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Designing for the Holiday: Tips and Tricks with Bolanle Banwo Osadolo

By December 8, 2023 No Comments

By this holiday, if you haven’t heard of Azari,the transformational female designer movement providing free design training for 5000 women till date, then you’re missing out on a whole lot in the African design space. Meet Bolanle Banwo Osadolo, a Brand Identity designer and design advocate from Lagos, Nigeria. She is the founder of the revolutionary design agency Geneza brands, and female designer movement Azari women in tech.

Bolanle Banwo on designing for the holiday

Bolanle Banwo Osadolo, Founder of Geneza Brands

As a brand designer and design advocate, she has received numerous awards within and beyond the creative sphere. One of such include the Tech Elle Award ’23 at the prestigious She Code Africa Summit in October 2023. She was also nominated and included by WeForGood International on the esteemed list of 100 women who are creating a better Africa and many more! Beyond all these awards, Bolanle has a heart for knowledge transfer, and is found constantly dispelling quality knowledge at the Geneza Design School.

We caught up with her to uncover her tips & tricks for holiday designs. Let’s explore!

Hi Bolanle, thank you for doing this!

Can you briefly share your design journey with the community, like a how-it-started, how-its-going story

BOLANLE: I always had a passion for art growing up. In school, I excelled in art-related subjects, and my teachers acknowledged my talent. Despite my strong inclination towards design and art, it took me some time to gather the confidence to pursue it as a career. At that time, there were few well-established designers or design schools, making the path unclear. My first job was as a Comic Illustrator. While it was interesting, it wasn’t my true calling. However, this experience equipped me with valuable skills and allowed me to demonstrate to myself and my family that design was indeed my true calling. As time passed, I explored various design-related roles, ranging from creating movie cover designs to video editing.

I transitioned to Graphic Design, which I quickly fell in love with. After working as a Graphic Designer for a couple of years, I shifted into Brand Design. Eventually, I left my job to start my own business, where I collaborate with a team of creatives. Leading the team brings me fulfillment because I have always been fascinated by how design can influence people and their decisions. I am intrigued by why people value certain brands over others, and I love using design to solve problems.

Wow! Inspirational! Alright we’d like to know when it comes to holiday design, what elements do you find most inspiring or challenging?

B: I find it most challenging to use elements that convey a sense of a specific holiday without making the design appear too cliché or ordinary. This often leads me to question whether the design looks too basic or falls short of my desired quality. An example is the inclination of people to use generic Santa Claus illustrations, pictures of tree ornaments, etc., especially within the Nigerian context. 

As for inspiration, I draw from colors, particularly those of Christmas decorations I grew up with. 

Can you share a memorable holiday design project you’ve worked on in the past? What made it special?

B: For this I’ll allow my assistant, Shalom respond.

Last year, I crafted a Christmas design for my business page. It revolved around storytelling. I illustrated a chicken and shared a short story. The narrative highlighted how encountering chickens during the festive season evoked memories of my Christmas celebrations with family while growing up. (This is Shalom’s answer)

How do you approach incorporating festive elements into your designs without being too cliché?

B: First, I recognize that every brand conveys a unique style or feeling. They have their bran color, tone, elements. So when creating festive designs, I make sure to highlight the company’s style in the design. For instance, if the brand predominantly uses illustrations, I ensure that all elements in the design are illustrations to reinforce the brand’s essence.

Additionally, I delve into various aspects of color variations. While using generic holiday colors like green, red, and gold, I also explore different color temperatures. For instance, I consider what the lighter version of the green would look like or how a deeper shade of red would feel.

Moreover, I explore the incorporation of African patterns into ornament illustrations to evoke a more Nigerian Christmas feel. Questions like these prompt me to conduct in-depth research on the elements to use in my designs.

Are there specific design trends you’ve noticed for the holiday season this year?

B: Most brands haven’t released holiday designs yet, so I haven’t observed any trends.

What tools or software do you rely on for your holiday design projects?

B: Adobe illustrator, Adobe Photoshop

Can you offer tips for designers looking to infuse creativity into their holiday-themed work?

B: Do extensive research – gather references from thousands of designs to understand what works and what doesn’t.

For a holiday project targeting a Nigerian market, reflect on your childhood memories of the holiday season (if you’re a Nigerian). Additionally, incorporate research findings by asking people around you what they’d like to see in Christmas designs.

Apply a similar approach to international companies and environment, but be prepared for more intensive research.

How do you balance maintaining a festive atmosphere in your designs while staying true to your unique style?

B: I keep it simple. I know what I like and connect with, and I incorporate just the right amount of that. I also seek opinions from those around me, consider their feedback, and aim for a middle ground. I try to feature festive elements, making sure that the elements I use to express my style complement the festive atmosphere and don’t overshadow it.

Are there any particular colour schemes or motifs you find especially effective in holiday design?

B: I find that red, green, blue, and sometimes gold/bronze when applied correctly, work well. 

Additionally, incorporating patterns enhances the look and feel of Christmas designs. For example, patterns like Aztec designs, which are woven into festive sweaters and socks, can uplift the overall aesthetic.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers looking to make their mark through festive and celebratory designs?

B: Do extensive exploration; don’t settle for just one design. Sometimes, creating multiple designs is necessary to find the one that truly stands out. Avoid confining yourself to a particular style; experiment with your designs and let creativity flow. Asking for people’s opinions and seeking help is crucial. As a new or aspiring designer, many questions remain unanswered, and the best way to address them is through practice and seeking guidance from experienced colleagues.


Thank you for doing this!


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