July 16, 2020

The Head of HR we never talk about at FourthCanvas

Companies get to that level where they have a dedicated HR professional on the payroll. We are not there yet. From Day 1, that has been one hat that I have shared as CEO, with the help of my co-founder, as well as Mary who always brought her passion for talent development. As a small team, yet to go past 20 people at any point in time, that has worked fine. But there is more to why it has than I have explained in this opening paragraph.

In December 2015, one month after we re-established and restarted the company as we know it today—from VGC Media to FourthCanvas—I missed an appointment to meet a young man who looked up to me and asked for a meeting. He wasn’t Chude (the person I always looked up to) and I wasn’t going to cry over the spilled milk. To be honest, I had less empathy in the earlier days. My emails prove that. I must have said a formal “sorry”, I think.

7 months later, we woke up in our one-room apartment in FUTA South Gate, Akure to realize that our room had been burgled. Laptops gone. 1 hour later, I sat on a stone at the front of a police station in Ilesha Garage trying to comprehend why and how this particular officer had insisted that we “drop” some money to open a case file for us after we explained that all our wallets and cards had gone with the same “case”. But then this call chose that moment to come in.

“Victor, there is this big project and it starts now…”
1 hour later we had a contract with a client on a project from Ghana. It’s a retainer for a fast-paced campaign and work had to begin the same day, as soon as possible. It was a Saturday and we were not the type to hesitate. Deal was agreed verbally, contract forwarded to us via mail, invoice to be sent, to followed by some starting social media files later the same day.
Let’s do this.

“Yes do this, but with which laptop though?”

Prior to then, we had been planning to recruit at least one new team member but we had not had the time to settle down to do the work of finding and screening for one. Now it was the only urgent solution. We could get a designer who could get right up to work with his own laptop while we sketched and supported with creative direction.
“Hi Ferricool, how you dey?” “Good good good you?” “Good good good” “How is the weather?” “Oh great”. So we have an emergency…”
“Speak to my friend, Tunji. He is there in Akure with you.”
Tunji’s spirit:

Thanos Meme describing Tunji's feeling

Enter Phase “Sigma”, as was his personal brand label, and this phase, brethren, refers to the embodiment of the exact flexibility and speed of adaptation the situation required, the type we had never known before. A few hours after, we were all sitted in BKFC, a restaurant in Lafe, Akure and we had met each other, discussed a salary (for the lack of a more suitable word for whatever our average monthly pay back then was) and the initial designs were taking shape. By the end of work on Monday, Tunji had completed up to 5 different tasks and we were welcome to the new age. Behold the dawn of real-time efficiency, discipline, and read this part carefully,… people-centredness.

The restuarant where it all began
The restuarant where it all began

We were amazed just looking at this young amazing individual who “suddenly” was capable in so many dimensions but what we didn’t know was where he was coming from.

Tunji's first birthday at FourthCanvas
While waiting for ice cream (or to see a movie, not so sure) on Tunji’s first birthday a week after his resumption.

Born into a royal family, he had grown as an exceptionally smart yet humble and ‘matured’ pupil, traveled to Europe to represent Nigeria in a Physics competition, led his fellowship on OAU Campus as President and co-founded a design community on campus, building immense capacity all along the way. (Use of “immense” intended, as his favourite word). This person I had not paid attention to some months back was a huge miss I was never going to realize but mercy said no. Mercy offered a second chance.

Adetunji Ogunoye would go on to inspire a new level of excellence and performance, bring in the 3 other superstars who are in leading positions of the agency today as partners and become a mentor figure within the team. He would bring his passion for people to leadership at FourthCanvas, the work we do for our clients, and innovate for the growth of the Nigerian design industry, with his founding of the phenomenal DearDesigner community.

DearDesigner panel at Social Media Week Lagos 2020

Sometime at the beginning of this year, Tunji called me and said he wanted to discuss something important with me. Guess what it turned it to be. My salary. He wanted to be sure I was earning well enough. He believes I was probably being so sacrificial for the team that I wasn’t taking a salary that was enough to support my hectic schedule and the pressure of my office as CEO. I was, I am, and I will continue to be amazed by that conversation. He was doing to me what the best leaders do for their people—genuinely care and be concerned about their wellbeing. Now that’s one event but you would need a book to tell it all. Talking about books, the first book I saw with him upon his resumption back then was The 360 Degrees Leader by John C Maxwell. I never read the book itself. I didn’t have to. All I had to read was him. Great book that was.

You would need more than an article to chronicle the several kinds of conversations he would come to hold, with that his intense look that showed this issue on his mind worried him, only for you to find the issue had nothing to do with him but about you or someone else on the team. “I don’t think Ayo is happy. What can we do?” That’s Tunji, every day. That’s Tunji, the Head of HR we never assigned.

Tunji Ogunoye's first email

[Authored by Victor Fatanmi, CEO, on 16 July 2020—the 4th anniversary of Tunji Ogunoye joining the team at FourthCanvas]

April 7, 2020

A supposed journal of how we came up with FourthCanvas Share

Sunday 5 April

1.15pm: Tunji had just ended his phone conversation with Deji Faniyan (a friend of the company) and he discussed his plans for a class hosted on Zoom. As obvious as the idea of classes hosted online was, *we had not recently (within this COVID lockdown period), thought about it as a way to channel our ever-growing desire to share knowledge, a habit hinged upon our core value of OPENNESS. So we thought what if we hosted a class on design. “We should look into that sometime”.

*we: A bulk of our team is in “group isolation” at the accommodation facility within our office compound. We abide by the same rules including avoiding interactions with other people, even when we take a walk or go for a run—being one of the ways we keep the mind active while also staying safe.

6.15pm: Demola, Ayomide and I leave for a run to Stadium (Surulere) and back.

7.00pm: Ayomide and I get back the street at the same time and we are having this conversation on how we can help a client we had worked with in the past maximise this period to help them sell more books online. Ideas followed ideas with Ayomide dropping them “hit after hit” as he typed on his phone, staining his screen with the sweat of his palm. There we are, next to a line of the typical greenish Lagos drainage and its resulting presence of mosquitoes competing for dinner—us.

7.10pm: Aremu walks out of the compound to find us and in his usual fashion, he is listening with rapt attention and dropping a thought here and there. Shortly after a pause from our flow, one of us mentioned how Havard and Cousera have released a number of free courses for people to learn in this period and I am like “I need to maximise this thing for a number of things I have always being curious about o, like SEO”.

7.20pm: After I had shared what was my rough understanding of the topic, Aremu weighs in to give us what became an unplanned but “proper" class. To ensure we remained in one listening piece however, we were quick to identify that a walk was a better idea than staying on one spot—especially that particular one.

7.30pm: We start to walk, taking a crescent route that brings us back to the same junction, and one lap became two and three and then four. Aremu walked us through (literally and figuratively) the basics of SEO and there we were amazed by how much we had learnt in such a short while and informal setup.

8.10pm: "Now we are done with the walk and and revising what was probably the one thousandth of such randomly-set conversations. Sometimes it takes the form of a panel and some other times like this one, it is led by the most enthusiastic team member on that topic while others listen, ask questions and help everyone, including the “teacher” learn more. So we thought what if more people would want to listen in, especially in a time like this when they can afford some more time to learn and share.” It would be a series of conversations across various topics of interest over a couple of days via Google Meet, led by members of the FourthCanvas family, for our friends, fans and clients. “FourthCanvas Share” just sounded right

8.30pm-9.30pm: Now the bathroom would be the first place when you are back from a run, but rather we head straight to the closest marker board, drew up names of team members and paired them with the topics they are most passionate about. There is a small argument on how to arrange the names. Tunji had the marker and well, the final say as Ayomide tried to battle that from him, while we all watched the show. At last, Tunji’s regime survives the coup and part of his constituency’s major projects included putting his own class at the very end. Everyone wanted as much time as possible to prepare for their class and Opeyemi who is isolating in his Yaba apartment and couldn’t make a case for himself gets Class 1. I have not said that was the reason though. Winks.

9.30pm-12 midnight: I suggest we build a registration form hosted on our new-but-yet-to-be-announced-because-we-keep-finding-something-to-improve-on website. “Why not a proper landing page?” Aremu said in response. Why not, really? And so begins the sketch for what the layout was to look like, cleaning the board (did I really have to journal this?), clarifying what information mattered and what did not, influencing the journey for whoever simply visited out of curiosity as well as those who would come decided to register. We consider if people would want to check out the main website itself and ask several other questions, debating the answers and moving very quickly. We check the SMW Lagos website to confirm one thing and another site to check the other, rethinking the entire flow a few times, led in utter calm by Bolaji, as he simply asks those challenging questions you hear and say “hmmm true…”.

So, we need a landing page text and I scribble “4Citizens share on…” on the board while looking for the other part of the sentence. “I have an idea but seriously I am just giving myself more trouble”, Aremu says with his characteristic laughter. Up next, he begins to implement his idea that will all loved right away—the sentence being completed with the changing names of the topics. Brilliant, init?

Over the night: Aremu faces the actual dev work, as I create the flyers I volunteered (eagerly) to. The latter would influence the UI design. We both said things in the spur of the moment, and of course had to face the responsibility to walk the talk.

Monday 6 April

5am-7am: I had shared the designs in our WhatsApp group. Aremu was not a part of our last team photoshoot and had no great picture “as at the time of reporting this” even on Google. So I decided his flyer would have an empty space in the picture placeholder. Every one laughed and even harder when he responded he would have my session and name stricken-through on the schedule.

11am: Aremu comes to my room to discuss the process of registration, who gets what email and how. Tunji weighs in and we are able to resolve a particular situation that could otherwise be complex.

12noon: Aremu has previews for the user interface and we are reviewing with Bolaji who his advising on making the whole experience simpler for the user. We agree on a number of things and Aremu jokingly casts doubts on his ability to deliver the entire website by evening as he had hinted. “Is it not you King Aremu, what can you not do?”

9pm: Aremu shares a live preview, we advise on edits here and there. He switches attention to me, and gives me a “threat-like ultimatum" on finishing up the blog article I was to write, as well as the newsletter copy. I smile back, knowing all I was recording was a diary.

Tuesday 7 April

Somehow, through the events recorded above and the so much more I forgot to journal, including so many unforeseen problems and how in the attempt to delivering a great experience, "one landing page" led to designing up to 4 different destinations, we launch and here you are.

NB: I over-estimated my ability to keep track. Recalling this was hard and I must have missed so much and stated inaccurate times for some of the events. In Opeyemi’s voice however, “we rise”.

By Victor Fatanmi.

December 31, 2018

Moving in on with our Clients; Our 2018 Story

While we started the year largely known and respected for our visual identity and graphic design service, we saw a need to do more, in order to help our clients meet their set objectives. Design, as we always had it, was good but our clients needed more, and that transition, was really the highlight of the past twelve months of our lives.

January 20, 2017

This Blog Shall Strip Us Naked, IJN

Our culture at FourthCanvas is one of expression and beyond a desire to share, lies stories that we think are really worth sharing. Unlike the typical cult culture of the design industry, we want to work in the open, or better put, from inside a glass studio. We want to share our thoughts (politically correct or not), give a deep insight into our projects and ‘publish’ our banters, gist and in-house rumours right out there.

Although we posed for this, we are always like that.

God help us, to always not use filters.

Apart from the fact that we just love the fun part and cool feeling that comes with getting your attention with our stories, we really truly (with all the motivation you can imagine) think that we can inspire a generation that understands and appreciate the value of effective communication, especially from the design and visual point of view, by bringing you into the thoughts behind what you see out there and all the behind-the-scenes of the logos you connect with but can’t explain why. But you just do. It’s called “soft work” and “is awa werk o”.

Apart from the fact that we just love the fun part and cool feeling that comes with getting your attention with our stories, we really truly (with all the motivation you can imagine) think that we can inspire a generation that understands and appreciate the value of effective communication, especially from the design and visual point of view, by bringing you into the thoughts behind what you see out there and all the behind-the-scenes of the logos you connect with but can’t explain why. But you just do. It’s called “soft work” and “is awa werk o”.

This is not supposed to be a long post. Preambles should be stay short. Bye-bye.

One more thing, this blog is for the ‘lite-hearted’ and if you can’t stand some play around grammar for the sake of humour, you are on a long something. We will still love to do business with you though, but maybe this blog will be for our other less formal friends. Formal is cute though, but we don’t do ties like that (we don’t at all, actually).

— For, and from the FourthCanvas Team (we use #Team4C sometimes).