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Other Faces of Tech

Juliet GodwinFreelance Illustrator and Creative Designer

Juliet Godwin

What was your experience like growing up in terms of the city you grew up in, your educational background, and your family dynamics?

I grew up in a conservative home where I spent a lot of time indoors as a child, watching cartoons and discovering my passion for drawing at a young age. My dad was the one who noticed my talent and encouraged me to pursue it. He supported me as I sketched family trees and various artworks. However, when I turned eight, my dad passed away, and my mom insisted that I focus solely on my studies, believing that drawing couldn’t provide a stable career.

During my secondary school years, my mom and I often clashed due to my stubbornness and my desire to continue drawing. She limited my artistic activities to holidays, while emphasizing the importance of education. It was during this time that my mom bought computer monitors, and I began exploring graphic design using programs like CorelDraw and PowerPoint. Despite the limitations imposed on my artistic pursuits, I honed my skills by watching YouTube tutorials on graphic design and digital painting.

After recovering from a serious accident that left me in a coma for over a week, I had a heartfelt conversation with my mom about my career aspirations. She agreed to let me make my own choices, and that marked the beginning of my journey into digital illustration. I ordered my first drawing tablet and immersed myself in online tutorials, seeking guidance from experienced Nigerian artists. Without access to formal schools specializing in digital art in my area, I knew I needed to move to Lagos, the hub of artistic opportunities in Nigeria.

Continuing to practice and seek feedback from mentors, I eventually gained recognition. An agency in Lagos offered me an internship, providing valuable experience and further improving my skills. Since then, from 2016 to the present day, I have dedicated myself to developing my artistic abilities and witnessing continuous improvement along the way. It has been a transformative journey that has brought me to where I am today.

What are your thoughts on giving and receiving feedback for junior designers?

I believe that negative feedback tends to stick with people more than positive feedback. Some individuals may not take action or make improvements when feedback is given in a gentle and supportive manner. However, I have found that being blunt and direct can be an effective way to motivate people. When mentors or role models provide harsh feedback, they are often testing your commitment and determination. They want to see if you have the motivation to prove them wrong and if you truly have a passion for what you’re doing. Initially, you may resent the person for their blunt words, but eventually, you will realize that their criticism was valid. You may even feel grateful and want to thank them for pushing you to improve. In the real world, clients can be even harsher in their feedback, and it’s important to learn how to handle and learn from it. In the tech and creative industry, many of us are self-taught or learn through online resources, often neglecting the business and interpersonal aspects. Feedback and criticism play a crucial role in our growth and success. So, when someone pushes you and appears harsh, it’s not because they hate you, but because they want to see you rise to the challenge. It’s important to embrace these opportunities and prove yourself. From my experience, those who initially disliked me for my comments eventually became my closest allies. They transformed their lives by taking my feedback to heart, pursuing education and growth, and finding their passion in their careers.

Have you at any point thought of alternative careers asides drawing and digital illustrations?

Currently, I have multiple options for my career path, but my true passion lies in farming. Alongside my job in graphic design, I have already established a farm because agriculture is something I genuinely love. While I enjoy design, farming is a hobby and an additional source of fulfillment for me. It’s important to prioritize the career that brings in income, and at the moment, graphic design is the primary source. However, farming remains a significant part of my life and I don’t envision pursuing any other career apart from agriculture, or perhaps politics. Other options simply don’t hold my interest or fit into my schedule at this point in my life.

How did you stay motivated and on track to grow and become as skilled as you are today, especially considering the initial limitations of pursuing a design or digital painting career in Nigeria?

Okay. Well, when I first started my journey, there were moments of doubt. I questioned myself, wondering if I was making the right choice. It was especially challenging coming from a background where people around me didn’t believe in what I was doing. They saw it as laziness or a reluctance to face the real world and its challenges.

I distinctly remember my mom expressing her disappointment, saying she had lost hope in me because I seemed to be going down an uncertain path. Although they may not have directly said it, I could feel the lack of support and the sense that they had given up on me. These circumstances led me to doubt myself even more. I questioned whether pursuing a career in design would bring me the success I desired.

At that point, I made a decision. I told myself, “Let me give it a few years. If it doesn’t work out, I can always take it up as a hobby and find something else.” But as time went on, I realized that no matter what other options I explored, I always found myself coming back to design. It was what truly made me happy, and I couldn’t ignore that fact.

Then, in 2018, I had the opportunity to embark on an internship in the industry. That experience turned out to be a turning point for me. As I worked with professionals and witnessed the inner workings of design agencies, I was motivated by the creative energy and the potential to make a real impact. Seeing the projects they were involved in and the financial rewards they earned further solidified my determination.

This is why I always encourage young aspiring designers to seek out internships, regardless of their self-taught skills. It is crucial to face the real world, work as part of a team, and learn from experienced professionals. The lessons and insights gained during an internship are invaluable, teaching you the importance of teamwork, time management, and effective communication.

I must emphasize that internships are not just about the technical skills you acquire but also the opportunities for personal growth and networking. During my internships, I worked with various studios and companies, sometimes offering my services for free. I was willing to invest my time and effort to learn and grow, and this dedication made a significant impression on those I worked with. I was entrusted with responsibilities, and some studios even offered me full-time positions with attractive salaries. However, I chose to continue seeking new experiences and learning opportunities.

Today, I work as a freelancer, and I have the freedom to work from home. I have honed my skills as a creative director, completing tasks on time and collaborating effectively with clients and colleagues. I have come a long way from those early days when doubts and skepticism surrounded my choice of career.

Furthermore, I am thrilled to see more and more women entering the design industry. When I first started, female representation was minimal, particularly in areas like 3D animation. I consciously sought to explore different avenues and challenge traditional gender roles in design. Now, as an established professional, I am proud to be part of a more inclusive industry where talented individuals can thrive, regardless of their gender.

So, to all aspiring designers and artists out there, I urge you to consider internships as a crucial step in your journey. Embrace the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals, learn from their expertise, and develop important skills that go beyond what can be learned online. Internships provide real-world experiences, connections, and friendships that can shape your future and contribute to your success in the dynamic world of design.

What would you say about people coming into the design industry for the money?

Thank you very much. People often have misconceptions when entering the design industry. Many are attracted by the idea of making easy money, seeing others succeed and buy new gadgets, all while working from the comfort of their homes. They think they can learn a course, finish it, and start earning right away. But that’s not how it works. In fact, I’ve even offered to work for free during internships just to gain experience and learn from professionals. Many were surprised that I took the initiative and expressed admiration for my courage. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s essential to prioritize skill development over monetary gain. Working under pressure is another aspect that people underestimate. When you’re part of an advertising agency, the demands can be intense. The speed and quality of your work matter, and over time, you learn to become more efficient. Collaboration is crucial, too. When everyone in the team contributes their expertise, projects get completed faster and more effectively. These experiences prepare you for freelancing, where you have to manage client expectations and deliver within deadlines. If you can’t handle the pressure or communicate your capabilities, it becomes challenging to succeed as a freelancer. I’ve also discovered that networking and referrals play a significant role in securing jobs. While platforms like LinkedIn and Upwork are popular, I’ve found success through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Posting my work there often leads to direct inquiries from potential clients. Referrals from satisfied clients have become a valuable source of income for me. It’s important to understand that success in the industry is not solely based on talent but also on building connections and a solid reputation. It takes time and experience to establish yourself and earn what you deserve. So, don’t rush into it expecting quick money. Focus on developing your skills and gaining real-world experience through internships—it will pay off in the long run.

How did you become one of the most influential people at Naija Graphic Designers?

During my journey in the design field, I had the opportunity to join the NGD (Naija Graphic Designers) community. It was around 2017 when I started, and I was looking for a place to meet other graphic designers and expand my skills. I initially joined as a member, but I was mostly in the background, observing and learning from the posts and discussions. It wasn’t until late 2017 when I mustered the courage to share my work. I posted it on the group, and to my surprise, it was approved. That was a significant moment for me, as it gave me a sense of validation and encouraged me to become more involved.

As time went on, I became more active in the community, and in 2019, I noticed some areas that could be improved. I took the initiative to create a new cover page illustration for NGD, which received positive feedback from the founder, Emeka. Impressed by my dedication and contributions, Emeka offered me an admin role within the group. This opportunity allowed me to take on more responsibilities and make a meaningful impact on the community.

As an admin, I recognized the need for increased engagement and participation within the group. I reached out to members, asked for their input and suggestions, and even organized giveaways to incentivize activity. I budgeted a portion of my salary for these giveaways, and Emeka supported me by providing additional resources when needed. Slowly but surely, the group started to thrive, and the number of members grew exponentially. It was incredible to witness the community’s progress and know that I played a part in its success.

NGD became more than just a Facebook group to me. It became a source of inspiration, a place where I made lasting friendships, and a platform that helped me grow both personally and professionally. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had within NGD. It has shaped my journey as a designer and given me the confidence to pursue my passion further. As a proud partner of the NGD brand, I am committed to seeing the community flourish and empowering others to find their path within the design world.

As a creative director, what factors do you consider before hiring a designer for a project?

When it comes to designs and illustrations, I prioritize reviewing the portfolio to gauge a designer’s strengths and areas for improvement. If I find that someone’s art style or design approach doesn’t align with the specific project I have in mind, I may not hire them. I value adaptability and versatility in designers, as some can easily fit into any style with guidance, while others remain fixed in their preferred style. Having had diverse experiences and internships, I have developed various art styles but always aim to understand the concept, style, and design approach of a project to ensure harmony within the team and avoid conflicting styles. Versatility is a trait I appreciate, but for projects requiring specific styles, I would seek out specialists in those areas. Ultimately, I consider a designer’s skills and strengths, taking into account their impact on workflow and project timelines.

How do you handle creative block?

I’ve learned that when I experience creative block, it’s a sign that I need to upgrade and take a break. During these times, I inform my team and build strong relationships with clients, explaining the situation. Since I love traveling, I embark on road trips to local places to seek inspiration. Exploring different countries and cities allows me to observe design trends and elements, such as logos, that are popular in those areas. It stimulates my thinking and generates new ideas. When traveling isn’t possible, I turn to platforms like Pinterest, ArtStation, and Instagram to immerse myself in other artists’ work. Spending time on these platforms fills my mind with creative content, and before I know it, ideas start flowing again. I believe designers should make Pinterest their go-to app for daily inspiration and keep exploring various artistic communities. It has proven to be a valuable resource for reigniting my creative juices.

What are the problems creatives face in Nigeria?

In our community, I often conduct surveys to understand the challenges faced by designers. Lack of amenities like electricity, access to physical learning spaces, and reliable internet are major issues they encounter. Many designers have expressed the desire for graphic design to be included in university curricula. To address these challenges, we provide solutions and support designers in our community. We invest money into initiatives that benefit them, such as challenges and talent grooming programs. Our goal is to boost the community and recommend skilled designers to clients when opportunities arise. Additionally, we recognize the need for essential equipment like laptops, internet access, and electricity. Through fundraising efforts, we have provided systems, laptops, and even generators to talented individuals who lacked these resources. By addressing these core needs, we aim to alleviate major obstacles faced by designers and empower them to succeed.

What do you see as the impact of AI in the creative industry?

I believe AI is here to stay, and as a designer, I think it’s important to utilize AI to enhance our work. AI can help with faster turnaround times, but I’m not worried about it affecting my art style. My unique artistic style cannot be copied by AI, and clients value the human touch and creativity in my work. While AI has its benefits, I focus on creating art that AI cannot replicate, infusing it with my personal perspective and cultural background. AI should be seen as a tool to complement and enhance our designs, rather than something to fear. Copyright issues surrounding AI-generated content need to be addressed, and big brands must be cautious about using AI to avoid potential legal consequences. Ultimately, the future lies in our ability to creatively utilize AI while preserving our individuality as artists.

How can creatives deepen their network?

In my experience, the best way to network and connect with people in the graphic design industry in Nigeria is through Naija Graphic Design (NGD). It’s a great platform where I’ve connected with many like-minded creatives. Additionally, attending conferences, events, and creative gatherings has been beneficial for networking. I’ve also found online communities such as Discord, Facebook, Twitter, and ArtStation to be valuable for connecting with people in the industry. As someone who tends to be introverted, these online spaces have provided opportunities to showcase my work and attract clients. In particular, exploring the web three space has been fruitful, as I’ve secured more jobs in that field. It’s important to actively engage in various events, share your expertise, and always be ready to pitch yourself and your services. Offering solutions to problems and positioning yourself as a professional can help you build a strong network and find new opportunities.

How do you recalibrate?

As a creative, it’s important to prioritize your health and well-being. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally is crucial. I’ve learned the hard way that neglecting my health can negatively impact my work. So now I make sure to incorporate activities like walking, fitness, and participating in social events that interest me. Attending parties and gatherings with a diverse crowd has allowed me to network and pitch myself to potential clients. Additionally, finding different activities outside of work, such as traveling or exploring hobbies like agriculture, helps me refresh my mind and stay inspired.

It’s essential to avoid unnecessary stress and not get caught up in seeking validation through social media metrics like likes and comments. Instead, I focus on my goals and the reason I entered this industry. I’ve realized that it’s not about the quantity of work but rather the value and income it brings. By setting my worth and staying focused on projects that align with my goals, I’ve been able to attract clients who appreciate my skills and pay accordingly. I also take advantage of free time by engaging in self-study, personal projects, and creating templates or products that I can sell as side gigs. By investing in myself and constantly evolving, I’ve seen the financial potential that exists within the creative industry.

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