Fourth Canvas is a brand identity development startup company setup by two young entrepreneurs, Victor Fatanmi and Bolaji Fawole. In this report, Ugo Aliogo writes about the giant strides these entrepreneurs are making in changing the face of brand identity development in the country
“We are a design agency with a mission to build a generation of designers from Africa for the future of global brands.” The statement sufficiently captures one of the goals of Fourth Canvas, a brand communication startup company. The company was set up by two creative designers Victor Fatanmi and Bolaji Fawole. As a startup company, they are passionate about addressing the skills gap in brand identity development facing organisations in Nigeria.
Fatanmi was raised in a family where the love for reading was very strong. It was an activity that formed a core part of a child’s formation in the family. Fatanmi was no exception to this. As a child, he battled between reading books and appreciating book cover designs. But he discovered that his heart yearned for designs, than reading. He decided to follow this path not as a calling though, but because of the fascination for designs and aesthetic. He often wondered how companies such as banks changed their designs and images from January to December. For him, this was not something propelled by dint of hard work, but sheer creativity.
“I was fascinated by the designs on the calendars by these banks, how they change to their designs and images from January to December. These were important highlights for me growing up. The library didn’t make me an avid reader of books, but got me interested in designs on magazines and books, not its content. This was the biggest influence for me. The secondary influence was the newspapers we had in the house. I always cut pictures in those newspapers and place them in 40 leaves exercise books to make my magazines. I used cellotape to make my magazines and then I used razor blade to cut pictures from newspapers. This was how I made magazines back then.”
While studying in the university with his brother who ran a magazine, Fatanmi often watched with keen interest the designs his brother approved when the magazine designer brought them. The focus for him wasn’t to only appreciate them, but he felt the need to improve on them. But there was a challenge; he lacked the skillset required. He wanted to go for training. But he didn’t have the financial wherewithal. He began to develop himself through Corel Draw application. This became a major starting point for him.
“I decided to apply the trainings I got from the Corel Draw application to carry out designs for people. My first client was my brother. I also did designs for friends who were doing magazine launch. I picked a name known as Victor Gold Creation. I was not keen at having a company name, but instead have a brand name,” noted Fatanmi.
In the University, his path crossed with a technology savvy individual known as Bolaji Fawole. The encounter was a defining moment for Fatanmi and his dreams of owning a design startup company. Fawole keyed into Fatanmi’s visions. He often shared with Fatanmi design concepts to work on.
After a period of working together, they decided to take their creative ambitions beyond the confines of their rooms to the larger society. They started an outfit known as VGC media. But in 2015, they felt a longing to raise the standard of their startup to an international design agency. They also realised that the name wasn’t something they owned because there was VGC Lagos and VGC water dispenser. Therefore in November, 2015, they changed the name to Fourth Canvas. They also changed the perspective of their business and increased their commitment.
Today, the company is making significant breakthroughs in brand identity development and delivering uniqueness in service delivery to businesses; local and international. As an emerging brand communication startup, their drive is to ensure that Nigeria is at par with global standards in areas of brand development.
They are also focused at fighting mediocrity in visual communication for businesses. This is a skill gap they have identified and an opportunity to boost the growth of the creative industry.
“We can develop capacity, and maximise human potential to fill these very evident needs. We have observed there is mediocrity in the way businesses communicate. Designs, and logos, have not done well enough to help drive these businesses. We are able to identify the unique points and messages of brands and give them the right representation.
“In some other cases we are able to give brands identities that differ them from options right from the onset and that they can key into. To other category of our clients, we are able to give them a continuous flow of visual communication that sustains the brand’s image and perception,” Fatanmi noted.
To carry out these designs, they deploy the use of software applications such as Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator. Since its establishment in 2015, the company has succeeded in building a rich corporate profile. They have handled several design contracts such as Brand identity for Africa Business Conference 2016, visual communication for General Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Election Campaign (2015), visual communication for Nana Akufo-Addo Presidential Election Campaign (2016) Ghana, branding for Red Group, rebranding project for YNaija.com, brand identity for Pastor Nike Adeyemi, event branding for the invasion and the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Excel Conference2017, brand identity for international centre Brooklyn, brand identity for desire of Nations, New York and others.
“We have done so much actually. Our portfolio is one of our major strengths. It will be difficult for a Nigerian design agency to match our track record in the industry. But we like to boast more about the progress we are achieving already with our in-house design interns. We intend to launch our academy model next year. We will become more like what Andela is doing for developers.”
Fatanmi said the startup capital for the business was sourced through personal savings from freelance jobs that he did. He also noted that the mother supported him financially to start up the business and procure a laptop. Another source he raised funds was through his friend Fawole who also contributed to support the startup capital. He espoused that their desire is to redefine what is currently obtainable in the industry.
With the increasing rise of technology startups in the country, some experts are of the view that the sector is bedeviled with myriads of challenges which impede its growth. Therefore the potential of the sector are not fully maximised. Fatanmi doesn’t share with this view however. His conviction is that the sector is making significant progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). He argued that the sector is churning out technology entrepreneurs who are making giant strides in innovation within the sector.
Speaking about the future projection of the company, he said although their clientele base is in Lagos, they don’t have office there; however they are planning to open an office in Lagos. “We currently work from our studio in Akure, Ondo State. The state government is our major client over there. We are working with their efforts to attract investment and tourism. The drive of Fourth Canvas is to redefine what is currently obtainable in the industry”
Illegal cyber hacking stands as one of the major challenges confronting websites and online software applications. To address this challenge, the group employs the services of one of the most reliable hosting service providers. They ensure that there are backups and constant checks.
In order to remain a key player in an industry with innovative designers, the group noted that there is need to maintain a secure system as threat increases with size and reach.
According him, “We have increasing following our #logoeveryday series which we created to make brief but strong visual messages with daily events, causes and trends. It’s a way of using our logo design expertise to tell stories that our audience can relate with. With this we have been able to gain trust and sell our design service, especially the aspect of brand identity.
“Constant development and update of knowledge has been mostly our drive. We do this through continuous research, reading and observation. I use the internet, while I keep my mind open to new challenges and trends. I plan to attend an international Design Conference and also take some courses before the year runs out.
“We have the YesOrWow design training we organise twice a year with the Future Project. We recently had the training on June 24. We also organise a number of other trainings from time to time. People who follow us on Instagram are quick to get updates on such programmes. We are also currently developing a number of courses and subsequently we will be up to more of talent development; expanding our in-house designer internship system to a larger scale. We believe this is the future.”