Did you ask your colleagues about the designer of the t-shirt Fid Q is wearing on Propaganda album cover?
Well, he goes by the name of Mkuki Bgoya — the founder and Creative Director of Spearhead Branding.
He is also actively involved in running Kina Klothing, an Urban-Afrika inspired clothing company.
We hunted him down and asked him five questions, which he was more than kind to answer…
1. Why did you decide to pursue graphic designs studies in the first place?
Actually, design [studies] happened by accident, although now looking back I realize it was meant to happen — I just didn’t see it at the time!
I have always been a very visual person and always liked drawing stuff. I was the kid at school who filled his “daftari la mazoezi” (exercises book) with doodles of type, logos and Ninjas instead of homework. It didn’t end there; I have always designed stuff since I can remember, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called or that there were people who did that professionally.
My father is a publisher, so I have been using a mac since I was like 8 years old. I actually went to college to study computer science (because I was always on the computer), and while I was doing that I also took a drawing class to fulfill my fine art requirement so as to get an easy A for my GPA. This became a major turning point as my professors, seeing that I could draw well, wondered what I was doing majoring in computer science. This is when I was introduced to design as a discipline and profession. Needless to say, after that semester I was no longer pursuing a Comp Science degree. Now I have a BFA in Design Communication.
2. Take us through the whole process of establishing Spearhead Branding as a company; the dream, the vision and challenges you face.
Spearhead is something that was going to happen. To begin with I have never thought of working for anyone, so it was inevitable that I was going to start my own company. The name is actually a mashup of Spear and Head that states what we do, which is spearheading our clients’ brands. My name Mkuki, which in Kiswahili translates into “Spear”, and the Head is where the ideas come from. So that was the first step, establishing the identity.
The dream is to wake up everyday excited to go to the office and have fun while creating great work in partnership with clients who understand how design can make help their brands compete and succeed in the market.
The challenge for me right now is trying to manage people, run a business and also find time to sit at my drafting table with my pencil and paper to design. I have to work late nights because of all the distractions during the day, without forgetting lots of wasted time in crazy Dar traffic peppered with TANESCOs power cuts! It’s insane but I never thought for a second that it was going to be easy.
3. Why Kina-Klothing? A success as far as I am concerned…
Yeah, we have been very lucky from the response and support (in cold cash) we have had. It has been great but we are a young brand and are still growing, making mistakes and learning from them.
I started Kina because I needed graphic Tees that were inspired by my background and of the quality that, being a designer, I would be happy with. Judging from the excitement and the reception we received I now know there a many design conscious people out there who are looking for the same thing and are willing spend their money to get it.
4. What do you want to tell young Tanzanians who would like take a “risky” path like yours?
By risky I suppose you mean an entrepreneurial path, siyo? What I can say is basically a cliché, which is to follow one’s instincts. This is the most important thing, because there will be many obstacles in your way, and to get past them you have to have clarity of vision (also known as naiveté) and be prepared to make mistakes or even fail spectacularly, but learn from it all.
Most importantly, love what you do, when the going gets tough, that love’s going to sustain you. Lastly, do things right; no shortcuts, just hard work; the money will come, it’s just a result of good work. Godspeed.
5. Where do you think Tanzania will be in 10 years? In terms of (visual) arts, is there hope for young upcoming artists?
It’s hard to predict but if we cultivate a culture of criticism, we will be seeing a lot of creativity coming out of Tanzania. Right now I think we are at a stage where you have creators with a very small audience (albeit one that is growing even if slowly). Most Tanzanians do not consume art, they consume TV.
We need an ecosystem of creators, critics and an audience for us to really see a vibrant art scene emerging. We need more exhibition spaces (not knocking down institutions like Nyumba ya Sanaa) to sustain that community. This is for the visual arts as well as other forms of artistic expressions.
On the design side I am thinking we’ll see more designers emerging as the discipline is getting known more and perceived as a viable career choice. We are likely to see rapid changes aided by the democratization of professional tools. However, we need more schools or classes teaching design not just how to click around in photoshop or illustrator in order to get a certificate.
Design is discipline and tools by themselves do not make a designer; just like knowing how to use the mouth mirror doesn’t make one you a dentist.
We would like to thank Mkuki for this insightful interview!