5 Lessons I learned designing the Nigerian Landmarks icon pack

I love designing.

Maybe it’s a trademark of designers round the world or maybe it’s not, what I do know is I can give up my whole night in an attempt to create something from concept to reality. I stay up some nights just ‘pushing those pixels’ and I go to bed some time in the AM feeling like I’ve just conquered the world with a big grin on my face.
Then I wake up and feel like I don’t know anything and I’m a fraud (hello imposter syndrome) and it goes downhill from there.

Creating personal projects is my way of giving that very unwanted and unwelcome syndrome the door. So I made a fictional tourist company that needed an app that would encourage users schedule tours and encourage them leave reviews. This project was aimed at improving my user interface and user experience design skills.

While gathering Intel for my fictional app, I realised there were no real icon representation of interesting sites in Nigeria…maybe Africa but I didn’t check. My focus was Nigeria.

There were icons for Westminster Abbey from England, Statue of Liberty from USA, Eiffel tower from France and even Gyeongbokgung palace from South Korea…and much more from each of those countries and others.

Nigeria had mostly and majorly the national theatre and some high rise buildings which I find no fault in, but not just what I wanted for my app. (Still entirely fictional)
So I told myself why not, I can design my own.

~lesson 1: if you don’t find what you’re looking for, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from building it yourself

After making such a major shift in project direction, I started haunting for pictures of some historical and tourist rich sites across the country (Its totally mind-blowing how many places there are to visit in this Nigeria of mine). Unfortunately, they were hardly any decent pictures of most of the places I saw. Almost makes me want to go to these places and take professional pictures (I just might one day). Or maybe they exist, but my Google search didn’t find them.
I had recently completed an 8 weeks intensive training on graphics design where I was introduced to the power of sketching. So I sketched to the best of my abilities all the buildings I was going to illustrate.

~Lesson 2: you can almost never go wrong with sketching first.

This done, I moved to the big screen. (Hello Illustrator). Using my sketches as guides, it was very effective getting the buildings to come to life.

~Lesson 3: Your sketch doesn’t have to look the same but sketching gives you an idea of how to Illustrate when you get to your screen.

I did a skeletal version of all buildings before I put in colour. This made it much easier than putting colour while creating the outlines.

~Lesson 4: Create outlines of your work before adding colour. It will allow you focus on the key things to include. (I totally stole this concept from wireframing in UI/ UX design and it works)

I had 4 variations of each icon to help me break down to the final versions

The buildings completed and uploaded on both behance and dribbble in their respective glory. This time however I tried to go a step further and put it up on design resources like freepik but my initial application was denied sadly. (Time to hone my skills some more and be accepted into the hallowed community of designers on such platforms) I have a link up on my Behance and Dribbble for anyone interested in a download (and checking out my profile).

You could also boycott all that and download it here

~Lesson 5: Giving back to the design community makes you a better designer

And that’s the stor!
I made a major detour from my original project and I’m making may way back to it armed with my own tourist icons. It was really exhilarating putting this together and I hope it helps someone one day. At the very least, Nigeria now has more tourist icon packs than before and that’s good enough for now.

Here’s a sneak preview of the icons in an onboarding Interface which I might or might not use for the tourist app.