Busari Omotola Adeyinka, better known as ‘Tolagrafik’, is not your everyday creative guy. He is a multifaceted individual who is creating opportunities and growth for others through his craft. He is an artist, graphic designer, content creator, creative thinker and admirer of the pen. Busari Omotola is the Lead Designer at Tolagrafik Studio with a focus on Brand Identity and UI/UX. He is also the convener of Creative Hangout, a community of creative personnel and entrepreneurs.
In this interview with Taiwo Okanlawon, he talks about his life as a designer, his success stories, and future projects.
Who is Tolagrafik?
Hmm, Tolagrafik. (Laughs). I think for me it starts with who is Busari Omotola.
I grew up in a town called Ejioku, via Lalupon and I went to Funmiso Nursery School, I proceeded to St. Anthony Primary School, the same in Ejioku. Then, Community Grammar School, Lalupon, in Ibadan. Then, I moved to Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, to study Computer Engineering. I am a Higher National Diploma holder. It was during the years in Oyo, Osun, and Lagos that birthed Tolagrafik.
Why did you choose this profession and what year did you start?
Thank you. To be honest, I was born to be an artist. Growing up, I loved to draw. I started in Nursery school with pencil work, and when people saw me, they were amazed with what I did, so they would tell me to put in more effort when I got to secondary school and I should do art in higher institution. That provided the inspiration for what you see today. My father used to draw as well, so I can say it is more innate than by chance. I changed the direction of my drawing to focus on logo and brand identity. You cannot do without sketching as a logo designer. I have found a way to relate my art then to what I do now.
I learnt graphics designing in 2007 in Ogbomoso, Oyo. I learnt from my boss, Idowu Oladipupo, who runs Noble Creativity. I’m grateful that every step made so far is to progression.
How many years did it take you to learn?
To be candid, I put in three months to learn graphics then. And I only learnt one package which was CorelDraw. But I used only a month to complete everything, I didn’t use up to three months. Since then, I have been doing graphic design.
So I began my career as a designer, officially, in 2013 at a media company in Lagos, RedArk Media. I was a full-time graphics artist. I learnt the other software packages myself, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe XD, Figma for UI and UX.
I know Graphic design is very wide, which area do you focus on at Tolagrafik Studio?
Tolagrafik Studio is not just an ordinary studio. Our core business is in logo design; however, as much as possible to explore Web Design, and Printing. We also provide training as well as we do designs. However, it is majorly a logo studio, branding to be precise.
How does your discipline in school relate with graphic works which is your full time profession?
Well, you all know, the chances of gaining admission into tertiary institutions keeps declining, It is quite difficult and tedious. I had my JAMB examination to study Fine and Applied Arts at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, but I was not given admission. So, I had to change my direction after two to three years at home. I decided to apply to a Polytechnic. I filled the form for Architectural Design and then Computer Engineering. I didn’t get Architectural Design and I got Computer Engineering instead. I accepted that. It was during this period I did some designs while studying Computer Engineering and there were technical drawings as well in the course. That was my journey.
Tell us about your journey as graphic artist before setting up your own Studio.
After I finished my training as a computer graphics designer in 2007, I gained admission to the Polytechnic in 2008. During the holidays, I worked as a computer “graphics” operator with some people in Ogbomoso. I worked in three to four places but I cannot remember the names of those places. When I finished my National Diploma, I went for my Industrial Training. I worked in Ikire before moving to Lagos to work in Mushin, also as a computer “graphics” operator. It was after this period I joined RedArk Media.
I worked for RedArk Media between 2013 and 2015. I resigned in 2015, the plan was not to start my own media but to venture into freelance work. I have been a freelance entrepreuner, since then, for companies at home and abroad. Also, I think I should add, working with foreign brands and projects has helped in terms of exposure to new designs and ideas. It also made me realise the vast opportunities available to explore.
Yes, about the brands you’ve worked with. Checking your portfolio, you have worked with big brands and foreign clients, yet you are based in a small town in Osun State. Why not Lagos or other metropols?
The world is now borderless. It really doesn’t matter where I am. Design is pretty much a borderless/virtual field of work. Coming to Iwo does not mean I do not like Lagos or Abuja or Port-Harcourt. I just believe that you can do anything anywhere you are and excel. You just have to trust the process and keep giving your best. I actually have more international clients than I do locally. You should not let your environment decide for you. You should decide for your environment. Just start wherever you are.
How profitable is graphic designing now compare to when you started?
Right now, graphics is profitable, even a lot more than before. Although, the competition is always on the rise but it is more profitable than when I started. I also offer a package to my clients so it goes beyond the logo itself.
You made mention of competition, that means one has to be unique to stand out amongst your peers. What are you doing differently?
For me to be unique, I just have to be really good at what I am doing. Know one thing first, that is the secret. If you know one thing and you are very good at it, definitely, you will excel in it. I focused solely on logos. I ventured into other things but my strength lies in logo designing. In designing generally, the only thing that is technical is logo designing. You cannot just jump into it. To come up a quality logo, It requires you to understand your client. I also make sure to offer more value for their investment.
What are the challenges in this profession?
Time management and the ability to say “No”. Although these may seem trivial; being a designer requires me to also have a business mindset. In order for any business to thrive, one must learn how to manage time and resources well. Time as they say; is money.
Is there a particular project that you can recall, which became a big break for you?
All of my projects have been awesome developmental tools for my career. But I cannot forget a logo I did for free for a client. I made sure to give my all even though it was not of any financial gain. One fateful day, I shared the logo on my Instagram page and someone messaged me and asked for my contact. She put a call through and it was an international call. The rest, as they say is history. That happened in 2017.
Do you have mentors?
I definitely have mentors. I’ll mention Bukola Aluko (Bukato) who is a boss, mentor and role model all in one. I have maximum respect for the man.
What is your advice for young guys who also have interest in venturing into graphic design?
Like I said earlier, there are new innovations. You can use almost any form of technology to design these days, but creativity can never be bought. As a beginner in the world of design, I always tell my students, it is not about the software or tools, it is about the creativity. Also, you must know one thing first and stay true to the process. Don’t jump on trends. You cannot know everything but if you know one thing first, excel at it, and stay true to yourself, the rest will come along.
What are the projects you are working on now?
We currently have a really exciting projects in pipeline at Tolagrafik Studios. We are currently working on our handmade Adire (tie-dye) for unisex ready to wear line; “Adire By Rade”, in a bid to promote our African culture. Another project, to be launched soon, is dubbed ‘Odoori Mart‘. It is an e-commerce platform whose aim is to make buying and selling seamless for Africans on the Continent. The educational leg of the brand continues to train and build the digital skills of our students through virtual and in-person courses. Hub201 media is also there.
For the experiential side of our brand, We have our annual flagship event; “Creative Hangout” that convenes creative professionals from all over Nigeria. Exciting times!