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Monday Monday Monday, how you continue to inspire me. This week, I have a special talented friend that I’d like to introduce to everyone, meet Michele Tenki. Michele and myself attended the Ontario College of Art & Design back in the day, we’ve known eachother for quite a while now. Asides from being an extremely talented individual, Tenki, much like myself has a passion for Design which she has chosen to pursue as a career (and is doing quite well for herself for that matter). Her work continues to inspire me whenever I’m exposed to it, her website also is fresh and just a pleasure to visit every now and then. Enjoy Tenki!

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

M: Not going to lie, drawing on my bedroom wall. I had a decorative rug that acted as a headboard and I drew underneath it so my parents couldn’t see it. Another early creative experience was creating a logo. I was twelve and my dad let me design it for his company, an incredible gesture that I didn’t fully appreciate at that age. Looking back it’s nothing to brag about, but I do admire it for its originality and that it was hand drawn.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

M: I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. I love it. People have told me that the passion will fade over time, but I refuse to believe this, in fact it’s only getting stronger. There’s a lot to learn.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

M: Getting out of the house and going for a walk. Inspiration is easy to find on the web but it’s not tangible. It’s a different visceral experience – a more rewarding one – when physically finding something you least expect.

I: Share any of piece your work, recent or old and talk about it.

M: 5 months ago I was asked to art direct The Fourth Period – a hockey lifestyle magazine. I knew nothing of hockey and had never designed a magazine. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do and wasn’t going to let fear get in the way. I detached myself from the worst possible outcome and dove right in. It’s been a humbling experience and a constant work in progress.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

M: When I get ready in the morning I try to listen to a talk from Ted Talks. It starts the day of right and motivates me to make the day count.

When I need a good kick in the ass to get some work done I check out UnderConsideration.

When I need to stay on top of web design trends I visit Siteinspire.

DesignTaxi is good for afternoon lulls.

And Google Analytics is a lot of fun to track activity (or lack of activity) on my website. Especially the ‘Real-Time’ tool. It’s insane what google is up to these days.

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: 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 humans.

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)?

M: 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.

For more pictures click here


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.

When: 2009

Where: Designed in Manchester, England.


What: “Untitled”

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.

When: 2008

Where: Created in Manchester, England.

For more images in the series click here

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.

For more of Muiz’s work you can check out his Flickr and Personal Website

Also, If you know anyone that you think would be a great candidate to conduct and interview/showcase their work (even if it’s you!) send me a shout.

“Today’s demanding consumers expect even their beloved, favorite brands to step up their game. Many run-away online successes of offline brand “stunts” attest that consumers expect, and get really excited about, experiences that are unusual, fun, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging. With the power and immediacy of social media, surprising offline events and stunts have now turned into truly powerful promotional tools.”

“In 2010, TCH will launch Access Agency. It is a dedicated entity that will continue our work of creating highly original,transformational, yet eminently practical and results-oriented strategies for companies to stage the kinds of offline brand experiences that will increase the economic value of their offering.”

More @ The Cool Hunter

Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

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