Q&A with Muiz Anwar
Q&A with Muiz Anwar / Designer Extraordinaire from Manchester, England.
by Ibraheem Youssef
I came across this really talented fellow designer Muiz Anwar, from Manchester, UK on my daily Flickr browse lately, his work is striking and bold, definitely commanding my attention. From reinterpretations of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, to in your face splashes of colour perfectly and carefully utilized over top some unique designs. Brilliant overall work, I got in-touch with him recently and bounced a few questions off of him, here’s what he had to say:
Ib: Hey there, Can you tell us a bit of your upbringing ..
M: I’m Manchester born and raised, which is in the North-West of England. Manchester is famous not only for its’ rain, but also for its’ iconic musical exports and design culture: The Hacienda, Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Oasis, Peter Saville, Malcom Garrett…
Ib: What’s the earliest Creative related memory you can recall?
M: My earliest creative memory is hard to pin point – but one of the earliest would be drawing animals and dinosaurs on the back of stapled bunches of outdated timesheets my mum would bring home from work. I think I still have one or two of these, but the colour has faded a little.
Ib: Was there a certain point in your life when you decided to explore your arabic roots creatively as seen in some of your work? or has this always been something that just happened naturally for you?
M: Well racially my roots lie more immediately in Asia – but one thing has always fascinated me from a scientific, philosophical and theological perspective – is what I call, “the Origin of Order” – or how things came to be – including the various races of human.
In terms of exploring my religious and cultural inheritance – I was really oblivious to it through my teenage years as I was solely into illustration of the comic kind. My work is incredibly figurative so the abstraction I had seen in Islamic art was too divorced from my current haibtual passion.
My main foray into the arabic aesthetic was primarily motivated / catalysed by the War on Terror. I had never consciously indentified or understood my religious, cultural, ethnic or political identity (like many other young Muslims of my generation), until we were put into the public spotlight following Sept 11 – where mass hysteria ensued of the Muslim Menace propogated by media stereotypes and misinformation. No one seemed articulate enough to clarify who or what this community I was born into were or represented and consequently we were easily demonised and targeted.
During this process of academic and rigorous questioning of my identity – to better understand who, what, where, when, why and how my faith is the way it is – I gained a more intimate and intellectual relationship and awareness of all these things.
I began to appreciate the mathematics of architecture, the science in the design, the technical precision in traditional craftsmanship of the Islamic Arts and Empires. They were incredibly sophisticated and so ahead of their time in allowing art to inform science and vice versa – and it ultimately helped me make the decision to pursue my career in visual communication, or Graphic Design.
The ability to communicate sophisticated messages through visuals (A Picture is worth a thousand Words) was an incredibly potent sign in giving design a sense of purpose beyond the superfluous / ’soul-selling’ commercialist aesthetic. It had a function / significance / power to shape communities and minds – and as a member of community increasingly misunderstood, I saw it as a timely opportunity to use visual skills I had been blessed to have a lifetime’s worth of development to good use.
Ib: Excellent, when it comes to commencing any work, staring at the blank digital canvas, what triggers your motivation to start giving it?
M: It can be anything. I really am inspired by the world around me. Many designers choose to look to their own discipline and peers for inspiriation in their work – but my work and aesthetic has always been informed by a variety of things. It could the latest concept car by Audi or BMW, or a dress from a couture catwalk, a new scientific theorem, a piece of graffiti, a story in the news…. Whatever it is it has to be genuinely innovative – something that triggers excitement, imagination or challenges my preconceptions. These are things that make the cogs in my mind begin to turn and whur into motion – and trigger images and words which manifest themselves into typography, photography, illustration, product design, graphic design, fashion ideas which I will sketch of create immediately.
Creativity and inspiration can never and should never be overly defined – to do so illustrates a lack of objectivity to your environment and how that environment can inform you.
Ib: Can you pick three of your favourite pieces of work and talk about them, within the realms of the four W’s (What, why, when, where)?
What: ILM Magazine
Why: It proved that editorial design can be both cutting edge & have substance.
It also provided me with my first project where I did my own photography, styling, typography, article writing, art direction, fashion and publication design – so despite the issues I see in it now, it’ll always hold a very special place in my heart.
When: 2008 / 2009
Where: Designed in Manchester, England.
What: “Morse Code” Arabic
Why: It pushed Arabic to its’ legible & aesthetic limits. I used to think the beauty and complexity of Arabic was evident in its’ curves. I proved myself wrong.
Where: Designed in Manchester, England.
Why: My first foray back to my first love after 5 years of intensive graphic work, I returned to my illustrative roots. Using my signature ballpoints, I began creating characters for a project that would explore how culture and tradition permeate through the generations, especially when those generations grow up in different environments. It’s the most successful form of characterisation through figurative illustration I have done in recent years.
Where: Created in Manchester, England.
Ib: What are some of the sites that you just have to check on a daily basis?
M: Sites I have to check on the daily (too many to mention, I literally cruise upto 50/60 blog front pages from a meticulously organised bookmark library) I’ve included a small selection below:
Flickr / Twitter / Behance / Typography Served / FFFFOUND / FormFiftyFive / Creative Review Blog / Eye Blog / Wired Magazine / Vanity Fair Magazine / Coute Que Coute Blog / Icon_ology / Boston Big Picture / The Die Line / The Lovely Package
Ib: In fin, Just before you die, as you are about to expire from this world, what would you would’ve liked to achieve with your life?
M: Dedicated his life and craft to making a difference.
Ib: Thanks, for your time man, Keep on inspiring the lot of us.
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