Everything that happened at the Untitled Design Conference (UDC) 2023

From panel sessions to remarkable presentations and networking opportunities with design industry leaders, UDC 2023 was a huge success, writes Emmanuel Akpan, brand designer at

Everything that happened at the Untitled Design Conference (UDC) 2023
During a presentation by Oyeleye Ogunsanya, head of design at Nigerian fintech Risevest

For a long time, there have been various conferences and events that help tech professionals like developers, engineers etc. to come together and discuss the state of their fields, learn from industry leaders and have opportunities to network.

Such a large platform to connect has been missing for designers in the Nigerian tech space. This gap inspired Marvis Ighedosa, Chukwuka Ezeoke and James Moses James to create the Untitled Design Conference (UDC) in 2022

Asides being co-founders of the conference, Marvis is a design mentor at Designlab Learning while Chukwuka is co-founder at Spirē. James is a founder at and a design mentor at ADPList.

The 2nd edition of UDC was held on Friday to Saturday, May 12 - 13, 2023 at Zone Tech Park, Gbagada, Lagos.

With 20+ speakers and a huge turnout of over 1000 designers, UDC 2023 was a huge success for the design community and tech in Nigeria at large. 

Day 1 - Friday, May 12

Mental Health - Alex Oyebade (Moderator)

L-R:  Linda Ojo, John Ogaga, Ajiri Omafokpe, Eugene Adavore.Alex Oyebade
L-R: Linda Ojo, John Ogaga, Ajiri Omafokpe, Eugene Adavore.Alex Oyebade

The conference kicked off with a panelist discussion on Mental Health and Well-Being for designers. Alex Oyebade, Lead Product Designer at Raven Bank moderated the session with a lot of charisma, as he broke down useful tips on mental health, alongside Linda Ojo, John Ogaga, Ajiri Omafokpe and Eugene Adavore.

An interesting point I noted from John Ogaga is the willingness to accept that sometimes, work schedules could be tight. The demands of the design industry from time to time might require one to work extra hours, so it is important to prepare yourself for such periods mentally.

That being said, he and the other speakers also focused on the importance of taking adequate rest from work regularly and the fact that designers should communicate with managers if they need some time off due to external challenges or long stretch work periods.

Creating Colour Systems that Bang - Mary Afolabi

Presentation by Mary Afolabi, Partner at FourthCanvas #UDC2023
Presentation by Mary Afolabi

Next off was Mary Afolabi, a Partner at FourthCanvas who gave a talk on Creating Colour Systems that bang. A major takeaway from her session is that chaos happens after 3 colours. She urged designers to follow industry standards and maintain a limited palette of 3 colours when creating visual identity systems.

Here are some pointers she mentioned for designers to always keep in mind when creating colour systems;

  1. Maintain industry standards
  2. Watch out for overused colours
  3. Study colour psychology
  4. Identify the range of needs for the colours
  5. Chaos is after 3 colours

Breakout & Networking

Designers had opportunities to learn from top professionals and also network

There were a couple of break-out sessions, including talks on motion design, designing low-carbon digital products and a 100-day design consistency, just to name a few. Designers also had the opportunity to connect with colleagues and design industry leaders.

Live Illustration Session - Ufot Ubom

Presentation by Ufor Ubom, Illustrator and Brand Designer #UDC2023
Presentation by Ufor Ubom

The highlight session of the day was by Ufot Ubom, a Digital Illustrator and Brand Designer with over 4 years of working experience. He held a live practice session where he showed his tools, techniques and design process for creating amazing vector illustrations.

Ufot went into great detail as he showed us his base sketch, and then used the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator to draw over the sketch. He then went on to add complementary fill colours to the shapes, creating a neat facial illustration of a cartoon character.

Personally, it was great for me to see another designer's process. I equally got to interact with him as he explained the advantages of the Pen tool over the Curvature point tool for drawing curves in Illustrator.

He also closed the session with this powerful quote;

"If and when Design Principles doesn’t work, introduce Divine Principles." - Ufot Ubom

Day 2 - May 13

Chisaokwu Joboson - The Future of African Design

Joboson Chisaokwu (Jigga) presenting The Future of African Design at #UDC2023
Presentation by Chisaokwu Joboson

The curtain raiser for the final day was a talk by Chisaokwu Joboson, an Independent Brand Designer from Lagos with 5 years of experience. Joboson's talk was on The Future of African Design. He pointed out how Nigeria, and many other African countries have fallen behind in the rankings for quality of design around the world.

Citing various African design concepts, Joboson took us back to our roots to show us how we can tie our various cultures into our work with patterns, illustrations, colour and typography.

I particularly enjoyed how he ended his presentation on an inspirational note as he reminded us on our role to play in the future of design on the African continent.

He also ended with this quote by Kwame Nkrumah

"I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.' - Kwame Nkrumah

Oyeleye Ogunsanya - Product Decisions & Compelling Designs

Presentation by Oyeleye Ogunsanya

Oyeleye Ogunsanya, Head of Design, at Risevest, led us over to the business side of things as he spoke on the intersection between making product decisions and compelling designs.

He explained that design is not the start of the product decision journey but rather, the product partners/providers. He urged we designers to understand business fundamentals in order to communicate effectively with stakeholders and articulate the value of our designs which ultimately leads to more compelling products.

I learned that there's a 'sweet spot' between making product decisions and compelling designs. It's one thing for us to be great designers, but if our work has no impact on business goals, then it has little value. It's important to know where we stand on the product decision journey and steer our design decisions towards achieving business goals.

Oyeleye closed his session by opening up the never-ending debate on whether designers should use the mouse or trackpad for work. As a strong mouse advocate, he didn't hide his opinions as he wrapped up his session with this quote.

The designers who use the mouse will govern those who don't." - Oyeleye Ogunsanya

Bolanle Banwo - Creating Experiences through Design

Bolanle Banwo making a virtual presentation at #UDC2023
Presentation by Bolanle Banwo

Founder of Geneza Brands, Bolanle Banwo, held a virtual session where she emphasized on putting people at the centre when designing. She also spoke on the importance of experience design and explained interesting concepts such as "The Purple Cow" by Seth Godin and "The Principle of Feedback" when it comes to creating effective brand identity and user experiences.

If there's one point that really got to me from her session, its the Principle of Feedback. For example, when you click on a button and there is a slight change in colour/position, or you flick on a switch and a red indicator light comes on, that is the principle of feeback in display. Feedback helps to inform the user that an action has occurred, thus improving their experience while using a digital product.

As designers, it's important we include this in our work process, as we aim to improve the user experience of the products we design.

Breakout & Networking

Presentations, Case Studies and Panelist Sessions
Presentations, Case Studies and Panelist Sessions

Just like the day before, designers had to split between various halls where they got to attend more interesting and detailed presentations by top designers. Some of the sessions include;

  • Designing for Users and Businesses by Stephanie Orkuma (Dada Designer)
  • Growth as a Designer by Collins Donye & John Ogaga
  • Mastering the Motion Design Process by Godwin Olatunde
  • Storytelling in Design | Case Study on Sporting Lagos brand identity by Jordan Belonwu & Solomon Osinloye
  • Storytelling in design by Chukwu Adaeze Victoria
  • Data-driven design by Derrick Tsorme
  • Designing a Design Team by Dumebi Iwuchukwu
  • Future-Proofing Your Career (Panelist session) by Abel Idume, Kachi Kalu, Otukoya Ibrahim, Kola Ojoodide, Raheemat Atata (Moderator)

Networking - Tunji Ogunoye

Tunji Ogunoye (OG) making a presentation at #UDC2023
Presentation by Tunji Ogunoye

The final session of the event was an insightful session on networking by Tunji Ogunoye, Partner at FourthCanvas. He started with a striking point on us being more human and less about design. Our human skills as designers may be more crucial than our designs when it comes to networking and seeking opportunities.

He mentioned that networking is actually in 2 phases, meeting new people and nurturing existing relationships. There is great value in optimizing our friendships and not seeing people as a means to an end. We must strive to be good and genuine in all our networking strides.

"The way up is sideways."

This slide and its follow up explanation by Tunji caught my attention. Often times, at events and corportate settings, we might be tempted to quickly connect with the "biggest" person in the room. Tunji advises us not to be too hasty to connect upwards, but rather, build and nurture sideways connections, for long term upward mobility.

In other words, spend time strengthening the relationships you already have. These people could eventually introduce you to individuals in higher positions, giving you an access point to these individuals. This is much better that directly going to people of high status without any form of previous connection to them.

A perfect ending to a spectacular event. UDC 2023 gave designers all around the country a platform to connect with themselves and meet their design heroes face to face. On a personal note, it truly surpassed anything I thought of and I'm looking forward to doing attending it again in 2024.

So, are you TEAM #Trackpad or TEAM #Mouse? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Photo Credit: UDC2023 Photos

This is a live coverage Emmanuel Akpan, Brand Designer at BCSL -

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