This week, we talk to Newton Chege—the Creative Director at Gallexia Kenya. Gallexia Kenya is a brand company whose work is focused on generating impactful and influential content, designs, and strategies that strengthen and elevate the brands. He highlights success stories that show how one needs to embrace current events, current technologies within their work to be ahead of the curve. Tune in to find out what tips he shares to succeed when it comes to content creation and working with brands.
This is the 25th episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.
*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.
LinkedIn: Newton Chege
Website: Gallexia Kenya
[00:00:00] Newton Chege: AI has disrupted a lot of job industries and all but personally, I like to embrace these things because I just try to find, you know, how can we integrate AI into our workspace, into how we're working.
[00:00:12] [Afrika Design Ident]: [Afrika Design Ident]
[00:00:15] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): You're pushing yourself further to join communities and so on this year, what was the reason for that?
[00:00:21] Newton Chege: There are many reasons, but I think one thing that made me to come to that decision is, I remember there was this project I was doing which was a Kitenge pattern. So I was tasked by this company to make a Kitenge pattern. It's a Japanese company. After I made a couple of designs, a couple of samples. I also wanted to know, you know, how other designers would have made it. And then I looked through my contacts and then I realized I don't have a lot of designer friends. And that's an issue, you know? Even when I want help, I want some insights into something, I don't have any designer friends. And I'm like, no, this is not cool.
[00:00:56] I need to keep myself out there. This year I've gone to a couple of art shows.
Gone to some graphic design seminars. And then the African design, you know, I've started following you guys on Instagram, keeping up to date with what you guys do.
[00:01:10] Because I think there was an event. It was in Karen. I attended that too, and I
met some people. Yeah, so it's fun. Yeah.
[00:01:16] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): So you came to this year's Nairobi Design Week, yeah, you got to meet some people. Did you ever find someone for the Japanese Kitenge?
[00:01:23] Newton Chege: No, unfortunately, the project was in a rush. So I just had to do it on my own. Yeah, but they love it. They love it. It's yet to be printed. I think it's something that I could share the design maybe afterwards.
[00:01:36] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah, brilliant, we can share it on the website with the episode.
[00:01:40] Newton Chege: Yes.
[00:01:41] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): You mentioned graphic design, is that how you got into design, or where does your experience come from?
[00:01:48] Newton Chege: Yeah, my, I would say my main niche is graphic design. Maybe I could give a history of how I got into this journey. It's pretty interesting because it started when I was in high school. I used to be a photographer. So I used to take pictures and then I used to take them to school and everybody liked the pictures.
[00:02:03] And that's when I got the interest of taking photos. And immediately after high school, I started taking pictures of like, let's say a Coca Cola can. And then I remember there was this time I did a Coca Cola can inside the fridge and then I made the inside of the fridge to have a snow effect, you know, so it was snowing inside the fridge and then we have the coca cola can. So I posted that. Posted it on my page and I tagged Coca cola and the official coca cola distributors here in Kenya. They were so happy. They wanted to actually repost it on their page.
[00:02:33] I was like, yeah sure and then after that, you know, it gave me the psych to do something else. So I decided to do Delamere, you know, the yogurt company. Yeah, same response. They liked it. I went ahead and did SOKO. They liked it. And I was like, I think I want to work with brands. So that's how I started making kind of posters, but not just like the normal posters, but kind of creative posters. If I'm advertising a drink, I'm not just going to have the drink there. I'm going to add something to it. I was posting it on my status where my friends could see.
[00:03:04] And this one time, one of my friends introduces me to a friend of his who has a real estate company and they asked me to design some posters for some campaign they were doing for Christmas. Uh, I was like, no, I don't think that's my style of work. I love to do creative artwork and all that. But, you know, he insisted be free to do your own style, you know, so I was like, okay, let me try it out. Then I did it. The company loved it. And they were like, you know, you could come work for us. This was in like 2019. Come and work for us. We'll be designing posters. Huh, I was like, this is out of my comfort zone. I've never tried anything like this. But, I decided to try it out. And that's how my journey as a graphic designer started.
[00:03:45] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Direct engagement with brands. That's what got you into working with brands as well. So did any of that direct engagement get you clients or was it through people seeing your work?
[00:03:56] Newton Chege: It started from people seeing my work. And then connecting me with somebody who is looking for, you know, a certain service.
[00:04:02] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Mm
[00:04:03] Newton Chege: Yeah, that's how I got into doing other stuff. Now I started doing, Instagram posts. You know, the campaign ideas that the Christmas post made... is a Christmas campaign but then along the way, I decided to start my own brand. I started with a couple of friends of mine, a videographer who will do advertisements.
[00:04:20] I started with a friend of mine, really good in operations. Who will go and do
print work if, for example, we've done a company profile. Magazines and all that sort of stuff. So I gathered a team and then we started the company. It's called Gallexia Kenya. At first it was hard looking for clients and all that. But, you know, eventually, it got better. And so currently that's where I am. I'm at Gallexia Kenya and we work with brands to do campaigns, have posters and themes geared towards that, because I also do website design.
[00:04:49] So we make sure that it's reflected throughout the entire branding ecosystem of that company.
[00:04:55] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): I'm curious as well, how I've seen you were looking for someone on the website to help with client acquisition, right? So how does that work for an agency like yours? You said initially it was difficult and now things have picked up a bit.
[00:05:09] How does client acquisition work for you guys?
[00:05:12] Newton Chege: The client acquisition part was only for Upwork.
[00:05:16] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Fiverr, Upwork, Upwork, yeah.
[00:05:19] Newton Chege: Yeah, for Upwork. So what happened is that we also just decided to try international clients because with Upwork you have access to clients all around the world.
[00:05:28] And that was the main purpose of it. We actually haven't yet started kick-starting that. But we've done the setup and everything. We're just looking for the right time so that we can now fully engage and start actively see whether we can get international clients. That was the main purpose for that specific job.
[00:05:46] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): So currently you're still working mostly with local clients in Kenya?
[00:05:50] Newton Chege: Yes.
[00:05:51] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Okay. How does the way that your agency tells stories, through visual and other mediums, what's unique about the way you tell those stories in your style of presentation?
[00:06:04] Newton Chege: We have something that we call disruptive branding. For example, we have one of our clients is, Thika Sports Club. I don't know whether you are aware of them. It's a sporting facility in Thika. They had a Christmas golf event, but you know, if we were to do that golf event, normally maybe you will write a Christmas golf event or something, you know, here are the dates and all that and all that, but we like to do it a little bit different. So there are two ways that we are going to go around it.
[00:06:31] We're either going to go to the studio and have somebody dressed up as Santa so that we can be able to, you know, manipulate the picture. Maybe put him on a
golf course or something like that. But luckily I was able to find a stock picture. So we bought the stock picture. I think he was holding a stick or something.
[00:06:46] So I replaced the stick and then I put a golf club there. And then I put him
next to a golf cart. And then we have something small. Even Santa deserves a break and then, you know, a 'join us' for this event and this and this day and this day you know and that kind of poster has like people are actually going to share because it actually looks more like an artwork because we're not going to have the title so big and everything but we're just going to have a very creative copy and a very creative artwork.
[00:07:15] There was also a time we were also doing for a delivery company. So, now we're going to have Santa driving a cab. And then, you know, we say that just like the Santa we know and love, this arrives in three minutes or less. I feel like that is what keeps us apart from other agencies. We're just trying to be creative just to be different from what other companies would do.
[00:07:38] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): And, it looks like copy is important to you guys. Do you also work with creating video for some of this stuff?
[00:07:45] Newton Chege: Yeah though it's not our core business. Currently we are doing a, an advertisement for an upcoming streaming up in Kenya. Hopefully when it's done, I'll be able to share that too but we've also done some for our own company.
[00:07:58] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah. Video's important and it's good to see that the copy for you guys is really crucial. What kind of process are you going through to come up with some of these jokes and is it a team thing? Have you got a dedicated copywriter? Are you the copywriter? How does it work for you?
[00:08:16] Newton Chege: We have an in house copywriter but it's usually a group effort, because the first thing that we always do is to come up with a theme. Once we come up with a theme, then we are able to come up with creative copies around that. Sometimes we have so many, we just throw in as many ideas as we can, and then we start eliminating.
[00:08:36] We also try to incorporate what's going on maybe in the country. Remember
during maandamano days? We are going to have maybe something geared towards
that. If it's election, and so on and so forth. Just try to be creative with also what is going on around because sometimes people could also share just because it's funny but at the same time it's also market.
[00:08:57] So, we're also getting free marketing for people who are just going to share it in maybe stories or statuses.
[00:09:03] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): You told me just before we started recording that you were on the lookout for more design friends because you realize that it's good to have people you're able to call. I was wondering because, well, you've got an agency, you said you met friends and you started this thing and you have seemingly a balanced set of skills.
[00:09:21] So how do you go about finding those right people to start something like this with? And how do you guys work together?
[00:09:28] Newton Chege: Actually, most of them, we were working with them in the real estate company. It was during Corona. During that time I was head of media in that company, and I was tasked to build my own team.
[00:09:40] So I had a videographer, I had a marketing expert, and so those are the same people that after we got out from the real estate company, we came together and started Gallexia Kenya. Then along the way, I also met a friend who had also started her own company, which was doing almost similar to us, but her strong suit was in marketing, just going out there, doing field work and all that.
[00:10:02] And so we partnered with that company. Our company was more established, I would say. And so what happened is that, when we merged, so she came over to the company and we just continued with the name Gallexia Kenya and that is how our team went growing.
[00:10:16] So we started looking for designers and, you know, the thing about some
designers is that you're going to find that this designer is good in this. For example, I'm really good in Photoshop. I can be able to do a lot of manipulation in Photoshop but another designer is going to have a different skill set. So like we have a graphic designer who's very good when it comes to publications, company profiles. We also have another designer who's very good when it comes to creating. So, you know, we're always on the lookout for designers. Gone to Instagram and I've seen people who have made really creative posts.
[00:10:48] But I don't know them. So, I'm always on the lookout for such people. To even just, you know, collaborate. Not entirely come work at Gallexia, but even like collaborate.
[00:10:58] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): It's great to have a network of people you can reach out to for sure. You mentioned you're skilled in Photoshop and all the other people that you're always meeting. How has Artificial intelligence impacted your work so far, or maybe it hasn't, or is there a feeling of how it might in future?
[00:11:17] Newton Chege: AI has disrupted a lot of job industries and all but personally, I like to embrace these things because I just try to find, you know, how can we integrate AI into our workspace, into how we're working. Sometimes, we can use ChatGPT to create a copy and then, you know, it gives us a foundation of where can we start. So they've given us this and then now from this we are able to draw other more creative conclusions. Then we have this one for generating images. The one that uses...
[00:11:45] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Dalle 2, MidJourney, Stable Diffusion, those ones.
[00:11:49] Newton Chege: Yes, Midjourney and Dalle. When I was doing the landing in Kiambu Road, I used Midjourney to create. I give it a prompt like, something like close to Nairobi streets. A typical Nairobi streets, something like that.
[00:12:01] And then, I integrated Photoshop. And now, I now put my subject into that
place, do a little bit of color grading. I will say that, It's not entirely bad because as far as integrating it into my work, it has been helpful,
[00:12:14] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): I can see it being extremely helpful tool and beyond just the image generation and video generation. And of course, text. I've been excited to see things like AI websites, tools, there's, I think, Framer AI, and there's even some stuff that's integrating so you can copy paste AI generated wireframes into Webflow now.
[00:12:39] So there's a lot of stuff happening, yeah. Once we can generate 3D files as a
product designer, I'm very excited.
[00:12:46] There's a few tools doing
[00:12:47] Newton Chege: I actually do 3D as well.
[00:12:49] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Okay, what kind of 3D stuff do you do?
[00:12:52] Newton Chege: Mostly, product 3D. I remember I did just a short production for a hair oil. I had modeled the can. Then maybe place it in a very nice background. Currently I'm working on a coffee commercial but I'm still relatively new in 3D. So, I wouldn't say I'm proficient in that, but I'm getting there.
[00:13:11] In the production that we are doing for the streaming app. So there is this AI
for generating voice text. What was the name of that? But it does it so nice, so natural. I'm like, whoa.
[00:13:22] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): From your voice or from just a generated voice?
[00:13:25] Newton Chege: You write a text. And then they have so many accents that you can choose from. There is British. And then you can like, change how natural you want it to be. I was really surprised at how good it is. It puts break like how a normal person would do.
[00:13:38] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Hmm.
[00:13:39] Newton Chege: You wouldn't even tell the difference. So...
[00:13:41] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): I can believe you. Yeah, I think we're getting to that stage where humans aren't able to tell what is generated by AI, right? We use Descript to edit the podcast, and Descript has a feature called Overdub, I think. It can take my voice as long as you have the permission of the person, you can take the voice and you can generate new voice with it.
[00:14:02] So it could be that I could generate something, for example, for the podcast, you know, maybe there's a couple of words missing that David, our producer would like to include. He could potentially take my voice through AI. Yeah.
[00:14:16] Newton Chege: AI right now it's at the peak. It's even getting better, you know?
[00:14:21] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): That's what people say. Yeah. It's only ever going to be as bad as it is now. It's only going to get better. I wonder, have you got any questions that you've wanted to either put to me or maybe even to the audience?
[00:14:34] We can come back to it. I'll let you have a think. And I wanted to ask you
actually, we usually have this question for our guests. Is there a reason or a meaning behind your name or names? And that can be both actually, that's you, your personal names, but also maybe Gallexia Kenya you'd like to tell us about.
[00:14:53] Newton Chege: Okay, I can start with Gallexia Kenya. A lot of people, when they hear the name Gallexia Kenya, they think about the galaxy most of the time. But you're going to realize that it has got a double L and E. So it is actually from the word gallery. So when I was coming up with the name, I was just writing down a lot of names.
[00:15:10] Galleria, so I had forgotten that there is a Galleria because we have that
Galleria Mall. And then I remembered, no, we have Galleria, I can't choose Galleria. So I'm gonna have to change this. So we have Gallerics, we have what? And then finally I just settled with Gallexia Kenya because, you know, I told you that I started with photography. That is how it all started. Galaxia used to do photography... Apart from my Gallexia's Instagram page, I don't know whether I shared my personal Instagram page.
[00:15:37] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): I don't think it was there actually. I just saw the
[00:15:40] Newton Chege: Gallexia
[00:15:41] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): one.
[00:15:41] Yeah, I tried... I did try to look for you on Instagram. I wasn't sure if it's a private one.
[00:15:46] Newton Chege: I think currently it's private. It used to be Gallexia's account a long time ago when I used to do photography. So it comes from the word gallery because it all started from photography.
[00:15:56] For my name, it's just the African way of how we're given our names. In our
tribe, that was my grandfather's name. Now the second name, that is, uh, Shege or Chege, pronounced either way. There's a system of how names are given in our tribe. The firstborn is going to take this name, the secondborn is going to take this name, and so on and so forth.
[00:16:16] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Well, I'll ask again if you've got anything that you'd like to ask either put out to the community or to me, yeah, you're more than welcome to.
[00:16:25] Newton Chege: I was not really prepared for this question. It is my first time to do something like this.
[00:16:31] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah, well, that's fine. That's totally fine. You can always tell us afterwards as well. I find that sometimes there are things we don't think about. Maybe there are stories that you would really like to share that are unique stories to you as well.
[00:16:46] That you could talk about maybe some of those client adventures or maybe
something from life that has impacted you and has stayed with you.
[00:16:54] Newton Chege: When I signed up for this and then I checked what previous guests have. I was like, oh wow, these people, this guy is in automotive industry, this guy is in textile industry. And I was like, uh. I wouldn't say I have gotten my niche just yet but I was like I'm just gonna sign up for this and then just gonna see how it goes and, you know, it's gonna be a first step towards... you know, because I'll be talking about what I love to do, maybe I can get a realization of the kind of direction that I wanna go into.
[00:17:24] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah. And congrats. We're flattered as well. I'm, I'm really happy that you chose to come on the podcast as well. And having heard that you're coming to events, you're meeting people, that's always really good. So that's what it's about.
[00:17:39] And it's about, you know, people listening to this might see or hear of you for
the first time. They might check out your work as well. So that's also really highly encouraged for people. We try to bring the community together so that people can also interact with each other and work together and get to know each other.
[00:17:58] Newton Chege: Thank you very much. Really appreciate what you guys do at Nairobi Design Week. Like I stumbled upon Nairobi Design Week and I was like this is exactly what I was looking for. It was about time. If you don't mind asking like, when was Nairobi design developed?
[00:18:12] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah. So the first festival was in 2015, I had the idea around 2014, probably when I first came to Kenya, I was consulting, I was doing human centered design and the idea came to me when I was doing research in the field, when I was meeting people in Nairobi, that there was an excitement for people and creatives to meet each other and to showcase that they can be professional creatives, just like other professions.
[00:18:39] Now we've had eight festivals. We're running up to the ninth one and actually the open calls have been announced. So physical and digital exhibitors and crew for the festival we're looking for. And also we're announcing vendor open call soon and a few requests for proposals as well.
[00:18:58] So all of that, there's deadlines on the 31st of October 2023, and then next
festival is on the 9th to the 17th of March 2024.
[00:19:09] Newton Chege: Oh, okay. And the vendors, is it similar to what we had for the one in Karen?
[00:19:14] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Yeah, and we'll be doing it again at Opportunity Factory next year. That's like a hub venue forus. We do actually work with other venues as well to do stuff around the city. There'll be vendors, there's going to be a showcase exhibit. We had over 50 physical exhibitors, 60 digital exhibitors, vendors and so on. Lots of people come together during that week. The opening weekend and the closing weekend is when you have all the vendors and lots of other stuff happening. And then
during the week we also have events that focus on particular partners, particular projects, and the exhibitors as well themselves.
[00:19:51] Newton Chege: Okay, and is it just for artists or can graphic designers like us showcase?
[00:19:57] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Course, it's design. It's really design in the broadest sense of the word because we do invite artists as well. Certain artists like to showcase stuff from a design perspective as well. Art is really important because the way that artists think and approach the world is really unique and designers also have their own way of looking at the world.
[00:20:18] So we cover architecture, we have everything up to web design, we've showcased physical stuff. This year we had a project around conservation, another one
around colorism. So really it's about showing that design is actually solving problems. One way is to showcase and to make people think about what's happening in front of them when they witness that design as an exhibit.
[00:20:43] And another longer term thing is for people to be thinking how design actually impacts the world and the life around us, and then how we can again use it as a tool because that's what it is right design as a tool for fixing things. And we try to encourage everyone to look at it that way.
[00:21:01] Newton Chege: Oh, nice. Well, I've been looking forward to it.
[00:21:04] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Thank you so much. And where can people find you as well and reach out to you?
[00:21:08] Newton Chege: We have my website, gallexiakenya.com, as well as my Instagram profile, which is kc_news, News was my high school nickname, it was a sharp one for Newton.
[00:21:22] Adrian Jankowiak (Host): Newton, thank you so much. I really enjoyed our chat. I hope it's been an okay introduction to the world of podcasting. And definitely take up more of these things. And I'm looking forward to seeing you in person in Nairobi.
[00:21:34] Newton Chege: Thank you so much, likewise.