Standing out from the crowd has never been a problem for young Bahraini graphic designer Sara Sami; who’s eclectic range of expertise has caught the eyes of many. We caught up with Sara to learn more about her beginnings of being a court reporter, the one-woman-show; that is her design and printing business, and her whimsically ironic Monsterville gift item collection.
To start off, tell our readers al little bit about yourself. What you do, where you studied and how you chose it.
I’m 27 and I graduated with a Bachelors in Graphic Design from the University College of Bahrain (UCB). I chose this field because I’ve always had an interest in art and I was surrounded by it throughout my adolescent years as I come from a family of painters and poets. My friends and family always encouraged me to develop my skills in this field; which led me to my career. Now I can’t imagine my life without art. I try to expand my field as much as I can so that I don’t feel limited by designing which is why I’m running a printing and design office at Akhbar Al Khaleej. This has given me an opportunity to meet a lot of clients and learn more about the printing world; which every designer should have background knowledge of.
Before choosing to major in Graphic Design; I was looking into majoring in Fine Arts but I imagined it being a difficult lifestyle to make a living in. So my next option was Graphic Design; which I have not regretted at all, even though I’m swamped with never ending deadlines!
One of your earliest jobs was working for Bahrain’s leading local daily newspaper, the Gulf Daily News. What was it like to work there, was it part of your plan to remain there for as long as you did? How did you make the shift to graphic design and starting your own agency?
After I graduated from high school, I decided to work at the Gulf Daily News as a reporter before I started college. I had no intentions in staying there more than a summer job but I ended up there for four years! On my second day of the job, I was told that I’d be the main reporter in covering the Public Prosecution and the court. I was absolutely petrified by the idea, but a week after, I fell in love with the job! Even though criminals of all sorts surrounded me, it was such a thrill to be there and to be able to do this job. I don’t do well with routines so this was the perfect job for me as every day had its mysteries. But that did not make me give up on my love for the art world. I still wanted to go to college and major in Graphic Design; which I did a year later but my last year in college was too hectic to manage both worlds so I had to leave the newspaper.
What were your beginnings as a young graphic designer starting a business on your own?
It was difficult and it still is because you have to constantly build your own clientele; where as if you were working at an advertising agency, you don’t have to worry about that except for designing. But what I love most about freelancing is I get to choose my own clients and I have been lucky to work with a few great ones. Every designer’s worst nightmare is working on corporate identities because you are very limited with your creativity and the company’s rules but in my case, I have managed to find great projects to work on and of my latest projects was working with Bahraini artist Hani Malik who asked me to design his CD cover art which has now been distributed all over the island.
What kind of work do you do on a daily basis?
On a daily basis I am mostly trying to get clients for print but if I’m not doing that, I work in my own projects such as Monsterville, which is a collection of illustrated gift items that revolve around monsters. I use my sarcasm to incorporate a modern twist in my work. My aim of the project is to make available gift items which can’t be found in your regular gift stores such as gift cards, mugs, notebooks, coasters, book marks, etc.
Was illustration always a part of your design process or did it emerge later on?
During my college years, I always found myself experimenting with different techniques and trying to learn new ways to develop my skills in the field. One of the many techniques that I had tried was illustration; which I enjoyed the most because it involved a lot of hand drawn work instead of being stuck with using my laptop the entire time. Sure you can come up with great designs using only design programs but when you incorporate some fine art into your work, it gives you more of an original feel.
Where did you originally get the inspiration to start your own monstrous gift items?
It started off as random sketches while hanging out with friends. I’d get my inspiration from my surroundings and the people around me and I’d just sketch down the idea. After having a collection of the monsters, I thought why not go public with it by making gift cards out of them and adding little messages to the monsters that people could relate to. The whole idea came down to bringing people together through these ironic monsters because they weren’t scary monsters at all. On the contrary, they are cute and innocent looking!
Do you face any struggles when trying to keep your monster illustrations original and different? If so, what are the struggles and how do you overcome them?
It’s difficult to come up with original and unique ideas, especially if you’re not in the right mood then you’ll never be able to actually produce something that you’ll be satisfied with so it’s a constant struggle in trying to be original. But thanks to the people I hangout with, we always seem to joke around which triggers a lot of my ideas so if there’s anyone I need to thank it has got to be my friends and family. I also love going to art galleries and museums; which gives me great motivation afterwards because you get to come across and meet a lot of talented people and it pushes you in wanting to do better.
If you had a choice to continue producing Printing and corporate identity design or whimsical illustrations, which would you chose and why?
It will definitely have to be my illustrations even though it’s been difficult because not a lot of people are open to different ideas. I’ve had a few odd looks every once in a while but as long as you enjoy what you’re doing, the disapproval of a few shouldn’t bring you down.
What has people’s feedback been like since unleashing your whimsical monsters on Bahrain’s society?
A lot of people have given me great feedback, especially the ones who are involved in the art world mostly because I think they are open to new and different ideas. Not that the general public haven’t been supportive of my work, on the contrary, they have been greatly enthusiastic as well. But in an island where people mostly follow trends, it’s difficult to survive when you’re the black sheep amongst them.
How would you describe your style of art?
I enjoy incorporating many styles in my art but I have found myself leaning towards the vintage/grunge look mostly. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying out new styles. The best part about my field is that there’s always something new to learn and try out.
Images provided by Sara SAmi. Click here to visit her Facebook page or follow Sara @Hairballx.
WORDS: BADRIYA AL-MAHMEED