Ep.49 Teaching the Art of Possibility | Brian Omolo

Unlock a world where imagination knows no limits


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Brian Omolo [EP.49]

[00:00:00] Brian Omolo: The best way for you to market yourself to get the kind of work you want is to already do that kind of work. It's almost like make your life a lifestyle of creating. Embrace that lifestyle of creating and then show it out there.


[00:00:15] Adrian Jankowiak: Brian, thank you so much for joining me. it's a real pleasure to have you. We've known each other for quite a few years now and overlapped in different places. And just coming on here, I know we've got an interesting conversation about the intersection of art and design and that was really a subject that you expressed interest in, and it's something that I'm really passionate about as well.

[00:00:38] So let's go straight into that and where did art and design overlap for you? And what is the reasoning behind your feeling so strong about it?

[00:00:48] Brian Omolo: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I've been a fan of the podcast for some time and I noticed that there was a link where people could like sign up. So when I saw that I was like, ah, I think I might actually want to sign up.

[00:01:00] Yeah, the intersection between art and design. I think for me, that sort of led me to the place where I'm at because I feel like I started off as an artist. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid. And my parents would notice that and they would be like, wow, this is interesting. And they just sort of throw me into environments where I get to do more of that.

[00:01:19] And the effect that had on me was really interesting, like when you create something that has sort of an effect on people, positive effect. So the school I went to St. Mary's was heavy on like expressive, self abstract. I started getting into surrealism. I had a mentor who was showing me a lot of like African art and stuff that you might see in Maasai market, but also sort of giving me a very minimal education on like artists like Salvador Dalí.

[00:01:47] The popular names like Picasso and you'd see Picasso's work, but I don't know if my work ever identified with his, but my mentor told me about someone like Salvador Dalí and I was like, Ooh, that's interesting. The way he mixes different elements together and that sort of playing around with abstract. I loved the whole playing with imagination.

[00:02:05] So I can say up to the time I finished high school, my plan was to be an artist. I didn't even really know about graphic design. I knew about maybe logos, maybe posters. That was like a secondary option, third option even for me. But as you finish, you sort of start getting convinced, like people will tell you that, oh, I don't know if art makes money.

[00:02:25] I don't know if that's like a safe option to go with. So that made me start to open my mind to graphic design. And I think I was curious about the computer. I love playing computer games. I loved using the computer for different stuff. So I was curious like, Ooh, what could I possibly create with the computer?

[00:02:41] And then that's, I think when I started getting introduced to like graphic design and purely from a perspective of, oh, this is what people are doing in the industry. Why don't you try and copy this? Or why don't you try and do this? But after some time you start to realize it's much bigger than just a logo, It's solving problems. It's creating things that can change how people behave over certain things or how they use stuff or how communication works.

[00:03:05] And once in a while companies would come by and be like, listen, we really wanna communicate this to our audience and this is what we think. We like your style.

[00:03:13] So, I came to discover how both worlds could work together and how I think it's been interesting also to think about so many things. Like you get told so many things about an art career starting out, and then you venture into it yourself.

[00:03:29] And there's some areas where you realize, yes, this would actually be pretty difficult to accomplish in Kenya, but in other countries it's a lot easier. But then now the internet comes along and then it helps us connect with people all over so you can really be anywhere in the world and create solutions for people all over the world.

[00:03:46] Yeah, but for me, I think specifically, I really love the opportunity to imagine and to create and to story tell using digital art and illustration and just seeing all the solutions that could solve, whether it's for design clients. Or sometimes even just as a vehicle for you to express yourself and play around with that and see how that works.

[00:04:05] Adrian Jankowiak: And I think one thing that stands out is that your work just keeps coming. Of course it's amazing and it keeps getting better and evolving. But also, you're very prolific. I find that if I go on your feed, I'm not sure even the quality of the work you do, just for fun. Is the same as the work that you might be doing paid. It's not even easy to tell, which is a paid project, which is just something you've done because you want to dedicate it to something or someone. How has the fact that you are constantly refining and you are creating so much. How has that impacted your career and do you think that what I'm saying makes sense?

[00:04:46] Brian Omolo: As you say it, I can see sort of... I'm immediately hit by the people who inspired me when I was starting out because starting out, I have to say, the big motivation for me starting out was I never wanted work to ever feel like work. I always wanted to go into areas that I felt like this will feel exciting, this will feel challenging, this will feel fresh, this will feel new. Art has always felt like that. Creating has always felt like that. This type of stuff I've always felt challenging, refreshing for me. And I've had different kinds of working experiences. I've been employed, I've worked in agency. There's certain things I liked about that, things I learned from there.

[00:05:24] But then there's definitely times and I knew that was definitely, definitely not for me. As I was going through these different motions and different spaces and practice the things that I would see from people who really inspired me, like if I was to drop some names, the likes of Osborne Macharia, just a band and especially Jim Chuchu, internationally, also illustrators like Olly Moss. The thing that I noticed a lot from them, because you might not get a chance to speak to the people you're looking up to, but if you follow their portfolios, you'll see that a lot of times they used to do stuff for fun and then put it out there, and then from them having done that work, they then get people ask them to do other kinds of work.

[00:06:04] So immediately I adopted that as a strategy and, and even like the university lectures we had were very big on that. It'd be like the best way for you to market yourself to get the kind of work you want is to already do that kind of work. It's almost like make your life a lifestyle of creating. Embrace that lifestyle of creating and then show it out there.

[00:06:24] And then hopefully now people will ask you to do more of that kinda stuff. The mindset is really important because sometimes it's easy to get motivated more by, oh, this one is for a client and they're gonna reward me really well for it. And this one is just for myself but you have to do both of them with the same passion, same excellence, and it comes back around.

[00:06:43] Yeah.

[00:06:44] Adrian Jankowiak: You mentioned working in agency and having interactions with brands and so on. The way that's kind of driven your art kind of evolving with art and going into design and solving problems.

[00:06:58] Now, how have your interactions with brands changed in terms of the work that you're still doing? Because you're still interacting with brands, but how has that work evolved to make you happier and to feel like you are not having to do work, which I guess a lot of us creatives live for that moment where we feel like we're just having fun.

[00:07:20] We're enjoying ourselves doing the thing we love doing.

[00:07:23] Brian Omolo: I think how it's changed over time is... when I was younger and when you're employed, you kind of don't have a choice which client you're going to work with or which brands you're more interested in working with and which ones you're not. You kind of just have to take whatever comes and then you don't also have control over how much time you'll get to do certain things or the nature in which you get to do certain things or even how you express yourself.

[00:07:44] Like it's a very weird thing. I had like a combined three years of experience working with agencies. Not a single time was I ever allowed to illustrate for any client at all. So that was kinda a sign that, you know, this isn't the place where I belong, but more in terms of how I found where I belong.

[00:08:02] I think it just came from more of experimentation. And the more I learned about how to use the tools I use, like I really, I use a lot of like Adobe Illustrator, bit of Photoshop, primarily. Now maybe from three years ago I started using the iPad. So sometimes the tools that you use and the way you master them also lends to the style or how you create.

[00:08:23] And then another thing I think that helped me was I kind of experimented and started figuring out, Ooh, I like creating this way. Ooh. I like when I mix colors that way. I also became very intentional about how I present my stuff on my portfolio. Like I want people to see the process. After that I can't say I've like been very decisive on who came and asked me to work with me or not. The opportunities just sort of would start showing up. And a lot of times they've been the kind of opportunities I've wanted to say yes to. And when you find a scenario where the client is ready to participate in the process, that's when I think a lot of magic really, really does happen.

[00:08:59] So...

[00:08:59] Adrian Jankowiak: Have you got a process then as an illustrator? When you introduce clients to your brand, what is that process that you are offering to them?

[00:09:10] Brian Omolo: The first thing is normally like one or two discovery calls just to kind of figure out what is the challenge they're facing or what is the thing they want to communicate. What is the thing they're trying to accomplish? Some of them sometimes already have an idea of how they want to solve that problem or how they want to create that solution.

[00:09:29] So you'd hear that and then you sort of ask yourself or you ask them, okay, why do you think that's the best way? And then the next part is you going away and just sort of like letting it sit with yourself, like, okay, what do I think about this solution? What does this particular brand mean to me?

[00:09:46] What does a product mean to me? Like if I was using this in my life, how would I want that to, to look like? Trusting my own instinct, but also listening to what they need and then researching and try to understand as much of their world as I can in the time that I have. And then now you start to experiment.

[00:10:03] Like I start to think, okay, what are some visual things that I can show. And this kinda lends back to maybe how I grew up because when I was growing up, I was the only artist in the house. Now my youngest brother is also a very good artist, like, especially when it comes to NFTs, but growing up I was the only one who was like drawing stuff.

[00:10:20] And your first audience kinda shapes sometimes the style that you choose. Like they're the first people you're trying to impress with what you're doing. The abstract stuff I like, but I also want to put in a few things that, like an audience that is not quite art savvy would also look at and be like, yes, I identify with that. My work kind of lends into that.

[00:10:39] There's visible things like for example, with the Kenya originals can, there's actual fruits you'll see in the pattern, but then there's times when I throw in maybe other abstract shapes stuff that I've seen from African fabric, stuff that I've seen from Maasai market. Stuff that I throw in the moment.

[00:10:55] Sometimes it's a mix of all those things together. Once I get a sense of what I want to put in it, then I start the process now of, okay, do all the line work neatly on paper. Then throw it into the computer, then I have the advantage of now I can have layers, then I can try one color. If it doesn't work, a client can change their mind. It's not a problem with Adobe. Just click change this thing. And they're happy 'cause now they get to get something that's exactly what they want. It's like a discovery. When you're imposter syndrome is high, the beginning of these projects are very like stressful because people want a sure bet but all I can promise you is my best, most of the time, my best is good enough.

[00:11:34] But there are some days when, you know, like even the best sports people, there are days they go on the field and they don't produce magic. It's sort of like, are we ready to try? Are we ready for this discovery? But most of the time, especially when there's that communication from both sides, you will find your way to a solution that they feel like, yes, this represents what we're trying to say, what our audience tried to say, and we also like your input into it.

[00:11:57] So that's kind of the process. It's challenging and I've enjoyed it so much.

[00:12:01] Adrian Jankowiak: Love what you said there about people want a sure bet, but all I can promise you is my best. That's a really good thing for us to remember and I think repeat as well. And the comparison to sports people is the same. All they can do is their best. Actually, what I wanted to say earlier as well was of course that advice to beyond creatives is just to practice what you want to be doing.

[00:12:26] If you want to be doing a particular thing, get as close as you can to doing that thing. And then things will start happening because you'll put yourself in those circumstances. And it's great as well to see that you integrate those tools. As they come, your work, your process, the theme of it stays and remains.

[00:12:50] And you also do manual line work of course, which is really great to see, and that then becomes digital and adds convenience for your clients. If you were to talk someone through your art style, the development over the last... since you've started from your first sketches, what are maybe some particular areas or developments that you've found maybe some studies that you've undertaken in particular areas to develop it?

[00:13:20] Brian Omolo: Yeah, like I talked about St. Mary's. And then a really cool first mentor I had when I was in high school. His name was Charles Otieno. And then also now St. Mary's like the art program was really, really cool. Like there was a teacher called Mrs. Osir. I think a really valuable experience for any creative to have is to start off your creative journey just trying a bunch of different things. Like paint with ink, draw with pastels, draw with watercolor oil paints, acrylics, try all these different things. It's a shock to whoever is financing this journey. Like my parents would be like, my God, like I spend more money on your art supplies than I spend on your school fees.

[00:14:00] But like the valuable thing that happens during that is that as a creative, you'll start to identify. Okay. I'm more natural with these mediums than I am with these others. I learned quite early that I don't really like wet medium, I felt like I don't have control over height. Good. There's some people who are natural, like with oils. I mean, the oils wasn't too bad actually.

[00:14:21] Of all the wet mediums, probably oils was the one that was very, like, I felt like I could control it, but it also required a lot of patience. So now you start understanding a little more about yourself. Like there's people who want to really fall in love with the process and they can work on one piece for months, sometimes even years.

[00:14:38] I want to start and finish in a week, maybe in two weeks or sometimes also the environment you're in, like GCSEs, your deadline is in two weeks. Oils isn't gonna work for that. And then I want more control. So slowly this led me towards dry medium. And I was already drawing with pencil since I was a kid, so pencils gonna stick around.

[00:14:58] Then there's a period I really loved color pencils, and I think if I was to go back to creating stuff outside of digital, I'd still love my main tools to be pencil, water color pencils, and pen. After a lot of experimenting, I came to realize those are my favorite tools to use by hand. And then now experimenting in terms of on the computer, those brushes for Photoshop, there's the ways you could paint on Photoshop or draw on Photoshop that is different from where you could do it in Illustrator but I think just me being very comfortable with Illustrator and then the reality of deadlines.

[00:15:31] I think when you have a deadline, you just kind of go to the one you're comfortable with. But over time, when you're especially doing your own projects, you have time to experiment and I did experiment with Photoshop and there's certain things I love in Photoshop, but there's things I really love in Illustrator.

[00:15:45] So I think that's what kind of helped me land in the place where I'm at. So even sometimes when I'm talking to my students, I always tell them, listen, you don't have to all do Illustrator 'cause I'm doing Illustrator. Some of you're gonna land in Photoshop and you love it, or you land in something new, whether it's Krita, whether it's Clip Studio, whether it's Procreate but while you are here, please play around with these things so that you know what feels natural to you. So I really love working on line work. I've gotten used to working with flat color because illustrated doesn't do this whole blending of colors as well. So I started from like shading and with color pencils on paper.

[00:16:23] Now, when I'm using color blending or trying to create shades and highlights, I use flat colors because that's how I was used to doing it in Illustrator from before. So sometimes also the tools you use will lend to the process that you create with. And then now I'm huge on layers.

[00:16:39] Like I love being able to separate the layers because now I don't have to have stress. I'm very organized with how I put those things. Like there's line work at the top, then there's the bottom color and then there's all these middle spaces where I can now add different layers of detail or, stuff like that.

[00:16:54] I find myself being comfortable working in that particular way. And now I'm just kind of stretching it and seeing, okay, what if I tried this or what if I tried that and seeing where that takes me. Yeah.

[00:17:05] Adrian Jankowiak: Be honest. Do you label your layers?

[00:17:08] Brian Omolo: Now I do. I never used to before. But now because as you are trying to do a little better than the last time and a little better than the last time, you find yourself wanting to add even more details. More details, more details. And before you used to use six layers. Now I've stuff where I've used like 17 layers, 21, 36. There was one where even by the time I was done, I was just like, oh my goodness. Like, so if you have more than 10 layers and you don't label them, you know, there's that meme where an artist draws on a layer and then later on they're like, oh my God. It's the wrong layer. So that whole process of having to change those things. Nah, it's not fun.

[00:17:48] It's not fun at all.

[00:17:50] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah, there's a reason why professional practices exist and then if we're tempted to avoid them, we end up in a hole sometimes, don't we? You mentioned of course that this is something I wanted to talk about, that you're a lecturer and I'm sure we have some of your students probably listening.

[00:18:06] So hello to everyone who's ever studied under you. So you are teaching all the time. What have you learned from your time teaching or from your students?

[00:18:18] Brian Omolo: It's an amazing sort of calling and it's an amazing, it's sort of a gift that I stumbled into. I can't say I knew from the beginning that. This is what I wanted to do. It's just something that I think when I was in uni, you know, sometimes you sign up to be one of those student helper, you get paid like maybe a minimum wage an hour and then you're the one showing students around advising them on which course to do.

[00:18:41] And that's when I kinda saw, you know what, I think I could actually like this. I could actually like working with young creatives, just helping them and stuff. The other thing that really pushed me towards teaching was, I think based on the education I had and the people I was talking to as I was growing, they all made it very clear that sometimes illustration can be a very sort of solitary job.

[00:19:00] Even right now, I'm in my studio alone. Sometimes I just feel like, okay, I just need to kind of be around people and I'll go to a Java and just order one thing and, and then draw there for hours. My personality, I just felt like, okay, if I'm just going to be alone in the studio all the time, I don't think I'd like that kind of a life.

[00:19:17] I then realized that, you know, perhaps I could do the lecturing as a part-time thing. I tried getting schools to hire me for years, like actually from around 2011 all the way until 2016. It was just that one of you try and then the rules for hiring exercises kind of... it was a weird spot that I didn't quite fit into.

[00:19:38] And then now 2016 comes along and one of the people remembers and then they, they tell me about ADMI hiring. One of the amazing things I've discovered from teaching is the more you give, the more you also gain, like the more I've had to be in a class and teach people how to use a tool. The more time I have to spend outside of class, like, okay, I know this is how I've always done it, but is there an easier way? Because I know if I don't show these guys the easiest possible way to do that thing, gen Zs, I've lost them. If I don't show them the most efficient way, they're gonna get put off.

[00:20:12] And it makes sense. The younger generation never wants to suffer like the older ones did. Our parents when they were job hunting would walk... that's why they called it tarmacking, walk from office to office, you know, until their shoes get finished. By the time I was coming along, tarmacking became opening several tabs on Google. And the younger generation's gonna want a more efficient way than that. So, when you become a lecturer, especially to creatives, if they get bored with something, they move onto something else. So, My challenge is to find the most efficient, most fun way for them to learn this thing.

[00:20:47] And in the process of me figuring out those solutions, it's made me really good. Like I was good at Photoshop, I was kinda, okay, now I'm really good at Photoshop 'cause I've had to teach it, or even Illustrator now there's things I don't even have to prepare before going into class 'cause I'm just like, ah, I just go to the syllabus.

[00:21:04] Oh, we're learning this today and that's been the benefit, like the more you give. Even things like public speaking. I think I used to be nervous about that, especially in school. My goodness. Now, it's like you've practiced and sharpened a tool without even knowing.

[00:21:18] On a personal note, other interesting things I've realized was as much as it's a thing that I've stumbled into, I think being a mentor was something that was building in me from the moment you have brothers or siblings, that's a part of you that just starts growing and you don't even know especially if you're like the eldest, like I'm the first born.

[00:21:36] If you're the eldest in an African family, there's a certain point. As soon as you're able, your parents want you to kind of be the deputy parent. You're like parent number three. So there's responsibility you're given and there's things you're told and, oh, take care of your brothers. Oh, you guys were gone for the weekend.

[00:21:55] Here's some money. You guys take care of things. So like, there's things my brothers have taught me about leadership that has been really, really valuable. Like number one. It's really important that you don't treat people like you're the one domineering over them. There's a story of King Arthur, how he used to have a round table. Not that the king sits at the head of the table and then the subordinates, you know, it's a round table because for him he felt everybody's equal. And that's always been how I've wanted my relationship with my brothers to be like, like I want them to feel like, yo, if you have an idea, if you have a thinking, we are equal.

[00:22:30] Like it's a democracy. It's not me. The eldest telling all of you all what to do. It's us, be honest with each other, us talk to each other and figure it out together. So, that's a foreign concept I've found with a lot of students who come outta the 844 system and enter my class. Or even just in general, like there's people who come to class and they're not used to, oh, the teacher has an opinion, but I can also have a different opinion. So a lot of the first few months is just me trying to get them used to that whole, listen, I'm not right on everything but I know what I think, you know, ah, this new logo for K B C, I hate it. You know, but I would like to hear what you think. Maybe you don't mind it. Maybe like, there's another logo which came out the other day that I realized my students didn't really mind it.

[00:23:15] The Fanta rebrand. I hated it with the wrath of a thousand suns, but they didn't mind it. They're like, you know what, Brian? Nowadays things are a little simpler and the logo is accomplishing a lot of different, I love now those kind of things. Just creating an environment where they also feel comfortable to contribute.

[00:23:35] It's hard work doing that. You have to be present. You have to say things and keep your word with them because some of them maybe have grown up in scenarios where grownups just tell them something and then turn around and do something else. So they really challenge me. They really keep me accountable on certain things.

[00:23:52] But the passion they have, like, just being around young people who are not afraid of rejection, they're not afraid of... like, there's no time in your life, like when you're young and ready to really just try that new crazy idea. If it doesn't like, ah, no big deal, I'll move on to something else. It's almost like that charges the battery of my professional life.

[00:24:11] Then my professional life charges this battery. In the right balance, those two worlds really work well together in the right balance.

[00:24:18] Adrian Jankowiak: Really brilliant to hear a teacher. I'm happy to be surrounded by teachers who are inspired by the people they teach. It's really important. That round table, we must be listening to everyone, including the younger generation especially. And just as you are getting feedback, getting fresh perspectives, right.

[00:24:39] Diversity is really important and it may just make us realize that the new Fanta logo is actually quite cool, but we need to look at it a bit differently. I think I'm constantly typing during these podcasts because there's so much interesting stuff. I'm always taking notes and that's another thing I'm looking for.

[00:24:59] How can we make that more efficient so I can be interacting fully and while typing the words highlight, while typing the words, quotes and so on. I think one thing that I took away from university is I wish I had done even more studio time with my fellow students. There is never enough studio time with your students.

[00:25:22] Go to school. If you are actually lucky enough to be studying, make sure you're interacting with your course mates because they may just be as passionate as you are. And just as excited to go as you are with all of this stuff. Find that time, be together with the people and breed that atmosphere.

[00:25:43] And I guess how can we be productive? How can we be in studio as designers together and having fun, but at the same time being productive? Do you know?

[00:25:53] Brian Omolo: Yeah, true, true. Very, very true. I've had all kinds of interesting educative experiences. I've had education experiences that were negative. I wasn't inspired and didn't really bond or learn anything from the people around me. Then I've had experiences that were like literally transformational, like you can feel it even inside yourself that I am no longer the same person I was when I started in like now.

[00:26:17] And that thing you've said is really, really powerful. Be present, try things, experiment, and you hopefully find people who you have synergy with. Like you understand each other. It doesn't mean you agree. In fact, it's even better when you don't agree. Because I want someone who has a different perspective on stuff than me 'cause they'll bring in something that I don't have and hopefully I bring in something they don't have to their life. More than even the creative side, there's also the human side. Like how are you at communication?

[00:26:44] Like I think I'm a very passionate person and in a debate, I'm the one who wants to give the strong points and explain it best, best, best. But like in uni, I realize, okay, wait, Brian, you also need to develop the the listening part. Are you also good at listening so that you get what this person is saying and then they also get your passionate points and then you guys bring it together in a really powerful way. And I think communities are important.

[00:27:10] I've always been a huge fan of Nairobi Design Week like I know whenever there's a design week, I can take my students there and they then get to experience something different together and it does something to them as a group. Hopefully, like the ones who take the initiative and build from that experience, they build to something.

[00:27:26] I think the more we create those communities and the more we give them an opportunity to see that their voice matters and we wanna work with them. You'd be then surprised, like, 'cause there's a lot of stories that, oh, gen Z, this, gen Z, that, but we have to kind understand, okay, what have they grown up with and what is it that sometimes they want to do that we're not hearing? And then what are some ways we can also challenge them? Like, one thing I think I would say I've seen a lot my students is. You see, if you don't take the initiative to try the thing that you want, you're not going to be part of the conversation. Decisions are being made, economies are being formed, the world is being formed around you.

[00:28:04] If you don't participate in that process, you wanna forever be in that space where you don't feel heard or you don't feel like things are working for you. And if you're lucky, you'll have a few people who will be ready to hear and help you. That's one thing I really push on them and on my side I feel the pressure every time to keep up with the industry and make sure these guys know what they need to do to survive out there because if they go out there and they like struggle it also feels bad on you because you wanted them to be ready for that.

[00:28:28] You wanted them to survive and thrive, the vice versa, when they go out there and they succeed, it also feels good for you 'cause you know, We are just creating like that larger space, together. Yeah.

[00:28:38] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah, all we can do is really understand the progress that's been made. I think I scribbled in one of my sketchbooks around 2010 that we are the last analog generation, right? And equally, they are the first all digital generation. We are the last ones who actually used a roll of film in their camera, something you put into a music player to listen to music.

[00:29:03] And they're the first ones who didn't have to do that. And I like this description of the pace of progress. I think it was Dan Carlin from Hardcore History compared that for the last, let's say 5,000 years, every human has known that the fastest form of transportation is a horse.

[00:29:23] And whether that's your great-great-great grandfather or someone 5,000 years ago, they were aware of this fact. Now, in the last 150 years, we've broken that barrier of speed for ourselves so many times over across generations where we are not even sure what the fastest thing is because there's so many of them.

[00:29:46] And the same goes for all of the technology that that's going at us. As humans, we should have patience for ourselves because actually we've been pushed into this society that we haven't yet quite evolved into.

[00:29:59] Brian Omolo: Yeah. Especially what you just said, that they're the first full digital generation and that affects almost everything. Like even when you think about how we consumed content, you'd go and borrow a tape so you can come home and watch it, but now I can just click my remote and have access to hundreds of thousands of films and TV series.

[00:30:19] That completely changes even how you appreciate one particular show versus the next. Like you just watch things and you, it was an amazing body of film that took someone 10 years to make, but you watched it in two hours and you moved on with your life. But there was a time when any small, especially as a creative, any small CGI thing someone did blows your way.

[00:30:40] Like if you watch Terminator two now, there's no CGI progress in that we see those kind of effects being done even in daily TV shows every week. But at that time, to watch it then or to watch Matrix at that time and the slow motion, you know, totally changed even how we think about stories.

[00:30:59] The challenge with interacting with this younger generation is they're just like, bro, that's not a big deal, bro. Like I've grown up seeing that all the time. You have to then figure out, okay, then how am I gonna communicate to them? Cause they're not consuming music the same.

[00:31:12] We used to buy single CDs. I couldn't get access to Apple Music that has all the music I wanted. Like, and then you have to rewind or you have to find a certain radio station, which has a high probability of playing the song you like. Ah, you like that hit song? There's a good chance it'll play on Rick Dees on Saturday morning.

[00:31:30] So we're there on the radio, Rick Dees Top 40. In hopes of listening to three of our favorite songs. But for them it's different. Like they can just get to the things they want, like really quickly. So of course, someone who's grown up like that is not going to have like a high patience or attention span for certain things.

[00:31:49] So, so you can learn a lot from that. And I think sometimes Gen Zs get jaded and they've seen a lot of times promises not being kept with them, so they then feel discouraged to even be part of that process.

[00:32:00] I would hope that they still try 'cause as you can see, y'all are thinking about the world in a totally different way than us. So we need your input so that we create for you something that also works for you. And then number two, y'all are gonna exist in our world. When me, I'm like finished and gone and I'm like retired, chilling.

[00:32:18] Hopefully with a house in the coast that I go to from time to time to, to draw, you are gonna be existing in that world that I don't even know what that world is gonna look like. So talk to each other like y'all are each other's best resources. That's what came to mind when I heard you saying about, Like hang out with your classmates.

[00:32:35] You might go to your old mates once in a while, but you're more going to them for encouragement rather than creative input. That's the really inspiring thing about Gen Zs, I think like, They're moving at a speed and they're used to certain things.

[00:32:48] Like my youngest bro made a fortune on NFTs in 2021. I've never minted a single AtWork. I still don't understand how blockchain works. I'll be worried about being hacked, but he simultaneously learning and perfecting Adobe and learning about blockchain and learning about the NFT space.

[00:33:08] He did those three things simultaneously in a space of months, like for me, I would've had to quit all my jobs, tell all my clients wait to have the mental space to even evolve into that kind of thinking. That's the impressive thing, inspiring thing about them.

[00:33:22] Adrian Jankowiak: For all those who are Gen Z listening, it's also to watch out because it's nearly there for you too. And there is another generation coming and it's amazing because it happens so quickly and there's so much progress because once you have a whole generation, a whole world of people go from being 10 to being 18 and having a whole new way of thinking in a new toolkit. It's sometimes because we are born into a world where some things we don't realize the way they are. And it takes us until adulthood and for society maybe to agree and point out that these things are happening. And then the younger generation says, why haven't you guys done anything about it?

[00:34:03] We just realized, we dunno, it's just kind of happened. Right. And we all need to work together to keep improving those things and appreciate the diversity of feedback we can give each other for sure. And share stories because students should be share sharing stories of their own progress with each other for sure.

[00:34:21] Brian Omolo: Yeah, I think another thing that comes up is as you explore your talents and you explore your creative styles and things, you may just find yourself land in a space where, ooh, the kind of work I create may not have an audience in your geographical location. I don't think my primary market are Kenyans. Over the years I've created stuff and I've thought that, oh, the audience here would value it and pay a certain price weight. I've found that that hasn't always been the case.

[00:34:53] The people who are paying value for what I'm doing like from far, far, far different places. And that can happen. The reason why that point you've said it's so important is if you're paying attention to what's going on and to like, how technology can connect you to these different opportunities, you're not gonna run into a space where it's like, Ooh, people around me only seem to like this kind of work, so I need to change and then create that.

[00:35:18] No. Stay true to what you wanna create and somewhere you'll find an audience, you know? I'm in class and I see people just having imagination and trying a lot of different things, and in my mind, I also know I don't think agencies will hire you to do this. I don't think a client here in Kenya might hire you to do this.

[00:35:35] It doesn't mean that things not valuable. Start figuring out what has the world told you? There's communities on Clubhouse, there's like Twitter spaces, what's the other one? Discord. And all these different things. You might just find that you could connect with an Eastern European audience that really loves what you're doing, or an Asian audience, or like some part of South America or the US.

[00:35:56] Really the world is your base, not just where you're geographically located.

[00:36:01] Adrian Jankowiak: Perfect, perfect place maybe to wrap up as a closing thought, and actually you've just reminded me, we have lots of international listeners and we always love to thank our listeners. We have a Kenyan audience and hi to everyone in Kenya, and we also have recently we saw a real spike from Chile.

[00:36:22] So if anyone from Chile is listening, please get in touch and tell us where we're getting all these plays from Chile from. Perhaps someone was interested in something or perhaps it's a VPN thing. Who knows? So you never know where that audience is coming from and exactly, the world is so big and digital and connected right now that actually your audience may be in a place far away, but that doesn't mean they have to be out of reach to you.

[00:36:49] So Brian, thank you. We've broken the seal on our first episode together. Really looking forward to more of our conversations and talking more about all the other things we're doing as well. Thank you so much for joining. It has been a really great conversation.

Welcome to another episode of the Afrika Design Podcast, brought to you in collaboration with the British Council. In this conversation our host Adrian Jankowiak sits down with Brian Omolo, a self-employed illustrator and artist who is determined to make design not feel like work.

He walks us through his journey of how his work has evolved from just drawing and painting on paper but also his shift to digital where he was able to further develop the quality of his designs and better yet, increase his reach.

He is also a lecturer at Africa Digital Media Institute -ADMI, working primarily in the design department teaching a variety of units that prepare students for the world of Art and Design. He teaches the importance of trying different things, being organized, and ensuring the creation of an environment where people feel comfortable to contribute.

Some of Brian's works include his illustration for the Women double world record holder @faithkipyegon and working with brands such as KO.

This is the 19th episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

**Producer, Shorts & Artwork: **David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)