In an industry which constantly places young creatives under the pressure of standardised art education, we find it heartening to discover graphic designers who are still self-taught. Such is the case for Accra-based designer Hanson Akatti, whose passion for drawing segued him into graphic design. “I’d download tutorials from the internet and try to apply what I’d learned in different scenarios,” Hanson tells It’s Nice That. “Some of my earliest teachers were the gomedia and Creative Bloq.” Now, Hanson is a brilliantly accomplished designer – ushering in a new era for African music and art curation through his own dynamic visual identity. Embracing vibrant rhythmic designs and captivating colour schemes, Hanson’s visual elements encapsulate the adventurous and ever-evolving spirit of African Gen Zers.
We’re particularly fond of Hanson’s work for Harmattan Rain – a platform that curates, features and interviews neo-African musicians and their stories. On the site, Hanson has designed covers for all the different playlists that Harmattan Rain produces. “I wasn't sure where or how to begin,” Hanson says. “What I did know was I wanted it to make bold statements with colour; I wanted the covers to reflect the bold maximalism of Gen Z aesthetics so it started and evolved with this idea in mind.” Hanson has already created an abundance of art for Ghana’s music industry, namely in album and single covers and the occasional poster. “Not that I play anything, but music, especially hip-hop, has an influence on me and it shows in my work,” Hanson says. “Collaborating with culture and music platforms is a thing I'm always going to do.”
As a designer so well versed in the music world, Hanson and Harmattan Rain was a perfect marriage. “For African Gen Z visuals, I particularly like the way you can't pinpoint a real aesthetic, it’s just a philosophy of maximalism,” Hanson tells us. “As a result, I wanted the colours to reflect the feeling of Harmattan, even though I used a very wide palette.” Hanson’s penchant for strong graphical elements such as shapes, lines and patterns lent itself to the work. “My love for these elements came from my need to fill the backgrounds of my illustrations since I was intimidated by drawing environments,” Hanson explains. “I just thought to double down on the things I'm good at and this gave my style a stronger identity.”
Each playlist cover not only reflects “African Gen Z” but also the style of Hanson himself. “I really like the patterns the lines created in the themed playlists,” Hanson adds. “And I like how the text is warped in the genre playlists. It's a distortion trick I really like.” As Harmattan Rain’s influence spreads, so too does Hanson’s designs. “I love seeing it show up on my social media feed,” he says. “Seeing people post and talk about them brings me joy.”
Hanson Akatti: Sister Sounds Playlist (Copyright © Harmattan Rain, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.