Sage Meets Yox-The-Professor
Yox-The-Professor is a branding & Identity Design expert based in Abuja where he runs his design studio (Yox Studios). His works have been very inspiring and his authentic personality amazes me. I am so excited about the opportunity to have this conversation with him and I learned a great deal from our discussion. I hope you find it useful as well
Thanks for taking out time for us to have this talk, I really appreciate this. Can you talk a bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Kunle Yoloye Jr. I am a graduate of Estate Management, and I practiced for a while before moving into branding and I have been doing it now professionally since 2011.
When did you start Yox Studios?
Yox Studios started a few months in the same year, April 29 2011.
What Inspired your move to the Design industry knowing that you studied Estate Management?
My story is very peculiar. I started designing for the first time at about 1998. My father had a printing press and a computer so I used to design and play with the computer but you know then, I didn’t know one could be a professional. I used to design for the sake of what was to be printed at the printing press and not necessarily because I considered myself a designer.
In the midst of that I had to quit, go to school, Study Estate management and practice. Towards 2010, while in an Estate firm, amidst the blackberry rush, since DPs were in vogue, I had this friend on my messenger who used to have DPs with nice quotes, so I asked her can I know the sites you get these thing from, she refused.
Then I used Corel Draw but I had a friend who used Photoshop, so he put me through the rudiments of Photoshop. I began designing DPs having my pin on the DPs.
Through that I became quite popular with many people adding me up. One day someone asked me If I do logos. I was close to saying no but a friend advised me that there was nothing wrong in taking the job, so I took the job up. After that I had several referrals. That was when I realized that people do actually pay for design alone, it was from there I started researching. In the process of researching, I started to meet different designers and check out their works. Since I was already working somewhere and I could not use my real name to start chasing what I thought was another good idea on the side, I decided to create an unknown identity.
I have always been Yox for a while and decided to create a new identity so I created Yox-The-Professor. That’s why there was no face. I just wanted to be on social media, take advantage of what has worked and proceed. So really that is how I found myself doing brand identity.
Was that how you got your first client through the DPs?
Yes, that’s how I got my first client and really every other client till today has been a multiplier effect of referrals leading to bigger projects. So, I brought Yox-The-Professor to Facebook so all the bigger ones that came along the way came through Yox-The-Professor, so it’s really been social media all the way and referrals.
I saw in a interview you had with Punch News, you mentioned in particular that you don’t do branding for weddings and entertainment anymore, any particular reason you said that?
When I started out in design and was trying to find my feet, one thing I understood quickly was that you must specialize in a certain thing. It is easier to specialize in one thing and move forward from there.
I chose to specialize in Branding and Logo Design, I always thought a good logo needed to have a concept or a story behind it and as simple as those things are, its really difficult to put concepts together within that tiny space.
I realize that when working with someone who isn’t a nice person and doesn’t respect you, the relationship never goes far and everything goes sour. In working with people I decided to narrow down on my target market. I could not handle weddings anymore because brides can be traumatic. Sometimes, they seem to escalate things and they find it difficult to express their thoughts without having to rude about it. Based on experience, I decided that I could not work with that kind of pressure anymore. I am married now though, so I understand better why not take offence when these things happen.
I tried entertainment too and happened to work with one of the “now famous rappers” in the industry, but I discovered in working with those guys, they seem to always talk to you like they are doing you a favour and working with them would give me publicity and exposure of which they themselves don’t have such exposure just yet. It’s impossible to give what you don’t have! In simple terms, It came to a point I could not work with such people anymore so I had to stem down to brand identity and decided to settle.
How do you handle ‘cheap clients’ who don’t value your work and want to pay very little money for so much work?
Over the years, I have come to discover the N5,000 guy will never pay beyond N5,000 for a logo design. It is not necessarily your own fault or the client’s fault. That’s just the clients understanding of what a logo should be.
If he is already in a position where he feels the logo is just my name and an icon, it doesn’t need to have meaning and I won’t have to pay more than N5,000, those kind of clients are very easy to come across.
I do not see them as wrong, I just feel that’s their understanding and I do not see the people who choose to work with them as being bad to the industry, that where their own level of knowledge lies.
They also do not know beyond putting squares and boxes without necessarily having any relevance to the brand. What I always say is that, as a designer, you have to put in the work. It is now left to your own personal branding, if it properly reflects that. Your next target should be to look for clients who understand these things and not necessarily trying to educate someone who is not interested.
Your energy should not really be in bashing designers or clients with cheap prices but into focusing on where to find these type of clients.
How do you generate creative ideas for your identity design projects?
As they say, good designers copy, great designers steal. What I have learnt is before I start anything, I like to do my research. It is necessary to take caution not to copy. People have a bad habit of just picking the same ideas and just dropping it. I like to see 7–10 designs that are fantastic, then walk away from them, come back and re-create my own stuff. It could have elements of some of the inspiration I have seen. By the time you put them together, you would have something quite different. That is how I work.
Can you give us a little insight into what a brand is and what branding is about?
Okay, I wrote a book called “Brandiculous: a ridiculously simple way to create a profitable business” . If you read the book you would get a better idea around what a brand or branding is. In simple terms, “a brand is people’s impression about something” and “branding is trying to shape that impression”.
What do you advise on going about building a personal brand as a designer?
As regards developing a strong personal brand, here is what I think.
First. You have to be a professional at what you do, you have to put in the resources to understand and master what you do. You know you pay the price to actually be a professional at it.
Second. You have to be able and willing to come out to share what you know. help, share and give, that’s the way to succeed. And if you are going to develop a personal brand that is to succeed, those are the things that take you out, that make people to see that you are a professional. Also be willing to share your work and the processes. Use social media, its very easy these days. I believe doing all of that will help you attract the right kind of clients.
In dealing with Clients. Use Phone calls and emails, ask questions to be sure to understand the project brief before you even start. If a client is unwilling to give a full detail of the brief they want to work with, do not take the job because you will hate yourself. A client who says he is too busy to fill in your questionnaire is always the client who has all the time in the world to rain insults on you when you did not magically produce what it is that is in their head. So always keep your professionalism on point. Send him this questionnaire and make sure the questionnaire is properly filled, whatever you do not understand from the client, ask again from the client.
As regards Money. Collect a percentage of your fees before you start work. Where there is no commitment, there is no will to see the project through. If there is no commitment, you cannot tell which client is really serious with what they are doing and the one that just woke up with a dream and wants to play around with it. Make sure you collect a percentage of your fees even if it is 10–20%. If you want to break the process into 2–3 payments down the line, no problem. Let that professionalism show, collect a commitment fee. Send a contract and define in it the work process.
Be nice to people. I always say it is good to be very nice, talk politely, and respectfully so that when you make a u-turn on your attitude, it is clear that they have crossed the line.
What would you advice is a designers way to tackle making money vs surviving in the present economy?
Here is my take on starting out as a designer/entrepreneur. I do not always advice people to come out and fly into entrepreneurship because it doesn’t really work for many people.
Let’s say you come out from school and fly into entrepreneurship, that thing is not easy, don’t let people deceive you. So, what I always advice is, if you are lucky and you get out of school on time and you are one of those people that are privileged to understand what you want going forward, do not bother too much about starting a design agency or entrepreneurship, go get a job! If you have a steady paying salary, it is easier for you to develop and maintain your art as a designer. Having done that for a while and you happen to have a good number of referrals, you can move to stay on your own.
However, if you are in the design field and you do not have a backup job, there is something called “feast or famine”; some days, too much work, other days, nothing. There will be famine when no money is coming in, so what I advice is: In the days when you have excess jobs and get money, save up. If you don’t, then you would be forced by hunger to shift grounds on your fee which is not always a good thing to start out with
I also advice designers to have an exit strategy. As fantastic as design industry might be, I do not think as a Nigerian, you want to be 50 years old and be stuck holding a laptop with mouse and battling people because of logo no matter how much. You should have an exit strategy by maybe developing people to work for you, creating the ideas or even decide to move into another venture, related or unrelated venture to take care of your later days.
You earlier mentioned how some people helped you grow in the design industry, can you mention some of them in order for people like me to get to know and follow?
Tola Alabi (he spared loads of time to help me out with priceless insights when I first started), Samson Aligba (some things aren’t complete if I don’t pass it through him first), Is Li, James Abinibi, Kolade Adegunloye, Collyde Prime, Kanso Ogbolu, Adekunle Gold, Uche Ugo, David Osagie, Obinna Okerekeocha, Chuks Sunesis, Akinleye Lexian, Ali Geidam …
Off late, these bosses have been superstars with helping out on important projects, Timmy Oluwunmi, Adetunji Openiyi, Niyi Okeowo, Maryjoe Udochi, Rolake Jolayemi, Evans Akanno, Ndubuisi Anyaoku, Michael Johnson, Victor Fatanmi, Chris Okonkwo, Data Oruwari, Matthias Aragbada, Adaora Mbelu, Akinyemi Ayinoluwa, Ibrahim Ganiyu, Oluwaseun Ayanfeoluwa… To mention more than a few.
I got to know about a book you writing presently, can you give us some insights into the book?
The good thing is what Sage Network is trying to achieve is the same thing the book is trying to achieve in the sense that, I want to make a difference. I want to help provide some guidance to upcoming designers. So instead of going to Google to try and get stories and insights of people from outside the country who have power 24/7 and have facilities that work for them, why not let us share our own story and help upcoming designers understand that whatever they are going through as a designer, there are people who have also gone through it and succeeded. So I wanted to make a difference in the industry by trying to let them become better by allowing them relate with the stories of others and are succeeding in that field.
The basic thing about the book is that it is a guide to becoming a graphic designer, it answers basic questions of how did you choose the profession, what did you do to become a professional, how do you relate with clients, how do you set up your own studio. In the book, I as well as other well-known designers share their story and experience; I believe it would be a huge resource.
So, now that you have said it, I am eager to get it, I do not know when the book will be out but I know I will spy my way to be the first person to get it 🙂
Thank you very much for the time
This post was originally posted on Medium.com by Segun Adebayo
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