Monica Obaga’s style is everything we dream about in Over: on-trend, minimal, elegant, organic, eye-catching, and humming with the energy of human connection. So, naturally, we were thrilled when she agreed to create some custom graphics for Over. The brief was to to celebrate Women’s Month in South Africa, but beyond this we’ve gained some gorgeous graphics in our ever-growing library, to help you tell your own stories.
Monica’s contribution is a collection of everyday scenes – rendered in simplified forms – that express different facets of womanhood: skateboarding to represent girls doing what isn’t expected of them; a reading nook to suggest that knowledge is power; dance as a source of joy... She also references African patterns and flora, quietly alluding to her hybrid identity as a Kenyan living in the USA. We especially love the pattern of sisterhood that brings together some unmistakable feminist revolutionaries, in a beautifully balanced graphic composition.
Her illustrations, minimalist as they may be, are brimming with powerful ideas, and references to the world we live in. But they’re also just perfect for social media templates, with a generous amount of empty space to craft your message.
We chatted to Monica in an effort to better understand her work, her brand, and her beliefs:
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would call it colorful, minimal, 2D and organic.
I'm curious if your approach to design is spontaneous, or if you plan in detail before starting a project.
My style is spontaneous but I plan each image by subject, frame and color. What I end up with in the end is a combination of the two as with any creative process.
You have a gift for telling human stories in your work with very minimal graphic ingredients. Do these ideas come naturally, or do spend a lot of time developing these?
Minimalism is a process of editing. I start with an idea and then whittle down all the bits I don't need until there isn't more to take away. If I could, I'd continue to edit all my work, but thankfully, I am limited by project timelines.
I'm sure you have to market yourself to get new clients. How much do you regard yourself as a brand, with the same challenges as any brand trying to stand out in the world?
From the very beginning, I wanted my work to represent me fully, mistakes and all, as well as my heritage. It has evolved over time but I feel as though the intent and the style is recognisably mine.
What platforms do you use to market yourself? Any tips here?
I have been doing this for a while. My advice, try everything, abandon what doesn't work - fail fast, fail upwards. I started with the obvious - creating and sharing my passion projects, pitching myself to companies I would like to work with, networking... You never know how the dominoes fall. Over time, it's been a combination design directories, press and word of mouth.
But that's not where the work ends. Even when receiving commissions, most people are shopping around, so you still have to pitch to win a project even when you are approached. Focus on being clear about who you are and why you create, create a lot of work you're passionate about and then try everything when it comes to selling yourself, especially by surrounding yourself with fellow illustrators/designers and learning from those that are ahead of you. Ask good questions and contribute. It's a lifestyle, so love it all, even the BS.
Are the people in your work imagined or drawn from real life?
The people in my work are mostly imaginary and abstract. I came into drawing (doodling) from a very representational perspective - cartoons, fashion illustration... I cannot draw people well by observation so I rarely ever make the attempt to draw real people!
You're Kenyan, currently living in America. How (if at all) does your identity inform your work, or your approach to it?
My identity is in my aesthetic, Kenyan in style infused with my time spent in Los Angeles (where I started illustrating again as an adult), and the projects I choose to work on are heavily influenced by how meaningful they would have been to my younger self, growing up in Nairobi.
What value do you think creativity & art have in a world striving towards equality?
Art and creativity creates empathy. We understand strangers when we hear their stories, see their crafts, eat their food. It is the very best way to express your true self and share with others, at the same time. Whether or not creativity is reciprocated, it is clear it has an enormous impact. There is of course the danger that in sharing your art and creativity, you are vulnerable to vultures, but I believe the positive impact is the common outcome.
Jump in to Over right now and search for the ‘South African Women’ graphic collection by Monica Obaga, to replicate her stunning aesthetic in minutes.
These are just some of the templates our professional designers have created with Monica’s graphics – all available for you to customize for your brand Over.