Thursday, 26 March 2015

Trying to help Omani Designers - Step 1

A'Salam Alaikom,

"Been a while" that's always how I start my blog, I know, but I'll try to write more often just to pour my heart out when it comes to design in my country. So expect some happy moments and some angry ones in my coming blogs. I can whine and I can be extremely ecstatic.

I don't think I'll criticise ads as much anymore, because it's pointless - I write about them, people read, laugh, and it ends there. It's time for useful/productive blogs. Let's face it.. Nothing will change here unless a revolution is made by young Omani Designers. I say designers precisely, because fine artists and photographers have their own associations/communities that could take care of them, but we don't.

So today, I have made a decision that this will be MY job. As an Omani designer, my design path has not been easy in my country for the past 10 years and it's getting worrying and upsetting to see talented Omanis leave the country to seek better opportunities abroad. We lack nothing talent-wise! We just crave appreciation and support. The country is full of young, talented, creative and mad designers! 'cause a designer is not a designer unless she/he had a pinch of madness in them. Right? Right.

Neighbouring countries are waaaay ahead of us and it's time for us to fight, to catchup, and to learn from them. It is not a shame to get inspired by them. We don't have to copy them, but it is important to learn and benefit from their experiences whether good or bad. We'll then blossom and flourish like they did. It's never too late.

By saying the above, it's obvious that I have something in mind. Right? Right. Well, I do, and I'll share it with you, but first let me talk about how I met those creative young Omanis and why I'm so pumped up...

I organise PechaKucha in Muscat ( I am very patriotic when it comes to selecting speakers - Omanis always have the priority on my list. At the beginning, I was afraid of running out of speakers from the creative field, because I only knew a few who are floating above the surface. Everyone always mentioned them, appreciated them, and brought them to very similar events, but then I dug deeper and found a huge number of Omani designers who're superb at what they do, but are ... lost. Yup, majority are just hidden treasures who seek an opportunity.

That's why, for PechaKucha Muscat, I started featuring those talented ones who are under the surface. They are now my target. I do not accept any applicant who is well known, had several exhibitions, or will use my non-profit organisation platform to advertise for his/her well-established company. I seek young unknown creative Omanis.
I get asked a lot: "Where do you find these talents from?!". Well, I work hard, I dig deep, I go to schools, colleges, I meet people, go to exhibitions, online... etc. I do proper research because I'm genuinely into it. I genuinely want to help others and I believe I can differentiate between the good original talents from the "copy and paste" ones from my experience in the field. I do this voluntarily.

PechaKucha started in 2012 in Muscat. It runs 4 times a year according to the contract signed with Japan, but it has stopped for a year because I did not find a sponsor for many reasons I don't want to get into right now, but majority do not believe in design to support it. They don't see it as an investment. I, honestly, don't blame them. We are not surrounded by creativity, our advertisements are between mediocre and poor, majority of the logos are a joke because the cheaper always wins the pitch, design is not a subject taught in public schools... etc.

Anyway, one day I woke up thinking to myself: PechaKucha Muscat can't stop. It won't stop. I cannot fail in front of the Japanese! Some people anxiously look forward to this event. People have been emailing, texting and calling asking about it. 7aram. I can't do this to them. I have to do something.

So I decided to meet with - who was at the time - Omantel's CEO Dr. Amer Al Rawwas. I heard from friends that he supports youth a lot. I took an appointment with him and after a few long weeks, it was time to meet him face to face.
I was given 20 minutes only to convince him of my needs. So I prepared a keynote presentation and put in everything that I thought would sell the concepts from my marketing and communications experience. I even added a page of financials - in case he asks "how much?",  'cause, you know, it all comes down to money with CEO's.

I can say I was very well prepared. I was ready to conquer the world. I wasn't ready to take no for an answer. This was my chance. I presented two projects, one of them was sponsoring PK for a year = 4 events and another on a bigger scale that also involves designers. He approved both on the spot! I remember myself looking at him in shock  "Are you sure?!". He replied simply " You're good at marketing". He then told me that he'll be waiting for his invite for the next PechaKucha.

A couple of weeks later, I invited Dr. Amer to attend.

On the night of PechaKucha Vol.06, Dr. Amer showed up. I always start on time - at 20:20.
This time was no different. Six speakers spoke confidently about their incredible portfolios and inspiring stories in 20 slides each. Each slide in 20 seconds. That's a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds for each speaker.

A picture of me and Dr. Rawwas sitting next to me as my
guest of honour listening to all the presentations
(Picture Credit: @FullFrame)

PechaKucha was a huge success as usual #AlHamdulillah. Many companies approached me immedietly after the event to sponsor the next one.
So, at the beginning I had to stop for a year because I couldn't find sponsors and now sponsors are approaching me! Hallelujah!

Thank you Dr. Amer. I will forever be grateful for your support.

The audience. A full house
(Picture Credit: @Bluesynergy)

Now that I know PechaKucha Muscat will go on for another 3 events AKA حاطة في بطني بطيخة صيفي, I'm happy and can focus on other designers' needs... On to the next step to help my fellow designers...

With design, SF.

PS: Ignore any grammatical mistakes. I don't read my blog twice before I post and I'm not much of a writer. I design.