Meta’s $50,000 grant is a lifeline to our future plans – Juliet Godwin

Naija Graphic Designers, a creative community connecting the graphic design industry in Nigeria and beyond, helping connect employers with freelancers, as well as supporting women creatives, recently won the $50,000 grant from the Facebook Community Accelerators. In this interview, the Community Manager, Juliet Godwin shares with Frank Eleanya her plans to help support, up-skill, and offer opportunities for graphic designers to raise industry standards.

What has been the impact of the Naija Graphic Designers online community so far?

Thanks to our Facebook page, we’ve recorded compelling results amongst our community. our actions are beginning to find meaning, and we are witnessing a windfall of testimonials. As of today, we have been able to highlight the need to have hard discussions around pricing design, valuing design and also fostered a platform where clients are being connected to skilled graphic designers. The platform has also been able to encourage and motivate upcoming designers and acted as a benchmark for designers who aim to take creative entrepreneurship seriously. Things are changing, and despite the challenges of managing a group this large, we are making tremendous progress.

What inspired the tagline ‘Nigeria Designers must be seen and heard on the Naija Graphic Designers?

Indeed Nigerian creatives must be seen and must be heard. I believe that this group was created to inspire a generation of creatives that would begin to see value in what they do, and also elevate the entire design practice. The group founder, Emeka Daniel came up with this quote, as he believes that the Nigerian creatives have the potential to play and lead on a global scale. The slogan reinforces our potential to contribute meaningfully to the global creative design narrative, it’s all beginning to come together, and what may have seemed like an unachievable audacious goal is beginning to see the light of day.

What kind of opportunities is available to graphic designers who are members of this community?

The Community has been able to create a meeting point between potential clients and designers of varied skill sets who are able to bring their best works to several projects in the country and across the globe. Actually, creative skill is in high demand, and the community has been able to source talent and attract projects thereby serving as a connector between both parties.

The Community is also planning on a marketplace beta launch due next month, which would create a wider opportunity for designers to be their own startups with the opportunity to sell their designs as creative assets and templates accessible to the larger world, opening doors to other income-earning streams that would allow them to earn even while they sleep, and improve the quality of their lives.

Graphic designers require a high level of creative acumen in their line of work. How has your online community page helped train member designers in the aspects of creativity and Innovation?

The Community has been a source of inspiration and motivation, and many members testify to this. We regularly post tips that spotlight an array of creative hacks, hold live sessions, allow questions from designers facing challenges as regards creativity and innovation, and allow professional members (who have garnered knowledge and experience over years of working as designers), answer the questions and provide insights to other members, and most interesting – the most competitive of all – the weekly design challenges which attracts prize money and allows healthy competition that deepen the bond between community members as they banter around the submissions and express their thoughts around the entries. It ends with an appointed professional from the group doing the scoring. This inspires the younger creatives and builds a culture of growth that encourages much-needed innovation and creativity.

Your group was identified as one of the finalists for Facebook’s Community Accelerator Programme 2021, for effecting social change through your community. How do you feel about this?

I feel great, it is a great honour and an unexpected surprise. I feel valued, and I feel I matter. It has helped me understand that as a community, we are capable of greater things. It has also been a great boost to my motivation as an individual, and of course my team because we now realise the work ahead of us in ensuring designers must be seen and heard.

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As part of the Community Accelerator Programme, you are trained to further harness the power of your community for further impact. Tell us about that?

It has been interesting and mind-blowing. The training helped improve the effectiveness of managing our community. It has helped re-orient our approach with access to global best practices and leadership processes and tools that simplify things that looked really ambiguous. It has also helped us to articulate our revenue models and expanded our knowledge base on how the group can be beneficial and further improved to suit the members of the community we represent.

You have received $50,000 as a grant to help bring to realise your project plans for Nigerian Graphic Designers. Could you share more on the project?

To be honest, we have a lot of big plans for the future, and this grant is a great catalyst for our future plans. While we are on an accelerated growth track, we are also big on impact. Our proposed project explores the impact and sustainability of the group beyond the current reality of existing solely on Facebook. Using access to the group insights, we are empowering group members across key cities across Nigeria to activate/establish “NGD Creativity Clusters” in their localities that will bring together group members in these cities who will embark on a mix of training and workshops that will teach – using case studies from the group the message of “design and creativity as a viable career path” which will target senior secondary schools as well as universities. We will give them the resources, and funds to aid the facilitation and brand presence. The interesting factor to note in this approach is that without endangering members to travel on the intercity roads, we will be opening up creative leadership opportunities across the country from members of the community.

Our topics will shed light on the marketplace infrastructure which is to be launched, and what we expect to see is a spike in onboarding a new demographic into the group which we hope will be a great step in seeing more young people who choose creativity as a career. The desired impact is job creation, education, and access to more income streams, contributing our fair quota to ending poverty in a sustainable way.

What do you think about Meta’s efforts in empowering online communities?

Meta is really doing a good job as regards empowering online communities. The empowering of online communities such as ours helps to unite people with the same interest and offer ways to share, include and collaborate, thereby strengthening the value of community. It is simply amazing, and we are beyond pleased to have been able to leverage the platform for social change.

Are there any memorable experience(s) about being the leader of Naija Graphic Designers that you’d love to share?

It has helped me understand how to manage different personalities in the group and how to shuffle between managing the group, collaborating with my fellow leadership team, and above all, working as a female designer in Nigeria. I also love how the contests have helped connect designers to potential mentors on the group which can guide them as regards their career path.

What is the importance of skill acquisition for every Graphic Designer and how does this drive social change in the long run?

The world today is fast changing. We found an interesting statistic 2 years ago that made us realize the importance of what we do; amongst the top 100 highest paying jobs in the world, User interface design-a modern-day offshoot of graphic design was listed around number 54. This highlights the importance of skills acquisition for careers in creativity. It may interest you to know that passion, discipline, and access to a computer and the internet are all that is needed to emerge as a professional-level UI designer.

We also know that about 3 years ago, many big global firms started looking beyond college degrees for hires, but focused more on skill. The graphic design skill, therefore, highlights the value of an untapped market that can lift people out of poverty if they can access the right tools and infrastructure. This is why our group emphasises the importance of programmes and initiatives that will up-skill members because, with Nigeria’s youth population, our inability to harness the youth’s energy positively through skills acquisition will mean they will use the energy and passion in other ways that could be detrimental to the larger society.

Our hope is that investing more in creative skill acquisition which we have started in our own way would create an increase in the quality of designers in the group and country at large, which will help increase the earning power of creatives which will start changing the perception of the general public about design services and help increase the reputation of being a designer as a viable career, and not a hobby by tainted creatives.

Any advice to leaders of other online communities on Meta’s family of apps?

My Advice to leaders of other online communities is that the leadership of communities should be intentional, not scripted. Standards have to be maintained, and processes have to be adhered to. This is how the reputation will be built, and in due time, results will speak for themselves. Leaders should inspire and motivate the members of the group and lead the way.

On a scale of 1-10, how has Facebook’s Community Accelerator programme been beneficial to you?

I will say 10 because, as far as Naija Graphic Designers is concerned, we have witnessed how quickly baby steps can convert to giant leaps with the right support and right mentorship. The programme has amplified our intentions and has personally increased the value I place over myself and my future

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