It was very exciting to work on a project first in its kind that revolved around design in a context that is rarely explored—Africa and its diaspora weighing in on design perspectives for the Continent. We instinctively approached the challenge from the perspective of the organizers, to understand what prompted their desire to engage this discussion. We quickly realized that the conversation we were having was already charged with different perspectives: the diaspora vs. the Continent. So we decided to tell the “Tale of Two Africas.” We now had to figure out how to make the discussion relevant for the mainstream. The disappointment in finding that the immediate visual reference people think of, when asked about African design, is VLISCO textile patterns actually sparked a provocative concept. We created a custom textile pattern using two facing Africas as the module. The pattern gradually morphs into butterflies flying up, symbolizing the union of two equally valuable African realities and their collaboration towards unexpected and innovative horizons.
The type treatment was a good challenge because we wanted to stay away from anything particularly hegemonic, western, or worse, colonial. We also needed to marry the concepts of past, present and future, and possibly tie into the African textile irony. While considering monospace, pixilated, non-denominational typefaces from a previous project, we naturally gravitated towards grids and geometry. We instinctively opted to create a simple square-based typeface and treat the logo and typography as the branded messages found on the border of African textiles. We thought of all the dotted-line decorations and messages printed on East African garments like Kangas and Kitangas or pottery like Jebenas.