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Architecture graduate aims to work across fields

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Olufela Joda

Olufela Joda graduates this month with a master’s degree in architecture, but he has no plans to limit his design aspirations to architecture alone. 

“I don’t think the role of a designer has to be static or streamlined to one particular field,” said Joda, who is from Nigeria and moved to Arizona in 2018. “For example, I’m an architect, but I’m currently working on creating a streetwear brand that tries to bring the conversation about nature conservation into popular spaces. That’s how I see my career going – designing many different things from buildings to clothes to album covers, like a Virgil Abloh or Olafur Eliasson.”

A school project to design a bird studio for Ramsey Canyon preserve inspired the streetwear brand. 

“Initially the objective was to take the ‘conservation’ conversation into the public realm because urban streetwear is a fundamental part of our modern lifestyle,” Joda said. “Over the past few months the idea has evolved into something slightly different.”

Jọda is a niche clothing and lifestyle brand rooted in youth culture, offering streetwear fashion and accessories made with sustainable materials and processes.

He is still developing the brand, which he said is a lifestyle idea expressed through clothing and aims to create a community of everyday people personally invested in today’s conversations while elevating their personal style.

During his time at ASU, Joda made sure to work on a wide range of projects, including interning at Corgan, where he was part of the aviation team working on the Phoenix Skyharbor Terminal 4 south concourse project. 

“I don’t think I have a favorite project to be honest,” he said. “That would be like having a favorite child.”

“The most important thing I learned at ASU is that my interests as a designer can be beyond the borders of conventional architecture,” he said. “I still love architecture, but now I want to be a designer who works across many different media and fields.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I don’t think there was ever really an “aha moment.” I’ve loved designing things since I was little, so when I finished secondary school the only real option that made sense at the time was architecture. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: There were many factors, I think, but most importantly ASU was the most welcoming of the colleges I had dialogues with and that influenced my decision.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Max Underwood taught me a lot of things. I was his TA for two classes and his student in the spring 2020 semester. In that time he taught me about work-life balance and how to stay organized across multiple projects at the same time. He also taught me about how important it is to network. Ultimately, I think the most important thing Max taught me is how to think about problems and challenges, and that is something I will always take with me. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Enjoy all the little moments, they go by quickly.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The SDFC soccer pitch.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m working on a few personal projects right now, so my immediate plans for after graduation are finding a balance between working at a design firm and working on my own projects simultaneously. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use the money to tackle poverty in my home country from a political perspective and through activism as well. I believe you can’t create sustainable  solutions to societal problems without creating an institutional framework that addresses the problem. I want to discuss this in more detail with anyone who is interested. #ENDSARS.

samccar5@asu.edu