So, when I go to the drawing board to start conceptualizing ideas, it’s easier for me that way.

You make it sound so sweet and simple, but we know that there are challenges in the space. So, what are the biggest ones that you have faced building your career as a brand identity designer and digital illustrator?

One of the challenges I faced was the challenge of self-doubt. As I said, I always go on Behance to draw in a lot of inspiration when I started as a designer, and I always felt that I didn’t measure up.

It’s something I struggled with for a long time. The thought that I didn’t measure up, I wasn’t up to the standard of the “big boys”.

So, I struggled with that for a while.

I’ve been able to overcome that self-doubt. I stood in front of the mirror most times and said to myself,

“Samuel, you’re good!!”

I committed myself to hours of learning and soon that air of self-doubt was lifted off bit by bit.

I still feel a bit of it sometimes, but that’s fine. Now, it’s like a wake-up call for me to be and do more!!

Another challenge was getting people to trust me. In the creative industry, people work with people who they can trust to deliver.

As a newbie, I didn’t have someone there to put the food in my mouth per se. You know how people take someone that works under them and say,

“This is my boy, you can trust him,”

I didn’t have that leverage. I had to build trust by myself over time. I delivered to my best ability whenever a task was given, most of the time they were unpaid gigs, but I gave my all.

Building trust takes a lot of time and energy, meanwhile, there are bills to be paid.

Soon, I began to get people to trust and build relationships with me.

It was a challenging process for me as a creative.

That’s a truly inspiring process. Asides from these past ones, do you still face challenges?

Of course, one of the challenges I face is that I feel I’ve been in the local space, my own enclosed space for a long while, and it’s time for me to break out.

I shouldn’t be here. I should be up there. That is the challenge I’m facing now, breaking into the international market. That’s what I’m working on.

Speaking of moving forward, what are your plans for the future?

I was telling someone recently that I want to retire before the age of 30. I want to retire by 25.

*Laughs*

I’m passionate about development and goals, so I see myself in the future training a lot of designers, mentoring people in design, helping people break out of the cocoon, and finding their footing in design.

Just like I told you I want to be featured on Adobe creative cloud live, I also want to be featured in a TEDx event. I love TEDx events so much. I watched a TEDx event video every day throughout last year.

I love teaching and growth, so, that’s where I see myself 2–3 years from now when I’ve finally retired from design.

I’ll be like a mentor and trainer.

That’s the future for me.

That’s great, Samuel. We’ve been talking work, work, work. What do you do as a hobby?

I’ll call watching movies a hobby for me.

I’ve been a weird growing child, and I’ve not pointed to a hobby I like. But, I love movies a lot. I enjoy watching movies.

I watch movies all the time. When I’m not designing or doing anything work-related, I watch movies. I love animation, and I love cartoons.

If that is classified as a hobby, then that’s my hobby.

I also watch sports. I love watching football and basketball most of the time. It’s not like I’m a diehard fan.

I also love playing video games. I get easily uninterested in games though. The only thing that can keep my interest is a movie.

On a final thought, if you had to speak to newbie techies, what are your top 3 advice for them?

My top 3 advice for them would be:

1 – Consistency- Consistency has helped me in the industry. Pick a particular thing you know you love doing or you want to do, and just be consistent with it for a while and it will pay off.

2 – Focus- It’s just like consistency. A lot of times people are not focused on one thing, they are everywhere. They are here today, there tomorrow. Try and pick a particular path and just stay on it.

3 – Define your goals, purpose and reasons- Why are you in design? I get a lot of DMs from people who tell me they want to join tech, they want me to mentor them, or they want to be designers.

The first question I always ask is,

“why do you want to be a designer?”

And the answer is always,

“for the money.”

Why you shouldn’t join design because of the money is because there are nights design won’t pay your bills, and there are nights design won’t put food in your stomach.

Will you be able to stand the test of time? It’s the reason you get into design that’ll determine if you’ll stand the test of time.

So, define your purpose well.

Some people do smartphone designs, and I tell them that smartphone designs are not bad, but make sure that your purpose is defined.

As I said before, one of my reasons for starting as a designer was to feature in the Adobe creative cloud live show, and knowing that I could not be featured there using a smartphone, made me struggle to break out of smartphone designing and I got my laptop.

Although you’re making money as a smartphone designer, you should be able to define your goals. If you’re there for the money, that’s good. Stay within that boundary.

But if it’s much more for you, it’s better to know it early so you can work towards it. Not when you’ve been in design for years, you suddenly discover that this is no longer what you want and you have to start over again after you have wasted energy, time and effort.

Be focused, be consistent, and define your priorities. That’s it for me.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you so much, Taiwo Samuel. It has been an interesting conversation with you.

You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. I feel so appreciated and I appreciate you so much.

*Click… Click…*

*Static…*

*Stops recording.*

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Obialo Ndubueze

Hi, I'm Obialo Ndubueze. I am a perpetual student of life, a writer, and a tale-bearer. I tell stories of Africans in tech, highlighting their journey, process and achievements.

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