Design Around the World: Kenya

To coincide with this year’s April International Design Annual, we decided to pull back the grid of latitude and longitude even further and hear, firsthand, what designers in these different countries have to say about design—how their location impacts their work, how clients embrace their creativity, what’s inspiring them and what kinds of projects keep them busy.

Here, John Gikanga from Third World Media talks about design in the Kenyan capital, which is named for its "cool waters."

Third World Media
Nairobi, Kenya

Where are you located, and why do you enjoy being there?
Located in Nairobi. The cost of living and doing business in this city is relatively affordable, the social life is great, and the weather is absolutely fabulous!

How would you describe your style?
Minimalist. Very simplistic.

What kinds of design does your firm specialize in?
Brand development through logo/identity design, web interface design, outdoor signage and publication design.

What’s a favorite project you’ve worked on?
I have been the consulting creative director for Nairobi’s biggest race, The Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, for two years. It’s both challenging and exciting, and it gave me the opportunity of being part of the creative team for the Greatest Race on Earth.

Is there any recurring element that usually ends up in your designs?
All my designs are different, but there is a signature style in this sense. I want every design I work on to have a unique distinction such that when someone sees my design, they can almost tell it’s my work.

What things influence your work? Where do you get your inspiration?
Books—architecture books, fashion books, interiors books—and TV.

How do you think your community and clients view design?
My community and clientele are underexposed as far as design is concerned. Half the time, I start by educating my clients on what is good design and what is terrible design.

Do you think there’s anything that sets your location’s design aesthetic apart from other places?
Some of my designs are very authentically African in color, motifs and typography, seeing as the target audience is more often than not African.

If you were a color, what color would you be?

Other interviews in the series
AUTUMN:01: Sydney, Australia
BLOK DESIGN: Mexico City, Mexico
Laboratorium: Zagreb, Croatia
LeBoYe: Jakarta, Indonesia
Steinbranding: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Third World Media: Nairobi, Kenya Barcelona, Spain Hamburg, Germany
Yellow Octopus Pte Ltd: Singapore
Zetalab: Milan, Italy

HOW April 2007