Meet the First Digital Design Apprentice in the U.S.

Q & A with Remi Banjoko

Tell us about your background prior to joining Russell Herder.

I have a Bachelor of Individualized Studies (BIS) from the University of Minnesota, with three focuses for my major: computer science, design and Asian languages and literature. I picked my courses in those fields.

Can you share what your family background means to you, and how it’s shaped the person you’ve become?

My family comes from Nigeria, so I’ve been immersed in multiple cultures since childhood. It gives you a lot of perspective being able to see the differences in people from starkly distinct backgrounds, and it’s even more interesting to see the similarities. It’s done a lot to shape me — I experience the pros and the cons of both cultures, and I’ve molded myself from the positive aspects of both places.

What led you to become interested in this apprenticeship?

I actually found this because of pizza! My mom partners with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and we work with the DHS at Russell Herder, so there was a meeting with DHS and the firm she is a part of, Progressive Individual Resources (PIR), for community engagement — a project I’m working on now. My mom was like, “come to this thing, we have pizza and gift cards.” I was in college at the time — and free pizza was everything, so I went.

We were discussing how to reach people in our community, and several Russell Herder staff came up to me afterwards and we had a conversation. I actually ended up working on co-creation, meaning I was hired to work side by side with the RH team in creating culturally relevant creative work. That’s how I got my foot in the door here.

Can you walk us through what you do during a typical day or week?

Currently, my time is focused on designing engaging graphics for things like social media, logos and websites, and I’m also making user-friendly interactive website experiences. I’ve always enjoyed realizing ideas, turning a thought into something actual — something that’s interesting and that people want to engage with. That’s always been the most enjoyable part for me.

In a week, I typically handle a lot of website maintenance and update tasks. This ranges from swapping out text to completely restructuring pages or even adding new features to a site. I also design graphics for social media which can be a lot of fun!

What are you thinking about or working towards when doing creative work?

That depends on who I’m doing it for. I’m usually thinking about the core message the client is trying to convey and to whom they are trying to convey it to. With that in mind, I try to balance their voice with my own personal creativity while tailoring it for their target audience in a way that will engage them.

What’s been interesting or surprising about the apprenticeship coursework?

Enrolling in additional technical training is a requirement of being an apprentice. One thing that’s interesting is all the different facets you can use to learn information. There seem to be so many things out there that I never even considered, and I’m discovering new educational platforms through the apprenticeship that teach me new skills I want to learn, like coding. Learning makes you better at the work that you want to do.

Since you’ve joined the team, what type of work have you enjoyed most?

I’m enjoying a lot of it! Right now, it’s definitely graphic design and web design. I feel they tie into each other a great deal and I can use skills from one to augment the other. I’ve most enjoyed things that are different from what I’ve done before. I remember one of the first weeks I came here, I went to a video shoot, which was fascinating. We’re also doing a new initiative for DHS Problem Gambling with scrollytelling, and I get to be a part of the learning process with that. I’m really excited about scrollytelling because there are a lot of moving parts to it. Before this, I was used to static graphics and websites, but with scrollytelling you have to consider the motion of the entire piece. With that comes the timing and flow of the graphics and words, and how we tailor them for user interaction. It has me considering new questions about user engagement and how ideas are conveyed.

Once you complete your program, what goals do you have? Do you think this experience will shape those?

My goals are just to keep getting better at all the things I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get better so I can become that person who can continue to be a valuable team player.

What’s something you enjoy doing outside of the office that influences your approach to creativity?

I draw, and I like writing and music. Sometimes I play video games. I use all these creative outlets to try to learn. Half the time I’m decompressing, and the other part of the time I’m thinking, “How could I use this?” or if I’m watching a show, I think. “What did they do there?” I always try to see what parts I can integrate into my own work.

What advice would you give to your younger self, or someone eager to start a career in creative marketing?

It would probably be two things. One, is that you still have things to learn and there are still abundant ways to grow. But it’s OK because you get better. The second thing would be that your work is better than you think it is. An amateur has infinite ways to improve, whereas an expert has essentially reached their ceiling. It’s important to keep yourself in a state where you’re confident enough to continue to work but not arrogant enough to believe there’s nothing left to learn.

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