Earlier this year, Ibraheem Youssef left a two-year stint as Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Hong Kong in search of “new challenges in the Asia region”, as he put it at the time of his departure.
An industry vet of nearly two decades, the Canadian-native got his start in 2000 as a graphic designer at Cairo boutique studio Pulp Pictures.
Following that he returned back home to work at Leo Burnett, Lowe Roche and DentsuBos in Toronto and then Sidlee in Montréal, before heading to Boston with Hill Holliday.
Of equal import over the years has been his personal creative projects –among our favorites being a series of movie posters, which were widely featured in the media back in 2010 and his ongoing series of travelogues.
Branding in Asia recently caught up with Ibraheem Youssef to see what else he’s been up to since stepping away from the daily grind.
Being untethered from the daily grind, what have you been doing to percolate the creative juices?
In the 17-years that I’ve been working in the creative industry, whether I was employed at the time or taking on more of a freelance role, I’ve always made sure to keep myself creatively stimulated via constantly challenging myself to simply “create”, anything and everything, and not necessarily only advertising-related.
Creativity is like a muscle, the more one “creates”, the more creative one is. From filling countless moleskins with illustrations to creating music videos. The best way to stay Creative is by not being afraid to constantly create and put it out there to the world, no matter how big or small.
Complacency is the enemy of creativity, and that is exactly what I ‘hate’ –when there is no real investment into creating a culture within the agency, and work simply becomes a choir and ticking off certain boxes each day and trust me, a lot of agencies seem to fall into this trap.
Currently, I’m juggling a couple of personal projects, most notably my travel “music video” showcasing my recent trip to Egypt.
In the past couple years, whenever I travel somewhere new, in addition to the instant sharing of photos & updates via social media, I would capture a lot of my trip on video.
Then later, upon my return, I would spend a considerable amount of time editing and creating it into something beautiful.
You’re in the market for a new gig. What do you love and what do you hate most about finding the right fit in the creative industry?
To be more specific, I’m currently on the lookout mainly for freelance opportunities across Asia, I wouldn’t entirely rule out a full-time gig, but it would really depend on the agency in question and their culture.
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With regards to the second part of your question, I love it when an agency has a true sense of what their culture is all about. It’s quite inspiring when the management, employees, and everyone involved contributing in a proactive positive manner towards sustaining and maintaining what makes their culture unique.
Complacency is the enemy of creativity, and that is exactly what I “hate” –when there is no real investment into creating a culture within the agency, and work simply becomes a choir and ticking off certain boxes each day and trust me, a lot of agencies seem to fall into this trap.
A few years back, after the Canadian government released a poor choice of logos for the country’s 150th Anniversary you spearheaded an inspiring movement that saw creatives from across Canada contribute logos of their own. What was the experience like for you?
Overwhelming, humbling and very rewarding. When I created The150Logo.ca, I expected an eventual response from within the Canadian creative industry only. The response was immediate and unbound to the Creative industry as well. I received dozens of interview requests and the project was featured in every single major newspaper in Canada.
I also appeared on CBC National Television twice in addition to other stations to advocate my point of view regarding the project. I received hundreds of emails from designers all across Canada asking to be a part of the project and even got an amazing amount of International coverage, from Communication Arts to Creative Review, Fast Company to The Huffington post.
I really dislike the term ‘trend’ and try to avoid employing it whenever I can. I believe it implies imitation and lack of originality. Once something has been done, we (creatives) must try to innovate, not imitate. Following trends leads to a diluted output.
I view the project/movement as a success, because it enabled the Canadian public, Designers and non-Designers alike, to discuss the importance of good design on a national scale. The proposed logos were eventually scrapped and a contest was held to create a new one.
Where do you think organizations and businesses often go wrong in the branding process?
Two areas, rushing to create something without proper research and experimentation, just to get it out there. This often results in a flawed identity that is not well-rounded and cohesive. The second is a lack of communication between all parties involved in the branding process. The best identities stem from the transparent, collaborative and constant back and forth between everyone involved, clients and designers.
What are some trends in the ad industry that you like?
I really dislike the term “trend” and try to avoid employing it whenever I can. I believe it implies imitation and lack of originality. Once something has been done, we (creatives) must try to innovate, not imitate. Following trends leads to a diluted output.
Let’s just say that I like it whenever I see something appearing from within the ad industry that is not based on a trend.
What are some that you would like to see go away?
Trends all together, let’s constantly challenge ourselves to constantly explore new frontiers.
-You can work with any creative figure past or present. Who and why?
“Leonardo DaVinci, the father of pioneering creative solutions. The ultimate designer”.
Top 5 songs on your playlist:
- Bobby Hutcherson – Montara
- Jamiroquai – Automaton
- Ame Strong – Tout est Bleu
- Maylee Todd – Baby’s got it
- Roy Ayers – Everybody loves the Sunshine
-What work are you most proud of in your career?
“Easily The150Logo.ca, an unplanned movement, that led to Design and the importance of investing in good Design being discussed on a national scale in Canada.”
Illustration by Ibraheem Youssef. You can reach him on LinkedIn or follow him on Instagram.
I am the sum of dark and light. A traveller that is ignorant in the most beautiful way. I am the shining of the moon at night. A kindred soul resting peacefully on an emerald bay. I am the shooting star that graces our sight. A whisper, a dream that slowly fades away. //// @travelfeather #Dancer #Beauty #Grace #Dream #ElGouna #Egypt