If you’ve never heard of Aziza Design, please take a seat and read on because this is unlike any creative studio you’ve ever seen.
Started on July 1, 2014, Aziza is powered by sweeping ambitions. It wants to retune businesses to a point where CEOs will instinctively reach for design thinking as the way to grow their companies’ bottom line.
Crazy, right? Probably. But Chuma Anagbado, cofounder/design director aka CEO at Aziza believes it’s a no-brainer. Having worked for about a decade in advertising, he rediscovered design as a business while studying for a degree in product design at the University for the Creative Arts, Rochester, UK.
So far, Aziza has cornered some adventurous clients such as First Consultant Medical Centre, Sweet Tooth Confectioneries, Stanbic-IBTC, Neconde Energy Limited, and Syska LED.
In this chat with Gods of Creativity, he shares his company’s origin story and its processes.
So, Aziza is a design firm?
Yes. One that creates solutions to real life problems, based on human-centred needs and activities. Solutions are usually economically viable and technologically feasible.
What kind of clients are you looking for?
Corporations, SMEs, public service and the private Sector. We’re also looking at community-based projects where we can get to work closely with remote communities to create solutions to problems we’d collectively identify.
Human-centred needs and problems are huge. Do you solve, say, health problems with design?
Health delivery solutions yes. But we’re not doctors.
How do I know when to call Aziza?
When you need sustainable solutions or hit a brick wall. We do have clearly set out areas where we intervene just so we don’t come across as jack of all trades.
Actually we don’t do a large part of what marketing communications agencies do. We create products and services, which may be tangible or intangible. An Agency can actually be our client.
what are these areas?
One, Design + Business. Which includes Organisational Design, Process Design, and Systems Design. Then, there’s Design + Experience, which covers Brand Activation, Consumer Engagement, and Sensory Design. Third is Design + Identity, covering Brand Guide & Toolkit, Communications & Graphic Design, and Product Prototyping & Fabrication. The fourth area is Design + Space. Here we have Architecture & Interior Design, Retail Space Design, and Web & Digital App Design. Most times when working with clients, our solutions require inputs across our four core areas.
I’d like to note here that Aziza Design is a first of its kind in Nigeria and probably sub- saharan Africa.
So noted. Now, why do you not want to be associated with marketing communications since you do many of what marketing agencies agencies do?
Actually we don’t do a large part of what marketing communications agencies do. We create products and services, which may be tangible or intangible. Agencies market product and services. They may create products and services, but they use them as a platform to sell existing products or services. An Agency can actually be our client.
Is this design thinking?
Design thinking is whole lot more. It’s a philosophy that presupposes that every individual can be part of creating a more desirable outcome or solution. Properly harnessed and applied, Design Thinking can transform the way organisations develop products and services.
This approach brings together what is desirable from a human perspective with that which is technologically possible and economically profitable. Design thinking integrates our ability to intuit, recognise patterns, and innovate solutions that are functional and as well emotionally rewarding, transcending mere words or symbols to becoming frameworks, systems, skill-sets and results.
The emphasis is on individuals or clients or community being part of the process. A lot of empathy is required to do Design Thinking and this means tremendous research. We’re actually working on Teaching Design Thinking.
How do you sell clients on this ‘different’ concept, something they’re not used to?
We have work tools that we use to guide them throughout the process.
I’d leave this info out for now, as it’s currently being fine-tuned. However, it will be a big collaboration between Aziza Design and another outfit/platform.
Speaking of guiding clients through design thinking, how successful have you been with this?
Well over 85%. Maybe higher, i’m just being conservative.
Really? That’s very impressive
Well, most of those tools are very flexible so we can quickly adapt to suite a certain clients needs. Some are very structured in their process and some just don’t have any form of structure. Whichever we encounter, our work tools are malleable enough for them.
So, what’s your process like? How do you work on projects?
There are five stages: problem identification or brief, research and clear understanding, ideation & prototyping, application/solution deployment, and identifying sustainable outcomes. It’s a continuous process. The outcomes that don’t work in the fifth stage are taken back to stage 1. This is how products and services are made better, generally speaking.
How do you find talent that understands design thinking?
It takes a lot. Beyond the ability and aptitude, we take attitudes very serious when recruiting. Professionally, they’d naturally fit into the skill sets required for our Service Areas mentioned earlier. But we also look out for green horns who are willing to dabble into new spheres and learn new skills. They usually turn out better. We’d normally look at architects, business writers, coders, graphic designers, animators, engineers, and product designers.
You used to be an art director in an agency; how did the shift to design thinking and Aziza begin?
While in school in the UK and in the course of my research, I came across similar companies that I felt I could model a startup after and tailor it for the Nigerian/African market where such services largely didn’t exist.
I wanted a complete design consult where we have persons with various design skills to come together and co own a business, equally. The idea is that we’d start off not needing to employ additional staff. We work on jobs together and share profits equally, also earn same salary but it ended up becoming an equal partnership between two people and we’ve been moving from strength to strength.
The original name we picked was Broom, which we translated to Aziza in Igbo language. The idea is that with collaboration, humans get better results and that has been our core value. Aziza turns out to also have meanings in many other languages, so as a name, it became a natural fit. Plus Aziza is a palindrome; it reads the same from the front and back.
Who’s the other partner?
What’s your vision for this new sector of the creative industry?
We’re looking at being the category leaders. Already there are a few design consultancies that have sprung up, and another business concern that teaches Design thinking [The Design Institute Lagos]. As Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa moves from being a consumerist economy to one that produces, we’re positioned to be the go-to outfit when it comes to product and service design.