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25-Year-Old CEO Brian Odhiambo On His Childhood Struggles & Making It As A Graphic Designer

Graphic designers are visual communicators who mainly create concepts by using specialized graphic design software. Companies and individuals seek their services to communicate ideas to inspire, inform and captivate consumers through both physical and virtual art forms.

25 year old Brian Odhiambo begun his career in graphic design when he was a second year student in Moi University. He tells us about the business of graphic design, challenges, the milestones he has achieved so far and what he hopes to achieve in the future.

Introduce yourself and tell us what you do

My name is Brian Odhiambo Olala. I am a graphics and web designer by profession. I am also a co-founder and CEO of Sharpolex Designs.

Why graphic design?

I started drawing at 2 years of age. I eventually grew my interest in design later in my childhood and teenage hood. The streak of greatness has always been in my family, with my father heading as a pilot, followed by my brothers who are also pilots and my sister who works as an architect in the UK. This pushed me to become the best I could be, so I stepped out to become the next big thing in graphic design in Kenya.

I specialize in different forms of design including logo design, graphic design, motion graphics, branding, and web and mobile application development.

Tell us about your company and what it is about

I have my company under the brand name Sharpolex Designs. I first started my company working with a friend in a similar career path back when I was a student at Moi University. Since then I have been able to grow the company to become the trusted brand it is today. Graphic design was not what I was called to do in campus, it was out of pure interest and passion that I followed this career path.

I remember it was very hard for me at first because my mother was not financially stable, therefore she could not provide for me the equipment I needed to start. I did all kinds of menial jobs including working in a mjengo to make ends meet. It was definitely a long journey before I had access to items like a laptop to practice what I am doing now.

What was your first job?

I first worked at Magharibi TV, helping out in directing, video editing and production. While there I was able to stretch my wings and expand my spectrum when it comes to the skills I have now. I started with very little experience, but I have grown to master and practice about 17 software that I use to work.

It was not an easy journey to get to that point, because I did not even have a phone when I went to campus. I remember struggling a lot, eve borrowing laptops from people to be able to practice graphic design. Growing up without my dad was a challenge, because my mother was very supportive of my craft. The conflict at home pushed my mother to leave our father’s home, so I grew up without knowing about my father. So later I came to realize that I came from a family of intellectuals, and that is where I think I got my sharp mind from.

How would you describe a good graphic design?

A good design defined by nature, contrast and interpretation by the client. Most people are attracted to simple designs that have a good layout and are unique. Something special that draws inspiration from a particular aspect of life will definitely have an edge. A good example is the simple Nike logo imprinted on t-shirts, caps and shoes.

What challenges do you face as a graphic designer?

The biggest challenge is massive market saturation. The market is currently filled with a lot of people who are not professionals in this field. This makes it difficult for clients to identify genuine and professional graphic designers.

Mistrust is another challenge. Due to a saturated market sometimes marred with conmen, clients have a hard time trusting us. Some clients even have a problem with paying upfront or paying a commitment fee. This is because of increased cases of people conning unsuspecting customers. For people like us who do not have a physical office in different towns, we have trouble convincing clients that we can do a good job for them remotely.

Another challenge is that the job is very time consuming. The nature of the job requires us to work overtime to meet deadlines and outline specific details requested by a client. In some circumstances we have to communicate with clients at odd hours, especially clients who are overseas.

A unique challenge for me is finding someone aligned with my thinking. Lack of sync between partners might cause a problem, since a client might prefer one over the other, causing a lack of balance and probable overload on one partner.

In your opinion, how important is branding for businesses?

Branding is very important for identification. Customers can very easily identify you if you stick to a certain kind of image. A good example is Safaricom. Their banners and company colours are identifiable by clients wherever they are across the country. Branding hammers your identity to clients and customers alike. Getting a good designer who understands your identity and interprets it well is equally important. A good we brand designer will help to capture all the company’s interests in one image or banner, endearing customers and building a good identity.

Tell us about your design process and how you execute a branding project

Most important thing is to work with the brand colours and font. Good use of neutral colors is also paramount in coming up with a good design. A good design requires me to do very good research, learning the company’s preference and working with that to come up with the best product.

What are some of the most successful projects you have done as a graphic designer?

I am very humbled and grateful to have worked with big corporates in Kenya and beyond our borders. These include Isuzu Kenya, Khetia’s Supermarket, Vera Sidika’s Spa VS Spa, I have also won the design competition for Jalang’o TV. I have also been able to design for Stilus company, among many many others.

You have mentioned some very big brands you have associated with. Are the returns similarly big?

Depending on the job and assignments we get, we are able to on average earn about Ksh. 60,000 in a very bad month and up to Ksh. 200,000 in a good month. Animation assignments can rake in up to Ksh. 1.3 million. I would like to encourage anyone doing brand design, either freelance or employed to keep going because the job pays well.

Where are you located and where can people find you?

We currently have a physical office in Eldoret, but we are able to offer services remotely to clients across the country. Something important to note is that you do not need a physical office to make it. As long as you have a good laptop, good creativity and the will to make it, then they will surely earn something.

I also like to mentor people in this field, so they can feel free to connect with us and work with us.

Customers can reach us on our website, our Instagram Page, Facebook page or call me or my partner. Our contacts are 0795457842 to reach me or my partner Collins Kithinji on 0710 709920. Collins is also a musician, with several music videos on his YouTube Channel.

What is your advice for people who want to take a similar career path as you?

My advice to them is to take small steps toward reaching their goals. They do not have to start making it very big at the beginning, especially if they do not have majority of the equipment they need. They also need to learn that creativity, discipline and accountability will set you apart from the rest.

I also wish to remind the youth to keep going no matter the challenges. If they keep on going and stay consistent, their efforts will surely pay off in the end.