Simplicity is the New Vogue


It’s a phenomenon that the most simple of things are the most sort after and appreciated. Paulo Coelho once said, ‘The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary. Only wise men are able to understand them.’  This quote jogs my memory, taking me back when I was in campus, where I remember my fascination on a certain class on Bauhaus Design.


For those who are not familiar with the term: Bauhaus is a German school of thought founded with the idea of creating a “total” work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design. 1The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography. Bauhaus shows purism with emphasis on straight edges and smooth, slim forms. Rooms were sparsely furnished, but filled with hygienic freshness. Superfluous features were taboo.


The designs from this era is usually simple but beautiful. There is a perfect combination of function and aesthetics that it appears almost ‘common’. Funny that even with the simplicity of Bauhaus design one notices that to come up with such design one needs to be highly discerning and accomplished designer. ‘Simple’ is not simple at all!


Anyway, the point I’m trying to bring across, is the importance of designers recognizing that design is meant to be ‘simple’. Many at times, we brainstorm and end up with a booklet of possible solutions that the client may wish to consider when truly its only one or two of those solutions that is really necessary. I totally understand that the industry needs to thrive by making money but honestly I don’t think it should come at the expense of the client paying extra for strategies that will not add value for their brands.


Indeed, designers today have the task to come up with exciting and engaging designs/ strategies for brands. But the truth is, hardly do you see these ideas being effective in impacting the consumers. It is a pity that there are brands out there forking out so much money and are not getting the value they deserve.


Not only should designers be more objective, but start thinking more about being ethical in their idea generations. Few but powerful, simple yet engaging ideas are far more impactful that many, random and complex ideas.  They say, less is more. Yes, this doesn’t just apply to makeup or the fashion industry, it applies in everything.


Just a few examples to highlight this: The quest for eco-friendly models of design is on the rise. Use of natural material that is recyclable, biodegradable and eco-friendly is now becoming an urgent consideration in global design. Just look around you, today more than ever, consumers are expecting and even demanding that manufacturers, brands and products behave responsibly, ethically and sustainably.


In this market (Africa), we need to start looking inwards and design solution that fit into the lives of the consumer, and solving pressing problems that they specifically face.


Secondly, we learn from the Bauhaus to broaden our horizons, look for inspiration in the world around us. Magazine adverts, a kiosk, the side profile of a car in the street, the opening credits to a film – there are theories and principles all around us and it’s up to us to take a step back once in a while and see if any of them are applicable.


You work in an agency? Go and see what the marketing guys are up to. If you’re a web designer, see what the print and packaging people are working on. You might see something that has absolutely no connection to the job you’re working on but it might set you off on a different trail of thought which leads to a great outcome for your project. I get so many inspirations from music, cartoons, animation and yes humor of Kenyan politics.


My challenge is for designers to be more professional and better in what they do. We need to comprehend the essence of how to maximize our skills and in turn offer unique ideas every single time we design for our clients. There is a wealth of materials all around us. Use them…In moderation J



There is a freedom in being simple.  Just to keep us grounded about life, here is a site I thought would give us more perspective:






Happy New Year is what I meant to start with. I just felt that the title above is more appropriate, seeing that we are already far gone into the year and more importantly, preparing ourselves to usher in a new government. To be honest, I have been procrastinating writing on the blog but I decided ‘nitoke huko’ as my former boss used to say so merrily. So I have set aside my mind block, opened my laptop and decided to express my viewpoint about the forthcoming elections.  Just for the record, let it be known that Kenyan politics has never been my favourite topic of discussion, but in this instance I have made an exception.

My hugest concern is about how our country is going to be like after the fate of 4th March 2013. Looking around, I have witnessed several symptoms (cant think of a better word) of elections; for example, some are frantically getting air tickets to get back to their hometowns. And they plan to be there indefinitely till they are certain the country is safe or at least reassured that the country is at peace. Down the hall at my new office there is….Ahem, a big-brother setup of a ‘Euro peace enquiry into Kenyan politics’ outfit that I’m sure is watching the mass media channels of the nation with high-end binoculars.  I’ve also noticed that most Kenyans are either passively oblivious, worried or happily engaged with campaigning for their favourite parties and contenders.  Whatever the symptom, every one is praying for a peaceful outcome.

Unsurprisingly, even last week’s local comedy ‘Papa Shirandula’ (yeah still enjoying local content – never quite got to upgrading to Zuku or any of the other ’Faiba’ networks J) has election drama as the main theme weaved in their script. It’s like the nation has a narcissistic obsession to knowing who exactly will lead Kenya. I would imagine that that is the number one question that is probably making some people have sleepless nights. Strategizes. Manifestos. Great Debate. Propaganda. Coalitions. Speculations. Obama’s Speech. Hague. All these and more are the repeated buzzword headlining in the daily tabloids and general mass media – at times it is does get a tad boring. Can the elections happen already.

In the midst of the melee of rally euphoria and party politics, I cant help but notice the good efforts of institutions such as Inuka Trust and Nation Media; who made it their mandate to sensitize Kenyans to vote wisely and elect leaders with good leadership qualities. I was fortunate to be a part of the team that was involved in putting up the ‘Uongozi’ 2012 Campaign:  an ‘Edutainment’ Civic Education and Youth Engagement Initiative that has been going round in the grassroots recruiting potential ‘leaders’ who were given a platform on the Nation reality television program ‘Uongozi’, to articulate issues that affected their counties as well as suggest possible ways of resolving them.

My take is that few Kenyans have watched the episodes but I believe that it is such attempt that are championed by a few brave and willing citizens; that will in the future grow to be a formidable voice for society in seeking a different breed of leaders; those with repute. We as a nation need to start comprehending the necessity of trusting our senses and voting for leaders that have integrity verses those that use money to coerce the public to handing them a vote. It is a pity that a majority of Kenyans are still fumbling to see the difference.

This weekend I watched a full series of Scandal Season II (yes it’s fake but I presume that in between the romance and law suits, what unfolds in the series happens to be a reflection of what actually goes on in the White House) and I’m really impressed by how the American government politicking system is very mature. Contenders for electoral seats talk about real issues, they debate about constitutional issues that need changing or modification in order to stay relevant to their State, and hardly for selfish agendas. Moreover, they are portrayed as humans with feeling just like any other person. No matter the Office held, most of them have respect for the law, aren’t beyond the reach of public scrutiny or have immunity to being charged in a court of law.  For example, if a Senator, Governor or even the President is caught on the wrong side of the law and advised to apologies, they do so on public television. Leaders there actually own up to faults and are held accountable for their deeds. Incredulously as it may sound, even a few have been known to voluntarily resigned office if the matter is of a grave concern. Clearly African leadership is a far cry from what you see in this more liberal nation. This to me, indicates that there’s is some higher moral of conduct and accountability held by those who are in such governments than what I see in my own country. Evidently, we as a people need to borrow a leaf from them and take a stand on doing our bit in fostering the reforms agenda. If its been done elsewhere, I believe it can also be done in this own country. Heck, a lot needs to be done, but we need to make a first step in the right direction. Guess where – at the ballot box!

And its really very simple, Kenyans need to positively engage in the democratic process by electing leaders who are accountable to their constituents, who represent their needs and interests, and by actively participating in demanding for nothing less than good governance from the same leaders.

But what I find most surprising is that even in this modern day, you will still find the most educated of people seem to move far from examining these key pointers and they go ahead to backing the most charlatan of leaders! All because of tribal alliance, phony promises or money handouts.

Well it’s not for me to tell Kenyans whom to vote for but it is my ethical right as a citizen of this country to urge Kenyans to vote wisely. After all, we are going to be stuck with them for the next 4 years. So, make it count.

And to all the leaders out there doing their final hurdle of campaigns, I pray that they uphold the integrity of the wonderfully drawn up Kenyan Constitution and honestly wish them the best come election day. Let the most deserving and honorable of men and women win! Finally, Your Honours (in the making), the title should be earned not bought.

(To close, every patriotic Kenyan can sing the National Anthem J)Image