On Monday night, several Nigerian tech professionals, especially those in the design community began changing their X display pictures to blue, accompanied by gloomy tweets. “Creative Nigeria just lost a gem,” reads a tweet from Victor Fatanmi, co-founder of Fullgap.
My curiosity heightened, and I found myself questioning, “What’s happening?” As I continued to search, I learnt about the unfortunate news of Uche Ugo's passing, renowned as U.U., a leading Nigerian brand expert.
Like Fatanmi’s, most of the early tweets about Ugo’s demise were shrouded in vagueness, they went along the lines of “tell me it’s not true!”—the shock that comes with the first stage of grief. Since yesterday, this sombre wave has continued to envelop the Nigerian tech community.
“When I was starting in design, he was already a leader in the craft. When we invited him to teach us at YesOrWow in 2016, he accepted even on short notice. He designed some of your [favourite] song arts, crafted brands and embodied one himself,” Fatanmi said in another tweet. “He’s UCHE UGO and his colour was blue.”
“[He] changed the game with album art in Nigeria,” reads another tribute.
Currently, the cause of his demise remains uncertain. Nevertheless, in recent times, he has posted tweets lamenting the poor condition of the Nigerian health system and also commending the work of health professionals.
U.U dey for U: Meet the man in Blue
Ugo started his career as a graphic designer, he also worked as an event designer for several major Nigerian entertainment projects and musicians including Bovi’s Man on Fire and Iyanya Live in Concert. In an interview with Selar last year, he said, “I worked on a lot of these events that I can’t remember now, but with all of them, I was able to build a go-to personal brand as a creative while working as an Art Director in one of the top ad agencies. All of these things led to my path to becoming a branding and communication specialist.”
Aside from working behind the scenes, Ugo decided to become more intentional with design thought leadership. Expressing his motivation, he said, “I wanted to solve people’s problems with what I know.” Ugo launched U.U Series in 2018 to provide a branding masterclass for designers and entrepreneurs. Since its launch, the programme has impacted over 1,000 learners.
Two years ago, he founded KLASSIT, an edtech that provides one-on-one live classes with learners and instructors simple to schedule.
Since his demise, the tributes pouring in consistently highlight Ugo as a huge inspiration within the Nigerian creative industry.
Outside the industry, Ugo took his skill to his Christian community—Celebration Church International (CCI), where he served as head of design for CCI Worship, the ministry’s worship team.
His excellent work made him one of the nominees for the Future Africa Awards for Creativity. Ugo is also a recipient of YipAfrica’s Shooting Star recognition for Creative Art and one of the top 100 African creators by Selar.
Overall, in the words of Tunji Ogunoye, a brand designer at FourthCanvas, “[U.U was a good man, by every sense of the word. Always graceful, always grateful. Such ease, such humility, such large heart.”
Our condolences to all those who are mourning his demise.
U.U lives on!