Posted 28 April 2021
Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Introduction by Siham Ali
Mention Farouk Alao

Multidisciplinary artist Farouk Alao on NFTs, freelance life and finding balance

Farouk Alao is a Dublin-based multidisciplinary artist and recent graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design. Whilst his final year was anything but ordinary, Farouk took an uncertain situation and used it as motivation to launch his freelance career. Since then, he’s worked for the likes of M&C Saatchi, Ormston House, and Limerick Council. In addition to his graphic, motion design and photography work, Farouk founded initiatives like 858, a creative platform; and Somint, a NFT art marketplace focused on education. He is also a board member at DesignOpp, an initiative focused on championing diversity in Irish design. Here, Farouk tells us how he fuses the complex nature of heritage into his work, and how going fully freelance during a pandemic is working out for him.

Farouk

Farouk Alao


Job Title

Freelance Graphic and Motion Designer; Multidisciplinary Artist

Based

Dublin

Selected Clients

Limerick Council, Department for Education UK, M&C Saatchi, Saint Street Dublin

Previous Employment

Designer and Art Director, M&C Saatchi London (2019)

Education

BA Graphic Design Communication, Limerick School of Art and Design (2016–2020)

Website

Farouk.ie

Social Media

Instagram

What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I problem-solve and tell stories using photography, videography, and design tools, and 3D software like C4D and DAZ.

Can you tell us about your involvement in 858, Somint and DesignOpp?
After living between Dublin, Limerick, and London over the last few years, I noticed the abundance of creative expression happening amongst young people in London and the willingness to take risks. As a result, I started to develop 858 – my creative tag since I was a kid – into a creative platform, as a way to give myself and those around me a reason to create.

The platform initially started as a series of creative briefs I set, intending to gather pieces to exhibit from a wide range of up-and-coming artists and creatives. I am currently working with a group of eight artists in different fields whose creative style and approach align with 858’s core principles: more art and more disruption.

858 is always in development and always experimental. The big goal is for 858 to become a creative agency that leads with disruptive design thinking. We’re young, growing, and here to stay.

Urban Native project, made in collaboration with Zeda the Architect

Somint is an art marketplace for those that use blockchain tech (NFTs) to enable people to take control of their talent. We keep things simple and accessible for artists and collectors at all stages in their artistic journey. We want to make minting artwork as simple as posting a tweet. But we also want to explain what blockchain and minting are to those who aren’t familiar with space. We want to help educate people on the NFT space because we believe it will play a significant role in creativity moving forward.

DesignOpp (founded by Grace Enemaku) is an organisation I’m involved in which is a not-for-profit initiative focused on championing diversity in Irish design, so that people of colour can fulfil their creative potential. Our goal is to provide more opportunities for designers of colour, diversify our education systems and create a warm and welcoming community.

If you could sum up your job in a gif, what would it be?

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
Typically it’s the immediate world around me and the places I’ve been: Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Dubai, London, Manchester, and Lagos have all influenced my creative style and process. Also the people I meet.

I create art to better understand the world around me, and hopefully to help others. I’m also inspired by Jean Michel Basquiat, Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones, Marcel Duchamp, Tyler the Creator, and Matt Beaumont.

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
A project called Urban Native, made in collaboration with Zeda the Architect and in celebration of our Nigerian heritage. An Urban Native is a rare individual, someone who stands out by being themselves. They achieve this by incorporating elements of their heritage with whatever their present reality is – in the case of the individuals in this project, their heritage is African and their present reality is Ireland, specifically Dublin.

This is one of my favourite projects to date, because it’s the first time I’ve created something that speaks to my Nigerian heritage. I also got to play around with multiple mediums to tell the story.

“It’s the first time I’ve created something that speaks to my Nigerian heritage.”

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Yeah, I believe you need some training and lots of practice, especially when using certain software. I think the most essential traits that you can’t get taught at school are passion and compassion. You should never let your passion negate your compassion, and you should never let your compassion get in the way of your passion; find your balance.

Urban Native H Farouk Alao 16

Urban Native project, made in collaboration with Zeda the Architect

Urban Native H Farouk Alao 13

Urban Native H Farouk Alao

Urban Native H Farouk Alao 5

How I got here

What was your journey like when you graduated?
It was weird but I didn’t know any different. Finishing college during a global pandemic was not ideal; it meant a lot of lost opportunities, but it also allowed me to take the time to ensure I was following a path I truly wanted. I used the time I would ordinarily have spent developing my final year show to develop my website.

After trying to apply for a load of jobs and getting nowhere, I promised myself I would take the freelance route for at least a year, move towards my passions and do it my way. To be honest, I’m still finding my feet and figuring a lot of things out, like networking online.

“After applying for jobs and getting nowhere, I promised myself I would take the freelance route, move towards my passions and do it my way.”

Motion design work by Farouk

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The Future is an organisation I found on YouTube a few years ago that I’ve learned a lot from. Anything from how to freelance, to their mission in teaching one billion people how to make a living doing what they love. Typographic Posters is also a great resource for inspiration. Finally, Milanote is a great online tool for organising projects, and clipping images, and websites when researching. It can be used for a lot more and I use it daily.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Having the patience and faith that if I keep working smart and moving towards my goals I’ll get to where I’m trying to go.

Photography by Farouk

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work and career?
I think social media plays a significant role in terms of self-promotion but it can also be distracting. I think it’s important not to let it guide the type of work you create too much because it can be a slippery slope. I try my best to use social media as a tool to express myself, share my work, and meet new people.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Save, learn about financial literacy, and how to diversify your income. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do any supplementary or part-time work since I graduated.

How did you go about landing your first commissions?
My first lot of commissions came from people approaching me after seeing personal projects I worked on for fun during college, like 858 exhibitions and events.

Farouk’s photography

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Take breaks and risks.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role to you?
Start by figuring out your passion, which is whatever you find easy to do compared to others.

Set some ambitious goals, and figure out the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Don’t be lazy, you have to put in the work. You also need to redefine failure and mistakes as lessons learned. Whilst you’re at it – practice saying ‘no’, and value yourself and your abilities.

Practice and train in different software. YouTube is a great free resource to learn all the necessary skills. The vast majority of the skills I use regularly are self-taught using the internet.

Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Introduction by Siham Ali
Mention Farouk Alao