Meet Victor Fatanmi, the next big thing in the branding world
Branding has become something of a lucrative career because we are in a digital era. Because of the importance of design, we have seen several young minds doing great stuff in the space. For those familiar with the branding space, Victor Fatanmi needs no further introduction neither does his company, FourthCanvas.
Victor Fatanmi is known for his branding prowess, with local and international works under his belt. Victor and his team have had the opportunity to work on two different African presidential campaigns, a governorship campaign and several identities for big brands. But he didn’t have it all easy at the beginning, in his words, “I did not have the cash to learn graphic design, so I started playing with the software”.
After a failed attempt to study architecture, he settled for estate management. He decided, later on, to focus on personal growth and his design career. He shares his story, thoughts on design and branding for businesses in Nigeria with YC.
Please tell us who you are?
Summarily, I am a brand strategist and an optimist trying to see the better side of everything. I am the Co-Founder and Art Director at FourthCanvas, and through our work, I am being able to fulfil my passion. I have a deep passion for people and brands, most importantly the intersection between those two sets.
What was your aspiration growing up?
So everybody had this “doctor-engineer-lawyer” mentality but that wasn’t me. I wanted to be an architect at some point, then also a sailor. I also wanted to be a football referee because I love football. So when I started getting close to graphic design, I stumbled on Information technology (IT) and I got stuck with it.
How did you find yourself in graphics design?
I have always been an artist right from childhood, even though I never knew there was a profession in design. My dad had a library but instead of reading the content of the books and magazines, I was fascinated with the designs. Prior to the university, I was told someone had to have a “side business” in something you love while in school.
Fortunately, my brother was running a print magazine while we were in school and I had access to the magazine designs. So I could see that he actually paid someone to get the designs done, which struck me and I began to ask him questions. So he asked me to train but I didn’t have the cash at that point. I had a laptop that I wasn’t using, so I put Corel Draw on it through my brother. That was the beginning of my design career.
Did you have to go through any formal training to learn graphics design?
The proper way was to pay someone and learn. I still advocate it as a good method to start, but I did not do that. I didn’t have the money to learn, rather when my mates were playing games and watching films, I was battling with the software. I didn’t know about it, but every tool was labelled, so I just played around it. And till today, I have not learnt any software with any proper training. Just like the way kids learn, I allow my creativity to take control.
How difficult is it to be self-taught in design?
It took me a long time to learn, and over the years I still made some errors. If I was well trained I won’t have made those errors. There were some tools I discovered later on by chance, and that is a disadvantage to any designer. I can’t say one method is the best way, all I can say is whichever way you choose to learn, do your best at it.
Meanwhile, it is much easier now to learn design by yourself with Youtube videos and materials. The issue I have with training through a structured environment is that students are only concerned with the end game and not the process.
So school was supposed to solve that problem but then school has taken it to the extreme, students are no longer conscious of the desire to learn but to just pass exams. So the desired learning environment will be in between both methods.
How did you get your first official client?
I was invited to join a team to organize a TEDx event in FUTA, and I was not the meeting type. However, I heard that a guy was coming from Newcastle, he was a Futa graduate. All I thought was that he could be a potential client. So I went to the meeting and met him to discuss my designs. I put together a portfolio of some of my branding works that I had been doing for my friends and showed him. Then he told me that he was starting a tech company with some friends and I should come up with a brand identity. They liked it and it became my first official client job. That was encouraging and to date, they still refer me to several opportunities.
When was your first big break?
So I was known as Victor Gold on campus, I was always carrying my backpack with my designs and it made sense to have a brand. I called it Victor Gold Creations (VGC), even though it was a one-man business at that time in 2013.
One of my past clients came to me for a design he plans to give his mentor and I did it. He mailed me later that night that his mentor was interested in me. I got a call latter from his mentor who happens to be Chude Jidenwo to work on the Future Awards 2014 which was five weeks to the event. I worked remotely on all the designs for the event and got paid a good sum.
Fast forward to 2015, I got a call again to join the team that was working on the Presidential campaign for President Buhari. I left Akure for Lagos right after New Year, I got a new laptop that same day because my laptop could not go out of my room –it was that bad. It is still one of the biggest jobs I have done, it was later that year that we put more structure into VGC and rebranded to FourthCanvas.
Working on such projects at a young age, did it affect you emotionally?
I foresaw something right from the start and it helped to keep my head down. It was just about the next client because I knew that working on a political campaign or “big projects” would not automatically attract new business clients. It could only build trust, alot had to be done as to our business structure. Though I got a lot of respect, it did not affect me emotionally. I kept my head down and focused on the business. I knew I still had a lot of work to do in getting the brand out there.
What is your take on branding in Nigeria?
What people immediately understand is the logo they can see, but it has been a conscious effort by my team to educate our clients on what branding entails. What you hear is that I want a fine logo, but they fail to realise that the nice branding you see from Cocoa-Cola is an extensive research and process. But with social media, companies are beginning to compete globally. They get to see how international competitors are deliberate and make conscious efforts towards their branding. With time things will get better and as a team, we intend to take some steps in the coming months that would help the industry as a whole.
Final words for young Nigerians?
Stay open, nothing is fixed. Information is updated by the minute and what was right for Zuckerberg might be wrong for you. Look closely and stay open, everyday.