Designing for Startups in 2023

Welcome to another episode of our employee profile series, where we spotlight the amazing people who drive what we do here at Earnipay. In today’s episode, we have Edora Yaakor, the brain behind Earnipay’s impressive brand and motion designs. 

Edora shares insight about his career journey and his opinion on designing for startups in 2023. Let’s begin!

Hi Edora, can we meet you?

My name is Edora Yaakor, and I am currently a motion and brand designer at Earnipay. 

I wasn’t always a designer. I studied computer engineering at Covenant University. Growing up, I loved playing video games, and because of the nature of my course at the university, we all needed to have a laptop. When I got one, I played so many games during my first year, and in the second semester, I became interested in learning how to make them. This led me to go on Google and watch videos on how to make games, and I eventually made a simple game similar to fruit wars from a tutorial. However, I wanted to make proper games, and during that journey, I stumbled on 3D design and started learning it.

3D was a great skill, but people preferred to request for simpler tasks such as designing a logo and creating a poster which didn’t maximise the use. Because design is similar across board, I transitioned from 3D to graphics design over time.

I did not go through any formal design training, so I was purely self-taught. Then, when I was learning 3D design, I bought and studied this really big book that seemed like I was preparing for a professional exam. I had to shuffle between school and learning design, and this affected my grades. But while I was in school, I had this quote “Our deepest passion lies in our greatest distraction”.

In my last year at school, I got an internship at Anakle, a foremost marketing agency, where I spent over 4 years before taking an 8 months break and switching to brand design. 

Why did you choose to join Earnipay, and what has been your experience?

Joining Earnipay was based on a recommendation from two of my former colleagues who currently work at Earnipay. I was excited about coming to work with familiar, creative, and fun people who were professionals at their jobs.

Also, Earnipay’s team culture is great; everyone is friendly, and no one judges. There are solid principles that have been laid down by the founders to help create a healthy workplace. 

Having worked with an agency for almost four years, I wanted to know what working on the client side was like. I wanted to have a 360-degree experience where I would have full control over a brand’s identity. 

My experience has been great, and I’ve learned a lot too. I am fortunate to work under a very knowledgeable manager, Annastasia, who is like the Wikipedia of marketing. I’ve learned that marketing in tech is different from marketing in advertising. While they are both forms of marketing, they have different nuances in that marketing in tech is more growth and number driven. 

As a brand and motion designer, how do you balance the need for a visually appealing brand with the need to convey the startup’s values and mission?

I believe that every design needs to be functional and aesthetic. Functional in that every design should serve a core function, and aesthetically, it must be visually appealing. So it’s function before aesthetics. Applying this to the question, I start by understanding the brand’s mission, vision, values, and prospects and come up with a design that aligns with these before making it more appealing. First of all, design is a communication tool. In today’s digital age, good design is a medium to reach your audience because that’s what they eventually interact with. All the strategies and product building are background work, your design is the final work. 

It’s just like a pot of Jollof; no one looks at it and sees all the spices you’ve thrown into it, they just see a pot of Jollof, and when they taste it, they get the experience. That’s how design works. 

What role do you think design plays in the success of a startup? How can design help startups stand out in a crowded market and build a strong brand identity?

Design helps startups create a unique identity, which is also a way to appeal to their identified target audience. It also portrays the values the startup wants to identify with, and in some cases, it communicates the industry in which they play.

It can make them easily recognizable and also help them build brand affinity amongst their target audience. A properly crafted brand identity is a product of in-depth research about the brand and its offerings which results in a very original and unique identity. 

How do you stay updated?

I stay updated by reading articles and design blogs like Behance. I also keep an eye out for what big brands like Instagram, Apple, Twitter, and Microsoft are doing since they dictate the trends. A good example of this is when Instagram changed its logo. Although there were a lot of backlashes initially, over time, there was an adoption of the gradient style in their design that we can see in apps, interfaces, and regular graphics designs today. 

However, this does not mean I would change my brand’s look and feel to reflect these things because if, as a designer, you keep jumping on trends or build your brand on trends, when that trend passes, your brand’s look and feel automatically become outdated since it was built on trends. 

Therefore, I pick what is relevant to the brand as an add-on, like an accessory that the brand can wear and can always get rid of. 

How do you balance keeping up with trends with the need for creativity?

When I want to create a design, let’s say, a social media post, I start by writing out the text and arranging the information first and then incorporating brand elements before looking out for trendy designs for additional ideas. That way, I can always add new things, but the core solution of the design came from me, that way, my creativity is not diminished. 

As a creative person, when you have a problem, your first resolution to solve this issue should be within yourself. In doing that, the core of that solution is your original approach, so any other thing you would bring in would just be an addition.

How do you approach creating a brand identity for a startup that is just getting off the ground? What steps do you take to ensure that your brand identity is effective, memorable, and scalable as the startup grows?

I start by learning about the brand, its solution, the industry they play in, and its name. This would guide me in crafting an icon that represents what the startup does and would also affect colour choices and fonts. 

For instance, when I joined Earnipay, we had to rebrand. We moved from having a predominantly blue and mustard colour to having a predominantly green palette because green represents money. When Earnipay launched, our core solution was on-demand pay, which makes it possible for employees to not run out of money before payday. Since the colour of money, as depicted in cartoons, is green, and we wanted everyone to have that money, it affected our brand colours. 

That’s an example of an approach when you know the brand and who it’s for. Things like choosing the type of font you use would be affected. If your target audience are people in the digital age. You would choose a font representing modernity, such as Helvetica. 

To summarise – know your solution, know your audience, and use that to make an informed decision.

What are some common design challenges you’ve encountered since you started working with Earnipay, and how have you overcome them?

Earnipay is fast-paced, and the teams adopt an agile approach. One thing I struggled with at the beginning was not having enough time, and I also had to deal with different teams sending in requests at the same time. 

However, with time, I began to understand the pattern with which requests come, so I make sure that my designs are such that I can reuse them over time without having to start from scratch. Also, our team setup is such that every team goes through a communication channel; it goes through the manager before it comes to me. That way, we don’t have clashing requests.

What advice would you give startups looking to improve their branding and design efforts?

Companies need to see design as a really important part of their brand and invest in good designers. I’ve seen a lot of startups that do not pay attention to getting the best hands for their design.

From inception, they should bring a good designer on board who will ensure that design are not only done based on trends. We also have cases of startups that copy other brands verbatim, and this shouldn’t be so.

What advice do you have for people who want to venture into design?

My advice would be to approach design with the mentality that design is a solution to a problem. Once you understand this, know your tools and the principles of design generally beyond your chosen field. It’s also important to be open to feedback as this will help you know what to adopt and what not to.

Some resources you can check out include books like “Steal Like an Artist by Austin Clayton” and “The Vignelli Canon by Massimo Vignelli” and “Abstract” – a Netflix series.

We hope you had an interesting time learning from Edora’s insights. 

See you again in our next episode. 

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