△☐○ | Week 13 | See you soon New York

My dear New York, I love you with all my heart. These past three months felt like another life. A life I lived in a parallel universe. An introduction to what my life could be in the future. A beautiful but oh-too-short ride. And even though I could have stayed there with you, this will be just a short goodbye to come back stronger.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Everything. Everybody.
There weren’t three things that stood out to me. Everything did. New York is like design. It breathes with contrast. From the tiny streets of Bushwick to the immensity of Manhattan, the lightness of a little girl slurping her melting gelato in Williamsburg to the homeless begging to survive, the warmth of people squeezing on the L train to the freezing seriousness of people in suits, the Empire State and its tall friends to the wildest Atlantic ocean, the highly sophisticated Pentagram designs to the shittiest wanted cat poster, the $0 incredible sunsets on rooftops to the ridiculously expensive room without light in which you live, the smile of a stranger to the tears of a tired toddler, etc. The beauty of this city has no end. It’s raw. It’s wild. It’s dirty. It’s chic. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s alive. It sucks all your energy but gives you back even more energy for the next day. It’s screaming freedom and diversity. It’s liberating. It’s like a bath with ice. It may not be comfortable, but it’s freaking sensational.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

A sharp mirror
New York shows you who you truly are because you are constantly out of your comfort zone. Wherever you are. Work, subway, home, park, beach, restaurant, library, supermarket, bus, museum, deli, rooftop, bar… even in the fucking restroom. You sweat. You fight. You go the extra mile. You survive. You grow. You live. And when you win a jackpot, you know you’ve deserve it. Because nothing comes on silver plate.

○ 1 Question

When will I be back?
When I arrived to the airport, I cried at the check-in. This old man who picked up my luggage said: you will pay a $100 if you don’t remove something from your bag. Fucking New York asking for my money until the last second. It didn’t even let me cry in peace. I guess the city knows my tears were useless since it will see my face again sooner than I think. No wonder why I saw this bus displaying smile, rather than a destination, on my last day of work. I removed Paula Scher’s last book and carried it proudly in my arms. It’s true. You don’t deserve to be with my socks.

△☐○ | Week 12 | Reflections

One week left before leaving NYC; therefore, one week left before getting more than three hours of sleep per night and trying to do it all. Since I’m not ready for this electroshock yet, here is the tip of my do-it-all-iceberg-week.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Narcissus Garden
Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored metal spheres is on view in an abandoned industrial train garage in Fort Tilden. The installation itself is pretty impressive. Now, what’s funny is experiencing the room surrounded by a crazy tension coming from all the rules that security guys keep repeating—making people unnecessarily upset. It was hilarious. One of the rules was to keep bags outside. This lady was screaming at this poor guy: “I have expensive things in my bag, you need to provide lockers!” Lockers? It’s an abandoned garage, darling. What an irony! It was the perfect Narcissus Garden where you could clearly see everybody’s ego unleashed into the wild. Genius.

Hanging out with Wael Morcos
Besides eating too much cake, Nobody-me started my 28 year on Earth by hanging out with Wael Morcos in his studio and talking about Arabic typography. And honestly, I find it mind-blowing when highly successful people are humble, kind and want to help. It inspires me and feeds me so much.

The Party
Martin Creed’s Work No. 1190: Half the air in a given space is a closed room full of gold balloons. The artist gives a tangible form to the invisible: air. He also gave me a room to play during lunch time after working on things that didn’t change the world and drinking my pain away. So. Thank you Martin Creed. Great party by myself.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

The What’s Next Moment
You know this What’s Next Moment when you realize that you took a different path than you thought you would be taking, because you grew apart from the projections you had of the future you, and start questioning your initial plans to figure out what’s next… Well… in an empty beach, I had my what’s next moment. Should I leave advertising? Should I work in a design agency? Should I teach? Should I exclusively follow my love for typography? Should I be an artist? In a meeting with my CCO, I said that I was in advertising to shape culture and contribute to a positive change in society. That, I know. But I was wondering if advertising was the right industry for me to do so. He replied that the only creatives that businesses get to work with are in advertising, and change comes with frustration because it is incredibly slow. Indeed, it is. Indeed, he’s right. Now I feel like it’d my mission in life if I were a superhero. I am not fucking wearing an underwear over a fucking pant like fucking Superman!

○ 1 Question

Art or design?
It took me one year to understand that art is hanging a chair on the wall and design is sitting on the chair because that’s what it’s made for. I think it was really confusing in my mind because both of them use aesthetics to tell stories and communicate with audiences. So… Science or design?

△☐○ | Week 11 | A Different Perspective

I have a lot of respect for my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Aroyo, for telling us that there were many ways to solve a problem, and thus, many ways to look at things. That made me a terrible kid who questioned everything—earning my mom’s blandest answer, “you will know when you grow up,” and, most importantly, perspective.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Clarity in prostitution
At a time when male nudes are considered obscene and pornographic, I discovered Joshua Lutz’s Mind the Gap at Clamp Art Gallery. The show explores moments of clarity, interrupted by mental illness, sex and addiction. Prostitution is part of the narrative. And curiously enough, I found his interpretation of prostitution part of his moments of clarity, rather than separate from it. Quite salient, to be honest.

A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful
Anxiety and hope are determined by our expectations of the future. Candy Chang’s installation at the Rubin Museum of Art invites visitors to hang their hopes and anxieties on a wall. The extraordinary part of this installation is to realize how similar we all are, despite our respective differences. Except for these two…

One street, different countries
We wanted to travel with friends this weekend, but it rained. Instead, we decided to stay in Brooklyn, and experienced different places. We started with a café bookstore in Vancouver. Then, we had tacos in a Mexican pueblo. And we finished with a gelato in Sicilia. New York is so impressive with its ability to create authentic experiences that make you forget where you truly are… around the block. Traveling couldn’t be easier!

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

In 11 weeks, I grew up
We were walking home with my roommate. I looked up and found my neighbor, standing by his window and listening to a Jazz record. I smiled at him and said: “this is really nice.” He smiled back. My roommate immediately reacted: “it’s crazy how you are one with world. You notice so many details and engage conversations with everybody. It’s been three years I lived here, and never even said hi to this man.” I didn’t realize how much I grew up in 11 weeks until he mentioned all this. Being in New York certainly made me fully connected to the present. It helped me cultivate more empathy to find beauty in everything that surrounds us, and inhale positive energy. But I still have a lot of growing up to do. I mean… this type is pretty damn horrible. Ew. Ew. Ew.

○ 1 Question

Why are there so many psychics in NYC?
In every corner, you can find bright neon letterforms for readings, and it’s not an open mic for poets. On Friday night, as I was walking in Chelsea with no purpose, I decided to go in. 10 minutes later, I left with a tragic portrayal of my future. Honestly, I respect the dramatic performance. Clap clap. “You have no faith” said the psychic angrily at the end. “I actually do… in your creativity.” She didn’t like it. I don’t know why. Maybe she didn’t see that coming. Ha!

△☐○ | Week 10 | About love

“Is it the same song you were listening to yesterday?” my boss asked me curiously. Yeah. I love Radiohead so much I can listen to Reckoner day and night for weeks. Strange feeling? Not really. We need love in everything we do as we need water to live. Love is all magic and loss, you know. And that’s what life is about. Bisou Lou.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Afraid to love
David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art is heartbreaking. Wojnarowicz battled for AIDS, and died from it. What broke my heart was his thought that AIDS made love terrifying. In the same exhibition, we come across Peter Hujar’s corpse photographed by Wojnarowicz. Sadly, he died from loving too much.

This must be the place
I presented my Arabic typography project to Type Directors Club during Type Thursday. The first thing I saw when I arrived was a little sticky note saying: this must be the place. Coming at a time when I questioned my choice of staying in advertising, I must say, it made me smile. But it didn’t make me forget my anxiety to speak in front of all these highly aware eyes staring at me, after a very short year learning to be a designer. I prepared an entire speech, but I couldn’t follow a word of it. I folded my piece of paper, and started talking. I just gave all my heart to it, and truly felt that this was the place for me—a feeling amplified by the love and support I received. I am very humbled and grateful for this experience, and can’t wait to develop my project in the upcoming months.

Madame Rick died
After 9/11, the liberal Kathy Kriger moved to Casablanca and opened the famous Rick’s café. Before she died, she wrote in a memoir: “If I’m honest, I always thought I would find a man while following my dream; […] that didn’t happen. Instead, with Rick looking over my shoulder, I found myself.” Her words are as beautiful as the spirit of tolerance she created at the Rick’s. RIP Madame Rick.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

When I grow up, I want to be Paula
I wrote to Paula Scher, and she sent me her last monograph. Forget about the Bible! I’m telling you, this is all you need! Works is a-ma-zing. I couldn’t sleep the first night I had it. I devoured every page I could, in love. I kept reading on the subway, and finished it the next day. When you start reading, Paula talks about all the days she spent crying at work. Ha! I’ve been there too. But see… the great thing about this book is realizing that Paula is everywhere in New York. It’s impressive. From a record store to Rockaway Beach, one could see her work. Design has no limit if we think of it as environmental. This notion of space broadened my definition of design, once again. Thank you, Paula, for this gorgeous book. You will always be my hero.

○ 1 Question

Why do big corporations educate us?
I met the Wondrous Quin on the subway, and I noticed that she does not shave her legs. I thought it was a beautiful statement. The truth is… We learn to alienate ourselves based on social point of views, driven by the economy. “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule” believes Nietzsche quite rightly. And, funny enough, we blame Mercury and the moon for alienating us. But if Gillette and its friends weren’t making a shit ton of money, shaving wouldn’t be a thing. Same for every single false belief carved in our system. We could certainly be more aligned with our human nature if we were Quin. So fuck Mercury, the moon, and Gillette. Peace and Hair Love, y’all.

△☐○ | Week 9 | Everyday Life of a Random Creative

This week I saw my first crime scene down the street in Bushwick. One person died et two were injured. And sadly, it all seemed very normal. “Just another gang story.” I did not even pause to think about it, but now that I am writing I decided to start with it. I am simply very thankful to be alive. Alive for all that follows and more. Alive to be a random creative.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Storm King Art Center.
Wow! This a gigantic outdoor sculpture museum in the middle of a forest, just an hour North from NYC. The views are incredible, and the art is impressive—making you feel like a Lilliputian creature among the oversized installations. And it feels good to change point of views.

Form becomes function
Talking about point of views… I spent hours and hours looking at Gotham from an entirely new perspective—forms not letters. I used this typeface to create Arabic letters while respecting the geometry of Tobias Frere-Jones’ typeface. Using Gotham was not a random choice. On one hand, I feel like the Arab world is broken, divided and lost its strength. On the other hand, Gotham translates New York City’s boldness and charisma. So I wanted to reimagine the Arab world through the intrepid Gotham. I had the time of my life. I was literally in love with this exercise (hence the word below meaning deep love). But the great thing about it is realizing that typography is, first and foremost, form… legible form.

Money is just money, people!
It’s very insidious and hidden, but it’s there: people being extremely self-conscious about their money. All the time. Every dime matters. Every action is convertible into cash. Every introduction turns into weighting how much you make. Relax! Money is money. Green paper that gets you from point A to point B. That’s it. After experiencing what being rich feels like but also what being so broke that I couldn’t buy myself lunch feels like, all I can say is that we can’t get too attached to money. So, if you are, breathe boo. Air is free.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

We have everything in common.
I watched Eight Grade, an honest teen movie that can resonate with everybody. All the awkward moments shown in the film are brilliant in the sense that they are a hundred percent true and universal. We have everything in common. So, be kind to one another.

○ 1 Question

Isn’t it just hair?
I went to cut my hair this weekend in a salon pampering both men and women, yet prices were based on gender. Why do we separate hairstyle based on gender? It’s expensive to have a vagina. No wonder why women decided to trade their hair for balloons!

△☐○ | Week 8 | Bodies, shit, and typography

Eight weeks means two months already. As Gandhi probably said one day while farting, fuck maths.

△Three things that stood out to me

Seven hundred years of the body
Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body, at the Met Breuer, is a mind-blowing exhibition. Integrating color into the chaste European monochrome seems as provocative as the refusal of color to me now. I never thought of body sculpture that way before.



“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”

The Met shows the Vatican’s holy garments in NYC. Far from the poor man’s bible, the Catholic Church is celebrated with haute couture, being a mix of visual splendor and dramatic mise-en-scène. One question popped in my mind. Majestic, everything is. But how come there is almost no men’s wear? The Catholic imagination is either an ironic statement of gender or a serious faux pas.

No matter where you go, shit happens
New York or not, in advertising and design, you’d better have thick skin to work in the industry. There are as many amazing people as assholes—everywhere. It can be hard to swallow shit. I swallowed oh-so-much shit this past week. Not yummy. Right thing to do when it happens? Taking a break. And by a break, I mean count to three. 1, 2, 3. Then, fuck it! Laugh at yourself, and keep going.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

I have to start somewhere
I’m so in love with typography that I almost sacralize it. Paying respect to every curve and appreciating complexity is important to me. But I have to fail. I need to start somewhere, after all. Attending Wael Morcos’ talk, at the Herb Lubalin Center of Design, made me realize what that somewhere was. And that somewhere is designing an Arabic typeface. Not only I have a huge heritage, but we only have a few existing Arabic typefaces. So. Challenge accepted people! Actually started this morning at 5 a.m. Yes, I’m insane. Nothing new.

○ 1 Question

How, on earth, is this already week 8?
I wish there were more hours in a day and more days in a week to do everything I want to do. I honestly don’t understand how time works, but that motherfucker needs to slow down a bit. Talking about time, I’ll leave you with these 1975 Time covers.


△☐○ | Week 7 | Art, the Moon and La Macarena

Sorry, this won’t be about France winning the World cup.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Male nudes aren’t en vogue anymore
Far from the 15th century male nude predominance in the art, the male gaze is still blatantly celebrated… even in the NY Museum of Sex! I counted only three artworks showing males, and they were blurred photographs. Blurred! I kid you not! Since dick pics are Tinder’s territory only, they should probably rename themselves Museum of Vaginas. +1 for Apples’ porn though. 

Grand Fucking Design Advice
This Brian Buirge + Jason Bacher poster is (fucking) self-explanatory.

In a Skyspace
I was amazed by James Turell’s Meeting installation at Moma PS1. He usually creates works of art around light, exploring fundamental questions about the nature of human perception by rendering tangible the act of vision. Meeting is a room with a squared cut in the ceiling, opening onto a view of the sky, and a wooden bench seating. I was with four strangers. We were sitting in silence, experiencing the light and warmth of the installation. The wood smelled like the beach house that my parents owned when I was little. Almost hypnotized, I fell asleep. Thirty minutes later, I noticed that I was not the only one!

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

Chasing the moon is getting the moon
Every day, à huis clos with a copywriter, we had to come up with multiple ideas then comp them so they can be presented (and killed) in the same afternoon. Chasing the moon can be truly exhausting but also ridiculously rewarding. Not only we came up with ideas that were worth keeping us awake at night, but we also pushed ourselves beyond our limits to places where we didn’t even think we could land. And that alone is the moon.

○ 1 Question

Can you make it bigger?
Like La Macarena, this question is irritating and will always come back to haunt you. Clearly, the person behind nothing is impossible was not a designer. I should learn how to stare at the Macarena Design Criminals the same way this cool dude stared at me! Heeeey, Macarena… Sigh.

 

△☐○ | Week 6 | Voyage d’Émotions

“We ought to cultivate a little emotion, a little emotional vice, from time to time. […] It may be hard for us, and among ourselves, we perhaps laugh at the appearance we thus present. But what does it matter! There is no other method available for conquering ourselves.”

Nietzsche—Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist

 

△Three things that stood out to me

I fell in love with an f.
I attended a lecture by Berton Hasebe, Christian Schwartz and Patrick Li. God. Meeting more type nerds was liberating. Weirdos, we ain’t! No. I fell in love with an f, set in Schnyder, and wasn’t scared to scream it out loud. F, I love you. Forever. And ever! There.

A 4th of July in the 90s
I woke up, and decided to go to a park in Long Island with friends. We didn’t know what to expect, but we certainly didn’t think we were going to be back in time for few hours. Something was off. People were engaging in all kinds of activities. Playing. Barbecuing. Riding on a pedal boat. Telling stories. Petting a dog. Eating watermelon. Shooting fireworks. Drinking a beer. And if you still don’t get it, don’t worry. It took us a while to realize that no one was holding a phone. No one was disconnected from life. And that felt like childhood. Coming back to the city felt like war though, and gave me anxiety.

The little girl who was still a little girl
On the subway, a 5-year-old girl was sitting like society banned us to sit. Legs wide open. Seeing her naively defy the unspoken rule felt so refreshing. And that also felt like childhood to me. Boring adults, we become.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

Happiness is out there, waiting to be noticed
I worked all weekend until Sunday afternoon. In the zone. Almost no sleep. I needed a break. I went to Prospect Park. It was breathtaking.

Sunny. Little breeze. The colors of the trees are extremely bright. Leaves have different shades of green. The lake is covered with green algae. Three girls are picnicking near me. A Beaux-art style boathouse is in the background, reminding me of an old theater in Tangier. It’s heartwarming. Radiohead is playing in my ears. Few people are walking in and out from this perfect décor. I lost track of time until fireflies started dancing on the grass.

Everything seemed designed in that space. Crafted with love. Like a movie scene with the most unreal reality. This hyperconsciousness of what was around me made me genuinely happy. Yes. This is what true happiness feels like. I’m sure these girls felt the same.

○ 1 Question 

“Would everything be taken away?”
Adrian Piper’s statement was somehow less of a platitude than “every great thing has an end.” And yet, I wonder if every great thing just deserves that we fight for it. Would everything be taken away if we fight to keep everything? It’s always easier to give up and dub it with a stupid romantic saying.

△☐○ | Week 5 | Baptized New Yorker

There is no day that look like the other. Almost everything has a puzzling dimension. Like when you’re traveling. You don’t do things twice. And even if you do, it seems new. Knowing this, I have my entire sensitivity out, absorbing everything it can. From the wondrous to the shitty. It’s all magic to me.

 

△Three things that stood out to me

Bayrle’s foresaw our digital future
First, you should know that Bayrle was a German advertiser in the 60s. And I adore seeing work from those who take unusual paths to reach Rome. In his retrospective at the New Museum, it was crystal clear to me how we got to where we are. Pain. Hundreds of tiny pictures, units and patterns set on a grid form a larger picture and change perspectives as one walks by his artworks. His exhibition, highlighting consumerism, propaganda, and desire is hypnotizing… and thinking of all the midcentury tools that he must have used to painfully create his not-digital-twists was inspiring.

“Divorce is my dream”
In a very long conversation talking about plants, love, and album covers, I told my roommate I got a divorce two years ago. Usually, I face pity, surprise or judgement. But his reaction was totally unexpected. He jumped off his chair shouting: “this is amazing! It’s my dream to get a divorce!” To him (and only to him), it meant I was freaking cool for some alien reason. We laughed so hard. And it felt good.

Fuck you!
One of my favorite things on earth is to take pictures of everything that inspires me visually. Usually just random details. So, this time, I found myself in the middle of crossing a street, when the signal was allowing me to do so, and decided to take a picture of buildings… right there. And, from nowhere, I heard this truck driver screaming at me: ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?! Quite surprised, I replied that if the signal wasn’t red, I could roll my body on the crosswalk if I wanted to. And then it escalated to a series of fuck you.
Me: What the fuck?
Him: Fuck off!
Me: Fuck you, you fucking idiot!
Him: Fuck you!
The situation was so fucking ridiculous that I laughed and left. I’m not proud, but this was it. I was a baptized New Yorker. Yay?

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

Authenticity has a framework
The exhibition 200 women who will change the way you see the world, at the Pen + Brush Gallery, is full of wonderful female portraits and authentic stories based on five questions about what is most important to their life. What’s truly powerful is how they have so much in common, and ipso facto, how we have so much in common. And, this, we seem to forget in our everyday life. Yet, authenticity mysteriously needs a setting. It had to be in front of a white backdrop to work out. So capricious.

○ 1 Question 

What happens when you have a creative block and the Oblique Strategies don’t work?
Suddenly, taking pee breaks and looking at my bellybutton seem numbingly interesting. That very big void likes to swallow every inch of my brain because I can’t add up the pieces. And I was pretty good at maths! Dammit!

△☐○ | Week 4 | Outside my comfort zone

This week, I was inside a brand-new washer. Quite violent. Mildly heartbreaking. Extremely breathtaking. It means I have stories, and you need a coffee because I’m clearly over caffeinated. 

 

△Three things that stood out to me

There is no point of being a graphic designer unless it’s a calling
I am not talking about the cheesiness of doing the job you love versus being stuck in some shitshit you fucking hate. I’m talking about an inevitable metamorphosis to any designer worth their salt. The moment obsession becomes more than obsession, you’re fucked. I find numerals, indexes and hot water supply pipes sexy. I also think nothing is good enough, especially my work. That kind of obsession. So if you’re not a graphic designer, you can still be an acceptable human being. I’m telling you, you’d better be a coconut eater… unless it’s a calling.

Doing something you hate might be great
How many times do we take situations we have no control over and make the most of them? Paul Sahre made me work with Papyrus. At first, I wanted to jump from my table (I’m 1 apple tall) and die. God. Why? Why me? What did I do (besides everything I wasn’t supposed to do)? He gave me no choice but to embrace this horrible foot drawn typeface, and make something out of it. After two hours of gesticulating like an agonizing fish, I finally made an abstract background with it, using several layers and transparency. I must say, I almost like Papyrus now. Fascinating!

Heroes are human
This year, I met several people I admired at work. People who used to paralyze me. People who used to give me an instant brain damage. Then, I realized that the only difference between someone I admire and me, is that I’m a retard (to a certain degree). But both of us poop. So, all good.

☐ 1 thing that made sense to me

Meaningless is harder than meaningful
After doing my typography workshop with Paul Sahre, I understood that the hardest thing isn’t the concept. The hardest thing is the form. We are in a vacuum. All the information that we swallow every day end up being remixed intuitively, jamming in our head, which makes it hard and almost alien to not give meaning to something.

○ 1 Question
Why can’t people be themselves?
Obviously, this starts with me being drunk. And drunk me talks with everybody to seek truth. It’s odd. I mean, why would anyone want to talk to twenty strangers to find truth? I should have opened a dictionary. Seriously. The meaning of truth is defined in black and white. I naively thought that in a city as progressive as this one, people would naturally be themselves. The truth is, no one is. And, this, made me cry. What happened to being human? Why can’t we be simply ourselves? What would be the worst thing that could happen? I never heard someone dying from being themselves. People are dead from not being themselves. Oh well, this escalated quickly to some very dark shit. Here is a free hug from a chair! Yay!

P.S.: Happy pride!