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Q&A with Senongo Akpem

Designer and illustrator

I'm a designer and illustrator, originally from Nigeria, but now based in New York. I'm currently a lead designer at Cambridge University Press; I work on branding and user experience there. For the past few years, I've also been building Pixel Fable, a series of interactive children's stories based on African fables.

Based on my explorations of storytelling and technology, I've also been fortunate enough to speak at Webvisions and NYCUXPA about digital narratives. There's something magical about approaching the web as a storytelling tool- the code, the moving/static images, and the interaction, all bring us back to more thoughtful narratives. I really enjoy talking about it!


My time is split between professional and personal work, so my tools differ, but I have an iMac that I use regularly, along with a Wacom tablet for illustration. Honestly, the Wacom tablet is probably the most important piece of hardware I own. The work I've produced with it has brought me more joy than anything else, is all.


Again, this varies, but as with most other designers, I use the Creative Suite a lot, along with Coda and Codekit for front end dev for Pixel Fable. I'm just starting to get into GitHub and other ways of speeding up my responsive design workflow, so my list of apps will undoubtedly increase in the next few months. I also find that using online platforms, like Tapestry or Readymag, offer me a great amount of control of content online, without needing to build presentation mechanisms.


A few computer screens and a picture window of the ocean would be pretty great.


I guess inspiration can strike anywhere, but I have a few techniques that I use when I get a bit stuck. First, being in and around water helps me greatly. Swimming, walking in rain, or being by the ocean tend to put me in a contemplative mood, and that in turn leads to new visual connections and inspiration. Second, I try to create mood-boards or panels of the things Im thinking about. It may look chaotic at first, but it allows me to crop smaller areas, choosing colors and patterns that will work with the visual problem I'm trying to solve.