olubunmi Adeyemi founder of da brand by Afrominima

6 Things Product Designers Can Learn From Olubunmi Adeyemi of DÅ Brand

Lessons Learned: Floor One 9 in Conversation with Olubunmi Adeyemi

Lessons learned – is a column where we share lessons learned from events we attended. And in this season of Covid, it will be mostly virtual. Enjoy, comment, and share!

Over three weeks ago, I watched a live session of Floor one in conservation with the dynamic Lagos-based product designer, Olubunmi Adeyemi. Olubunmi is the founder of DÅ Brand, by Afrominima, a product design brand known for its Afrominimalist lifestyle products – particularly kitchen products.

I’m not sure there’s anyone who would see a DÅ Brand kitchen product and not fall in love. They are functional and stylish, with a pop of colour. They look like they make cooking fun and you’d love your food to taste as good as they look 😊.

6 Things Product Designers Can Learn From Olubunmi Adeyemi of DÅ Brand
A selection of some of DÅ Brand’s Afrominimalist kitchenware.

Organized by Floor One 9, the live session covered questions on how he started the brand, his inspiration, his work process as well as the state of the art and design industry post-covid amongst other topics. Watching the live session, here are six things product designers can learn from Olubunmi – let’s dive into it.

1. Have a genuine story about your brand

As a product designer, questions like these should not be ignored – why am I starting this brand? what inspires me? what do I want to achieve with my brand? These were questions that were essential to Olubunmi starting DÅ brand – that helped him create the identity we all love today, and easily associate with his products. According to him, he came up with a design language that reflects who he is and what he wants his designs/products to reflect – a fusion of Afrocentric and Minimalism. This was how he coined Afrominima.

Carrying this sense of originality and purpose through every part of your brand not only guides you but, also becomes a unique identity that people easily associate with your product. Even choosing the name DÅ which means “to create or make” in Nigeria’s Yoruba culture was also part of the story. The name is minimalist, yet reflects what the brand is purposed to do – to create and make minimalist Afrocentric lifestyle products.

2. Employ a research-driven approach

When asked about his design process, Olubunmi mentions usually employing a research-driven approach. While this is probably something you’ve heard a lot – it makes a difference when you actually put it into practice.

He cited how he usually researches into past African histories like – the sculptural works of the Benin and Ife kingdoms, and then, merging this knowledge with his skills to create. Doing this adds a new layer of meaning and purpose to your work, and would usually reflect in the quality and output.

3. Design with purpose

According to him, “design is a powerful tool for change”. Starting a brand, product or initiative shouldn’t be all about the money – but should also be about the value being added. This is especially true in Africa, where we’re at a point where we have a lot of changes to make, a lot of stories to tell, and a lot of inspiring to do.

This is also true of our very own startup story for Livin Spaces – which was created to document architecture and design in Africa (and similar contexts) and inspire our design ecosystem. We’re at a place in Africa where as designers or players in the industry, our actions should not only be business-oriented but also well thought out and purposeful.

4. Inspiration from all around you

A lot of beautiful products we see today were inspired by everyday living and everyday objects. When asked about the source of his inspiration, he mentioned getting inspiration from “all around him”.

Take for example, the raw urban kitchen collection, which is a range of everyday kitchen utensils and tableware like the mortar and pestle, platter, serving spoon, etc. It was inspired by a conversation he was having with his mother.

Even though “getting inspiration from all around us” is a fairly common saying, it’s important that as a designer you pay attention to the moments you’re in – everyday living and interactions. So we can pick those signals of opportunity waiting to be explored – for new products, initiatives, and ideas.

5. Be dynamic

Do not think that because you started off designing chairs, or designing lamps, then you should remain in that lane. Allow yourself the freedom to explore other product categories, or, venture into other initiatives that pique your interest.

Even though the DÅ brand started with the Raw Urban Kitchen collection, the brand has expanded to include other product categories like the Kini card game, the Fitila table collection, the OJU art series, etc, even the AMI jewelry collection he designed for Adele Dejak, as well as meaningful social enterprise. Adopting a similar approach is good for your business – as you’re offering your clients a wider pool of products to choose from.

It’s important you realize that all these weren’t achieved at the same time. Do not put undue pressure on yourself, but pace yourself, while you allow yourself to explore and create.

6. Connect with your inner child

We all know how as children we had great imaginations of things we’d love to do – not daunted by the perception of impossibility – of accomplishing our imaginations. Olubunmi encourages that as designers, you should connect with your inner child. According to him, this is something he does regularly as it allows him to think/imagine without limitations – and be able to freely explore the new ideas.  

olubunmi Adeyemi founder of da brand by Afrominima
Olubunmi Adeyemi – Founder of DA Brand.

In conclusion, every designer has a process by which they work – some are helpful, some not very much. It’s important from time to time, you review your actions and make necessary improvements – so you can succeed better at what you do. I do hope while reviewing, you find one or more of these lessons useful – as they’ve been to Olubunmi.

As a young designer, which of these lessons do you need to start learning; and for “OG designers”, what personal lessons do you employ that has been a defining factor in the success of your brand? Please share in the comments – we’d love to hear/learn from you too! 😊

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