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MY HUSTLE: Life of adventure as a graphic designer

Wednesday February 20 2019

Rael Sambu, freelance designer and founder at Samrea media.

Rael Sambu, freelance designer and founder at Samrea media. PHOTO| COURTESY 

WANJIKU MAINA
By WANJIKU MAINA
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As a child, Rael Sambu loved her comic books and read them religiously. When the newspaper came home, she would look out for her favourite cartoonists: Stano, Kham and Maddo.

In addition, she loved to draw and would doodle sketches all over. “Crayons and pencils were literally my toys,” shares the 24-year-old freelance designer from Nandi County.

With time, Rael could no longer deny her passion in design and instead of fighting it for a more “conventional” career, she chose to pursue her skills specialising in digitalised designs. She spoke to Nation.co.ke about daring to follow her passion.

Did you ever envision a career as a graphic designer?

Growing up, I fancied being an architect and I would tell this to whoever cared to listen. However, destiny had its own plans for me.

I missed the cut-off points to qualify for a degree in architecture and had to settle for plan B that turned out to be a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication and Advertising from Moi University.

Looking back, I am glad I made that decision.

What do you love most about your career?

It gives me an opportunity to explore my talent in new ways, every day, and that is simply refreshing.

I experiment with motion graphics, video editing and photography which are excellent add-on skills to my budding career.

The cherry on top of course is customer satisfaction once I deliver on a job.

If I was to describe my job motivation in one sentence, I would say: Every day is an adventure.

Take us through your average day at work

My day starts with phone calls to various clients to either get new orders or follow up on on-going projects.

Next, I create the day’s schedule based on outcomes from the phone conversations.

After that I get to work, creating designs and working on projects. I have made a habit of creating some time to do digital marketing as well.

On average, I handle about five orders per day and because I detest backlog, my days are always very busy.

What are your top three greatest achievements so far?

Top of the list is branding the Big Four Agenda Launch for Nandi County. It was more than a job because this is my home county and it felt like I was giving back to my community.

I learnt a lot while working on that project including the fact that with confidence and talent, young people can do great things that will impact their societies and beyond.

Another milestone was securing a brand consultancy job with Creationea Investments Limited after I successfully branded their company. I also got a lot of referrals from this company which have really boosted my brand.

More recently, I did a patriot-themed matatu graffiti artwork and my friend shared it on Twitter. It drew a lot of attention from netizens who felt inspired by the design.

My Twitter account which was nearly non-existent at the time came alive as friends and strangers retweeted and tagged me to the artwork that had gone viral.

A simple design sparked feelings of patriotism and love for Kenya, bringing us together. It was humbling and uplifting at the same time.

I also realised that art was a powerful tool with which I could impact significantly on humanity.

Patriot-themed matatu graffiti artwork by Rael Sambu.

Patriot-themed matatu graffiti artwork by Rael Sambu. PHOTO| COURTESY

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Dealing with clients who do not appreciate the effort and pains that go into creating an excellent design.

Many people view creative designing as piece of cake, some clients even add snide remarks like; “If I had the time I could just do it for myself.”

This may not be necessarily true; some are terrible at it. (laughs).

Unfortunately, this perception extends to how they pay for the design jobs which is measly pay.

People end up settling for mediocre designs to save on cost but in the end, this demoralises the designers and can hurt the creative space irreparably.

Another challenge is meeting deadlines, sometimes this is because of biting more than I can swallow which is quite draining.

Let’s talk about freelancing, how is that going for you?

Although I have a day job as an employee, my boss is very supportive of us when we take side jobs because he sees this as opportunities for us to grow our skills even more.

This has made me a very happy employee because after I put in my hours at work, I get to earn extra income on the side without any anxieties.

My time management skills have drastically improved as well as my interpersonal negotiations. I have a Facebook platform called Samrea Media where I display my works and get clients.

What keeps you on top of your game?

I subscribe to John Adams principle: If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.

I always strive to maintain good quality work. Client satisfaction is my biggest aim as a designer. I give my whole on every project that I handle. I would rather go an extra mile and put in extra hours in a project than submit a low quality piece.

Do you have any immediate/ short-term goals with regard to growing your career?

Yes. I want to further my studies in communications and establish my own brand consultancy firm. I am also thinking about helping talented children who love to doodle like I used to, tap into their skills at an early stage.

A word for encouragement to girls who aspire to follow their passion like you did?

There is no roadmap as to what a girl should or should not do; just grow through what you go through.

At times you won’t get what you want, but trying again gets you something.

Work on your dream every single day, acquire the necessary skills: being multi-skilled, dedicated, hardworking and passionate about your job is what will set you apart.

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