Chukster Stories


Olivia Brix


Beyond Borders of Graphic Design - Teaching a workshop in Kenya



I went to the other side of the world to teach a workshop in Graphic Design in Kenya. This is my journey.


A humbling journey to Kenya, teaching graphic design to a class of 28+ year old master course students, with the help of Figma's free plan. Thank you Figma! I taught the students about my practice, basic knowledge of vector files, custom typography and illustrations. Now what did it teach me?

In the heart of Kilifi in Kenya, where innovation meets tradition, I meet our group of lecturers and teachers for the first time. In this region amongst towering Baobab trees, lies Pwani University in the center of the town. As we enter the area, we're met by a striking sign catching our attention: "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A CORRUPTION FREE ZONE."

The high-security concrete University clearly stands out between sandy Earth homes constructed from mud, wood and occasional bricks, that most Kilifi natives live in. They're also known as the Mijikenda tribes.

Entrance of Pwani University in Kilifi, Kenya, marked as a corruption-free zone

I’m going to Pwani Uni to teach 2 workshops of 2,5 hours each, to a class of Master students in Communication and Media. As a collaboration between Germany and Kenya, this course has been developed over the past 10 years. Making it the first communications course of its kind in Kenya.

Olivia and Lukas posing with seven students outside Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya" Caption: "Olivia and Lukas with students from our graphic design workshop at Pwani University,

My partner Lukas Keysell and I have been invited to teach together. Our workshop is without a doubt the first hands-on, interactive session these students will have. As Artists and Graphic Designers, we are determined to bring an engaging and innovative class to the table. We center the workshops around the free-source online tool Figma, a leading collaborative design tool for illustrators, brand- and web developers or product designers to name a few. Free source digital tools are incredibly important to Kenyan students, as the school cannot provide access to expensive software like Adobe. The students are eager to learn and grateful to (finally) be introduced to a professional toolset.

Olivia and Lukas discussing a Figma tutorial with students in a classroom at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya

The classroom was warm, not only in the sweat dripping literal way, but in the openness and willingness of each individual sat with us. A strong sense of community was present. As lecturers who completely disregard formal academic teaching methods, acceptance towards us blossomed and they began to truly enjoy the creative process.

Montage of logos paired with student-created logos in Figma during a workshop at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya

Through a set of design rules and limitations, we asked them to re-design the record cover of their favourite musician. The design-task was aiming to emotionally engage their aesthetic expression. After a short 2,5h crash course in how to use the tools and Figma elements the previous week, these were the results.

Wait, before making an opinion about the result below, imagine this; The students had never worked with digital design before! I personally feel they have a kitsch Y2K feel about them. I think they're great first tries.

Four student-designed record sleeve covers created using Figma during a graphic design workshop in Kilifi, Kenya

Certain elements here are clearly designed by someone exploring Figma for the first time. Off-beat, unique and different. It is rough around the edges and shows that we were limited in time, but it has a lot of potential.

I plan to be back in Kenya after summer, teaching a full semester, partly online. I want to make sure the students understand the potential that Figma offer for the communication and innovative development of the Kilifi Coast.

The smiles, the laughs and the feeling of community amongst the locals is engraved in me. When feeling lost in the sea of possibilities of the western society, I now think of the people I met in Kenya and the limitations they have. It showed me how important it is to travel and share skillsets across boarders. I take away a big pool of compassion, patience, awe and openmindness with me. Teaching abroad has taught me the art of acceptance towards other culture's needs and attitudes.