Published Friday, November 13 2020 | Cole Deen by Olubayi Ajaa for theSystem *
This is “And Who is,” for all your need-to-know information on the need-to-get-to-know voices in culture. Think of it as a blind date, if the date were cooler than anyone you’ll probably ever go out with. A conversation between Olubayi Ajaa and Cole Deen.
How’s your day going?
Cold! But i’m good.
Haha. I hope you’re keeping warm.
I am , I like this weather, it makes me effective.
So, tell us about yourself. Who’s Cole? And what defines his background and who he is today?
Well, I’m a designer and the founding publisher/director of theSystem Inc.
So Cole, what attracted you to what you are and do today?
I’ve always been fascinated by media, you know magazines & publishing and naturally I have an inclination towards design, making things really and solving problems. I’ve always been a big fan of media and how media creates attention and tastes to particular things and mold the perception of the masses. I got introduced to fashion, but really design through porn magazines when I was probably 13, but some how I’ve always had that inclination since I was a kid towards the aesthetics and creating meaning or rather value, so getting to publishing and design was a no brainier.
What’s your creative process like Cole?
It depends on the vibe of the moment and or the inspiration behind something, but I’m constantly working and trying to figure things out simultaneously, so I don’t necessarily have a ‘creative process’ in place, I’m bored easily so I don’t work routinely especially in my creative endeavors, however when I get in my zone it becomes a routine in the moment.
What’s your best skill as an artist?
I think my ability to conjure ideas. I can conceptualize ideas as fast as fast as you scroll your Instagram.
In your journey so far, what’s your favorite campaign or project and why?
I would say theSystem * obviously, in all honesty its the first project I’ve followed up on consistently and for a prolonged period of time , Its been twelve moths since inception and I’m still doing it. I’m inlove with culture and the people who make culture and I felt like taste makers and culture producers aren’t taken as seriously as politicians or any other profession that we sort of consider important and since I had some spare time and the passion I thought of starting theSystem as a sort of platform or sort of institution in the format of a publication to see through that creative voices are heard and to really create some sort of education, feedback loops for culture and promote a cultural ecosystem for the next gen.
As a founder and director of such an influential magazine, what sets you apart from other Creatives like you?
I wouldn’t call it influential now. The idea has always been to create value and the most impact to culture as possible, I don’t look at my self as an individual as far as my ventures are concerned I try to think of myself as part of a collective consciousness a part of an eco system and my role as a contributor as opposed to a competitor, but you know the thing that separates people is their passion, that’s a true statement.
I know the industry can be really demanding of time and energy. How do you handle pressure?
Well , I’m very stoic in a sense that I can withstand immense pressure without breaking for long periods of time, at the end of the day we are also trying to make a living doing what we genuinely love doing, I call it making a living through your truth, and so you know the idea is to stay seeded within the storm and give everything you have and then let the God or the universe whatever you believe in to take its place within your organization, the most important thing being to stay authentic hopeful and sane.
Do you have any memory of a project that gave you the most immense amount of pressure? How did you handle the situation?
This current one, I’m also working on my clothing line that I’m negotiating to start this year or next year depending on some various factors, and its not easy especially trying to juggle two passion projects simultaneously with the threat of having to neglect one for the other esp since I got into theSystem and I’m inherently a designer meaning I can’t live without making things but its not easy especially when you are specific and extremely stubborn when it comes to what you want to do and i also don’t want to start things for the sake of starting things, so, long story short the past two years have been the best struggle in my decade since self awareness dawned on me especially since I realized I’m not just creating I’m also in business , so I handle the pressure by constantly being engaged, talking shit out, embracing curiosity and genuinely being interested in the consequences of the struggle, basically when you are doing what you love you become like water, you take the shape of the shape of the moment.
What does a typical day of work look like for you?
Nothing is conventional with me I like the surprises of nature, I love surprising myself, I don’t work a 9 to 5 maybe not yet so my days are not structured, there is no format yet, I’m quite preoccupied from season to season and I decide the day when I wake up unless there are plans in place, otherwise in some capacity always working, thinking, scheming or learning.
You mentioned wanting to start a fashion line. Tell us more about it
I hate to disappoint the purist but I hate the word fashion at this point, especially in the modern context, but yet I embrace the idea of making fashion, personally I’m more into making clothes than the whole world of fashion, I take it more as industrial design or product design but I’m not by any means trying to distance myself from the idea of fashion, what I’m trying to say is that I’m working towards building a legacy brand where it is as much about the world that surround me and the rest of the world as much as it is about me as the creator behind it , so you are going to see me reference a lot from the rest of the world as much as from within to make the piece that will constitute the brand since I’m taking a global approach with this one, Its about time African creatives develop their own universally driven aesthetics or have an opinion on universal approach towards design and aesthetics .
I can feel the power from here. Blessings to you brother. Your vision seems really thought through and I can’t wait to see you bless the industry with your mind. So who’s your target audience with your platform?
You know I’m not a business person I just happen to be in business, so I’m never really focused on the idea of audiences and demographics, I feel like focusing on specific people is very alienating, its very separatist , my approach is more of making the most relevant or valuable products or services and whoever fucks with it fucks with it, I’m not into that “this is not for you” BULLSHIT I want to build a fountain where we can all can drink from ….. ideas are far to alienating … I like things that bring us together that’s the energy.
“I don’t look at my self as an individual as far as my ventures are concerned I try to think of myself as part of a collective consciousness a part of an eco system and my role as a contributor as opposed to a competitor” – Cole DeenTweet
What is your best and worst moment since you ventured on this journey?
Interviewing people is one things I never thought I would be doing and at first I was skeptical about it , turned out to be something I like doing a lot , I can’t think of any particular bad moment, except for the fact that i regret having not started this 10 years ago when I had the most time lol I’m not whining but you asked.
Is there anyone you look to for inspiration? If yes, who and why? If no, why?
Yeah , picture a mood board of anyone between Imhotep, Miles Davis, Jefferson Hack, Elon Musk , Nelson Mandela , Vybz Kartel, Jesus Christ ‘the black one haha’, Mohammed Ali, Fela Kuti , Nick knight , Wangari Maathai, Zaha Hadid those individuals particularly because of the resilience, prowess and intellect they display in what they do or did also I’m big on the idea of service to humanity, I’m not drawn to ideas, subjects or people who are not in service to others.
Do you believe in astrology? And what’s your zodiac sign?
Yeah not really, but somehow every time I come across astrology articles they seem to be speaking to me lol….. I was told I’m a Virgo though.
What’s your life and work philosophy?
Keep it real !
What advice would you have for anyone treading on the same path as you?
Stay focused, Avoid the Bullshit!
Lastly, what random thing would you like us to know about yourself?
I’m open source.
Thank you for your time Cole. It was a pleasure interviewing a mastermind like you and I’m glad he allowed me to be the one to do so
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