Abraham is one Creative who lives his Art with so much passion for impact. Beyond thriving as a digital creator and building some of the most vision driven and meaningful creative outlets, Abraham is ever ready to go all out sharing his wealth of knowledge and uplifting minds for social good. He is no doubt among the ICONIC creatives not just making an impact as an individual, but also collectively, building an army of a new generation of impact driven minds.
Join us on this special annual ISSUE- As Abraham shares a truckload of inspiration on how he began as a creative, what kept him going and other glimpses of his journey in entirety.
Your works as a digital creator in design are stunning. From how they tell stories to the uniqueness that comes with each masterpiece. Can you please share some highlights of how you began your journey as a Creative and what you consider most fulfilling about it right now?
I’m 27. My journey started in 2009 and I just plunged myself into books. My dad has his library of personal help books. I just kind of picked my interest in those things, so I would read. While reading I realized that I had a passion for it, then I will use my weekly stipend, which was about $5, go to a Cyber cafe and learn about coding. That was the beginning for me and I will post articles about self-help for my blog. I basically started as a content creator. While trying to publish articles without being able to hire a coder, I learned how to code myself to build my own platform called seasonslifejournal.com.ng. In between, I needed to design. I couldn’t hire a designer so I started learning how to design myself and so I just started picking up all these skills that I needed to thrive as a content creator. I went from posting blog post to learning how to code to learning how to design and in 5 years my article was like in many countries I was speaking across campuses even in the university. Eventually, going to the university the following year when I was 16 I got to the university in 2011. So I will speak on campuses and I began to tell people how they can use tech like me to create change because I was basically using my platform to inspire young people to be leaders in their community through my experience. What started as me just trying to help myself kind of spiralled into me helping other people. So just to stay there for now I might be able to expand later – whatever you see today started from that 15 years old boy who was trying to solve his own depression, anxiety and wanted to help other people. In-between I began to find more things about myself and began to develop them.
The Father Abraham Studio is one of your creative projects. It’s how you tell silently loud stories with pictures for us. What’s the vision behind the platform and what do you hope to achieve through it in the coming years?
So when I was done with university I had all this skill set like I could design, program development I was running a non profit. I know I wasn’t going to get a job so I just knew what I was going to do. People started calling on me, saying “you’re creating a platform, you’re inspiring young people you’re having conferences and trainings, we want you to start helping us do this things for our own business.” Business people started reaching out to me, I started offering my services through my first company. Well, FO studio came in later, it was almost like a project interestingly . I will take pictures of people in church maybe on the street, I just like street stuff and people will be like your work is good why don’t you just put it somewhere. So that was how it started. For me to just capture experience and moment , I have a philosophy that most times we don’t see our selfs as much as people see us and when I get feedback like oh that is great, even if it doesn’t feel great to me, I take it seriously because people won’t just make up stuff.
So for me, FO studio is one of my platforms for really helping people bring their ideas to reality. Photography is just one point of view; the other side is design. I help a lot of leaders and when I mean leaders, people who has impact building ideas I help them go from just wanting to run something to bringing it to reality so from the branding to the content creation to executing to stakeholders management . I just really have that passion for really ensuring that if you have an idea that brings change I want to be that person that helps you pilot that project and it’s been rewarding seeing people scale. I remember talking to my wife last week, I saw this friend of mine on line, her name is Sandra Jaja, she has this platform called Fempower Africa and I could remember when she started. There’s this day she called me. She was very anxious, she was like Abraham what do I need to do about this, how do I go about this? I was like calm down let’s work it through. And so we designed a logo for the brand. We did all those things and she has won lots of awards, she is currently doing her MBA in the US all expenses paid and I could just see someone that I was part of their journey three four years ago and it’s so rewarding. That’s one out of many stories so when you see FA studio, any of my expressions is just me who love to see change and help people who want to create change bring that change to reality.
Can you remember the first creative piece you made and what inspired it?
That’s one of the most difficult questions to answer because if you look at my journey it’s been more of exploratory and evolution. I didn’t start off wanting to be a designer so I find it difficult to pick the one I started with but if someone is going to ask me any day any time the work I am most proud of….it is not the current works I am doing now, it’s that first baby, that season live journal that I use to save my stipend for. There are times when my dad will call me out as a teenager and be like don’t you ever leave your computer? because I was just trying to make sure that particular form looks right, that particular colour was okay, that people could access the content, people could have good experience and I will keep reiterating the code trying to make it more responsive and even though I no longer write on that platform I make sure I renew that platform every year so that 50years down the line, I can be like that’s where I started from it’s still online till now. The website doesn’t look as great right now because this is 2022, but I just like to see where I started from. It’s just incredible for me to know that out of nothing before I even got the PC I was using I was using a phone called Nokia c1. That was the phone I was using, sometimes I see my friends using Sony Ericsson a very popular phone then. I see them playing with that phone and I am like dude do you know what you can do with that phone I wish I really had your mobile device. I’m proud of what I could do with that resource at that point in my life. So if I am going to ever refer back to the first work I have done, it will be Season Life Journal. It might not have been the most beautiful design, but it was an expression of me at a very tender age where I was trying to figure out my life in the world and that make sense to people I can’t take that away from my journey.
We are grateful to have you onboard this special ISSUE with the theme- Girt, in celebration of inspiring men in the creative industry, also to mark the 2022 International Men’s Day. We understand the growing need to build a culture where men can express emotions like shedding tears without the fear of being looked down upon. The need to create spaces where men can be their most vulnerable selves with family and friends without the fear of being seen as or called a weakling. Do have any personal related experience to these? Can you share any quick tips that could help to normalise mental health related issues for both men and women?
This is something very personal to me because I understand this a lot. One of the things we need to start reminding men about is that we are equally as human as women. That’s fundamental, I’m a Christian, so I believe God created every human being and I believe that every feature in the human physique or make up has a purpose. If God didn’t want you to have tears why do you have a tear duct for example. The fact that it is there means that it serves a purpose so the idea that men shouldn’t cry is actually counterproductive as to the physical features a man also have. What I am saying is that if it is there, it has a reason. So I think men need to begin to rethink how they see themselves first. It is easy for you to want to start to do anything for you but I think the first place to want to begin any work is with ourselves. So individuals need to begin to rethink the fact that they are humans and humans have certain features. One of them is emotions, and if you have emotions, it need to be expressed. We all know that unexpressed emotions have huge harm in the body so if you are angry consistently you are producing negative hormones in your body that damages your body and your system. The way our biology is made up is actually design to help us be healthy and crying and expressing your emotion is a key healthy trait. Second thing, we also need to begin to highlight role models. For example, my wife and I have situations where she is crying and I’m just sitting there crying with her. I do not know what is wrong with her but I just want to make her understand that your emotions right now are valid so I am here with you. I want to be with you in this difficult situation. Flip the situation, she does the same thing to me but I didn’t get here until I began to listen to people who struggled like me and who have broken out to the other side. So if there is any platform I’m going to recommend to any guy is a platform called The Liberation Project. It’s a podcast about 2guys in the US, who sit down and talk about how to break through stereotypes with men. They went from different topics and that liberated me cause I saw men going through what I am going through but had a different way of coping with it. Right there, I saw Benny Justin speak to his friend and they could cry and they could encourage each other and it was fun and I saw that this is actually okay. So when we begin to see people like us publicly who already also overcome such trouble publicly speak about it, people out there will begin to see themselves in those persons and feel like yes, it’s okay for me to express myself I see the challenge. We want people to do things differently but we don’t even have people out there who look like them and so most people are actually afraid to express themselves well, because they don’t want to be called weaklings. I think people who have gone through these things can help by also telling their own story. That is how change really happens. When you can see yourself in some else’s scenario, your story in someone else’s story, it encourages you to take the step they took.
The third step is that every single person who has a platform and understands this thing should use their platform properly. For example, we need to rewrite our script in movies because one of the major way of socialization is through the media. The media contain key places to start changing narratives of how men are represented.
Any further personal experience on this ?
In fact, I have done more crying in the last two years than ever in my life. The few friends I have are the people that get to experience that. This particular day I was trying to figure out something in my project and it was so frustrating and I told my wife I wanted to shout. I was like, that’s all I need to do now, I just felt so much bottled up emotions and just speaking English was not doing it and I just put my pillow over my head and just screamed into my pillow for as long as I could and I stop and I was like I’m okay now. That particular day I actually felt like she saw me as someone very weak when I reflect about that day I hope that she didn’t think I am a weak man but I’ve seen that even demonstrating that made her see reasons to be even more vulnerable with me.
A few months ago during the Thrive Business Summit, you spoke about ‘spotting opportunities in the market place from a designer point of view.’ You also mentioned how ‘not every good idea is a money idea.’ Can you please share more on this? Especially for those Creatives out there whose dream is to make money from doing what they love. Going into their Art, full time.
Not every good idea is a money idea. This point of view is from a system called value proposition design. This is a system you use to create value around a product or a service for an end user or a customer and target audience. I think many times people just carry their ideas, put a price to it and ask people to buy. It doesn’t always work that way. You have to be very sure that what you are proposing to people to buy is what they actually need. The process of verifying what they need is called value proposition design. A simple way to run it: think about your customer, profile the customer and understand what is the highlights of their pain without limitation. Try to highlight what you want to achieve as an individual using your product. Rank the solution based on their top 3 pain and top 3 gain, that is where the money, because people will exchange money for things they value. You have to identify what exactly makes you different from the other person. A classical example, there’s a man in Nigeria who sells mirrors and his mirrors go for 500,000naira minimum. Let me tell you the catch, this guy does not sell mirror, he sells two things . In fact, he won’t sell the mirror to you if you don’t meet certain criteria because that mirror is shaped like Nigeria map and so he’s trying to sell legacy to people and people who buy his mirror are people like Fela Durotoye. People who are patriotic, people of Nigeria, people who will die for Nigeria anywhere anytime. And so that man is not selling a mirror he’s selling patriotism and he is selling legacy. He is only selling to people who it will appeal to, if he carries that mirror to a general market, no one will buy from him because he has failed to take his good idea and match it with who needs the idea. That’s what I mean by not every good idea is the money idea. You can actually have a great idea but you are missing the point you are not reaching out to those who consider that thing you’re trying to sell a pinpoint. And so how do you now go from good ideas to money ideas, it’s very simple. Always sell to people’s pain even if it’s a fun thing you are doing. Perhaps you do skit or you do videos you have to be sure that you’re connecting your value to what someone really needs and I think many creatives fail to realise this that they just focus on how creative they are and they fail to understand the business of their creativity so there’s a design of business and there’s a business of design. You have to learn the business of your creativity and that will lead you to really understand people. Once you can understand people, how they think and what they need, then you can connect your good ideas with their pain points and now money can come in so this is just a summary of not every good idea is a money idea.
Do you feel creatives in developed countries are at advantage than those in developing countries?
Yes, there’s an advantage developed countries have. During my 18 months in the UK, there was no power outage for once. Even if I did not have Wi-Fi – which I did have – I could go to the nearest cafeteria or bus stop and do something because there is Wi-Fi. There is Wi-Fi in the bus and train I travel with. I’m using these two examples because they are essential to an average creative to thrive. While you are figuring out how to get fuel and how to buy data, the other creatives in another part of the globe has time for self expression and try new things. On a surface, infrastructure issue can seem like a disadvantage, but in designing, we see problems as constraints not as stumbling blocks. Constraints represent a factor in creating something that will help people. Constraints is where my ideas and my inspiration come from. Instead of seeing these things as a disadvantage your constraints becomes your advantage. Remember I had Nokia C1 with no Internet. This has become a huge part of my story today, because that story was what got my first fellowship funded by the Obama initiative: they saw what I could do with that little thing to create that amount of impact. I also got my first fellowship – Young African Leaders Initiative. We were 100 in West Africa trained on leadership and many things. I met people all over the world and that changed my life. At that time, if I had seen what I was going through as a disadvantage I won’t have made a move and the story of today won’t be in existence. I want creatives to see challenges as opportunities to create something new to have a story that is unique to them. This is something particularly very passionate to me – no matter the challenges you are going through you can always create something out of it.
You have no doubt served as an inspiring mentor, educator and trainer in the creative industry and beyond. Can you please share any quick tips on how young creatives can maximize the digital media as a tool in accessing mentorship for their creative journey?
There’s no excuse. YouTube is a school. Social Media is a school. You can become the master of anything without anyone directly putting you through. I believe any young person can start off by observing the industry and not try to get attention. Identify top 10 people in your industry and consume their content. For example, I found this remarkable designer, who designed the public library, City Bank and the new Microsoft Windows branding. So I went on YouTube and watched her interviews. I also follow top designers on twitter. We learn by following. The attention will come when you do great work.
Balancing work time and rest time is a struggle for many Creatives. Please share a few tips on how you try to balance work time, rest time and family time?
The truth is that it is difficult for creatives to create that balance. But it is possible when you have systems. Now, I have work time and rest time. When I was doing my masters, I noticed how nobody responded to mails past 5p.m. on Friday. Weekends were more productive with relaxing and making friends hence everyone had time to recharge. So I took from there not to work on weekends. I only take on personal projects like journaling, brainstorming on new ideas and so on. Creatives must learn to create boundaries to maintain productivity. The fact is work-life balance cannot always be 50-50. Sometimes you will have more workload, but you will know when to block out one week to do nothing and you’re not feeling guilty. I can do that now, prior, I will be like ‘what am I doing with my life?’ ‘have I lost my sense of purpose?’ But now I can block off two weeks. Before I couldn’t stay away from social media but now I can do without my phone for a day and I won’t feel like I missed anything, because I began to train myself to respect my own health and not try to be everywhere. And that’s how I am more productive because I respect myself to create time to reconnect with myself. From my experience this is the advice I’ll give, respect yourself enough to get the adequate rest you need. Once you do that very well, you will be confident to let people know when you will be available and when you will not be available.
What does success mean to you?
Everyone has their own definition of success and this is mine, success is not a destination, it’s a journey. People are waiting to get somewhere to say ‘I’m successful’, but they fail to realise that the way you deal with every day of your life, every moment, every week, every task, every opportunity you have are the droplets that make up the sea of success. So it’s a journey that’s the first thing.
The second thing based on principle now, success comes from expressing your deep and innate self to the world in the most valuable way that brings fulfilment to you. Meaning success comes from expression and not acquisition. People want to acquire status, milestones, accolades, the latest cars. They want to have all these external things to define and validate who they are and they fail to realise that it’s the other way. You have to flip the switch, your expression of who you are is where your success and fulfilment will come from, that is why it’s called fulfilment, so you get full by filling others up. It sounds ironic. It feels like by pouring myself out, I’m going to be empty but actually what happens is that the more you pour yourself out on people, you’re seeing more of yourself in people and that is what success is about. It’s about legacy. It’s about replicating yourself in people. Showing that all the things you believe God has put in you, is used to serve people. To know that ABCDEF are doing great in their journey because I was part of it.
If you could do a collab as a digital creator with any other artist, what art would that be?
I have been loving Kanye West recently, that I would like to create something with him. I just feel like, even though people feel like he is crazy, I actually think he is a genius. Regardless of your views about life or what you think you represent, I love when someone can stand for themselves and be like ‘this is what I believe.’ And you don’t allow anybody bully you out of it. I think he has so many ideas but may not just know how to express himself. You can see his success from his fashion to his music and so many other things he is doing. I think he is actually a phenomenal guy. Another person I would want to work with is Bolanle Babel. I interviewed her sometime ago, she’s a designer also, and she focuses on brand identity. She runs a platform called Geneza School of Design, she trains women in design. She’s building this movement of designers in Africa. I think she does phenomenal work. I just like the simplicity in her work and if I am going to work with her, most likely it will be a brand based project because I am really interested a lot in brands recently, and so I just find it really exciting creating unique identities for brands. With Kanye I will probably do something around a fashion piece. Maybe a shoe. Something that is an apparel. Probably make shoes for people on space or something. So these are my two picks for now.
Please briefly tell us something we do not know about Abraham Ologundudu.
[Laughs] This is a blank question I absolutely have no answer for because I don’t even know. Probably if you have something in mind you’re interested in knowing, I’m an open book.
Okay. If you weren’t a designer, what would you have rather been?
A psychologist. Someone asked me one time, why do I post less of my work and talk more about my process? And I said because, you won’t learn anything from me from my work, you only learn from my process. I am more fascinated by how people work than what they produce. I just really like to learn about how people’s minds work. It’s just something I am fascinated about.
Let’s go a little poetic: If poetry is a rainbow and you have a choice of one color in that
pallette, what would that be and why?
It’s very obvious. If you see my posts online, blue. If you see my website, blue. I didn’t even know I loved blue until someone told me one day ‘hey, dude have you seen all your brand logos? They’re all blue.’ And I was like, oh my God it’s true. Like subconsciously I realised that everything I design is blue. Some pointed it out. ‘All your dresses are blue. In fact your wedding dress was blue.’ So yeah.
What does Art mean to you?
Art is self-expression. Art is just you expressing you. It’s nothing less than that. So like even if two persons are doing the same thing they will never be identical or have the same results because what makes your Art Art is that you’re infusing your innate values and your own like into it. Art is really a representation of you as a person, that’s why even if someone steals your work, they can never still your Art because they can’t put themselves into it.
Massive Love Abraham!
The ICONIC Team