A talented creator and designer, and the man behind the “Arabian Gulf” bomb, Pendar Yousefi is a self-confessed engineer, designer, blogger and the man behind the artistic “Project 300”.. Judging from the multitude of projects he has gotten involved with, from school newspapers, to t-shirt designs, this creative force is one to watch for in promoting and supporting Persian culture. I had a chance to ask Pendar some questions recently.
PersianMirror: When did you decide to pursue design?
Pendar Yousefi: I like to think of myself as an engineer who is an arts enthusiast. Both my brother and I were good at drawing when we were kids, and our parents spotted a potential and hired Mr. Bahman Abdi – a prominent Iranian cartoonist - to give us formal lessons, to whom I always remain grateful. My brother went on to become a doctor and I became an engineer. During my undergrad years at UBC, I rediscovered my passion for arts and worked as a designer for several offices on campus, and for the university’s Persian Club. But it wasn’t until I started graduate school at U of T where I got more serious. The more relaxed nature of grad school gave me more time to focus on arts, and I started contributing regularly to campus newspapers by submitting comic strips and illustrations. I then served as the illustration editor for the university’s largest newspaper, and started making websites for various businesses and university departments.
By the time I finished my graduate degree in electrical engineering, I had already built a sizeable design portfolio.
I currently enjoy working as a full time designer in a local Toronto firm, as well as doing a lot of freelance art and design work. I also produce a weekly comic strip called “In Var e Aab” – the first of its kind in Persian - which is currently being syndicated the BBC (on zigzagmag.com). I also design t-shirts and maintain an online store. I’m always interested in doing new things and I’m still looking for ways to use and incorporate my engineering knowledge into what I do.
PM: What are some of your daily challenges as an artist?
PY: As far as clients go the biggest daily challenge is trying to get them to agree with your proposed design solution. Whenever you propose a design that is slightly breaking the norms, you are asking the client to take risks. The challenge is to convince them that risk is worth taking.
And as far as personal challenges go, the most significant one is trying to keep up with the latest design trends, learning new techniques, and generally trying to improve the quality of my work. The first part –keeping up with the trends- is incredibly easy these days.
PM: Tell us about your more successful projects.
PY: If success is measured by media attention, then by far the two most successful projects I’ve done are the Arabian Gulf Google bomb and Project 300. After the National Geographic decided to use the term Arabian Gulf on their latest world atlas two years ago, Iranians started various forms of online protest. I started a campaign with the aim of attracting favorable media attention to the issue and putting more pressure on National Geographic. With the help of thousands of fellow bloggers, the project was a success and if you search for the terms “Arabian Gulf” on Google now, the first result that you get is a mock page that I made for this campaign, resembling an error message which states “The Gulf you are looking for does not exist, Try Persian Gulf”.
Project 300 aims at showcasing the forgotten side of Persian arts and culture. It began as a reaction to the recently released movie “300”, but since then it has grown to something far bigger than a simple protest to a single movie. Recognizing the artistic achievements in the movie and the comic book 300, I decided to call on Persian artists to submit their art to display and promote our culture the way we want to show it ourselves. I firmly believe that if we don’t directly get involved in shaping the world’s opinion of us, we can’t expect an accurate portrayal from others. There are many talented young Persian artists which are either still unrecognized, or are busy doing their own thing. Project 300 provides a platform for them to come together and display their art and gain exposure for it, and in the process show the human and artistic side of Iran to the world.
There is already a good gallery of submitted work set up on the Project 300 website, and since it is an ongoing project I am always accepting artwork from artists world-wide. Besides the gallery, Project 300 also has a blog which regularly features news and spotlights about Persian artists and Persian culture in general.
I also used my experience from the Arabian Gulf project to achieve good search engine rankings for the Project 300 site as well, and so far thanks to more than 3,000 incoming links from various blogs and sites the Project 300 site is on the first page of results for the phrase “300 the movie”.
PM: Your graphics have a beautiful Iranian influence. Where do you find your inspiration for this type of detail?
PY: With so many different dynasties and empires ruling over Iran during its colorful history, each with their own unique artistic style, getting inspiration is not difficult; Inspiration is everywhere. The challenge is in staying away from the clichés and using the inspiration in a more unique and fresh way.
Personally, I have a decent library of photographs that I have taken from different cities during my trips to Iran that I frequently use as reference. The details of Persian architecture is something I have always drawn upon for my designs. I also refer to various books and online sources about Persian art and history depending on the specific project I’m working on.
PM: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
PY: Internet-connected Laptop, Generator to power the laptop, extra batteries for backup.
Full Name: Pendar Yousefi
Born In: Tehran 1981
Favorite Color: Turquoise
Favorite Drink: Cucumber Sake
Languages: Persian, English
Currently Reading: Sky Doll comics
To see more of Pendar’s work, please visit www.legofish.com.