With over 20 years of experience in the creative design industry, Tarek has worked with international brands as well as GCC juggernauts!
Connected MENA is keen to understand his perspective on topics important to the creative industry.
Hi Tarek! tell the Connected MENA audience about yourself and what got you into the creative industry?
I have always been passionate about creative work since my childhood. My journey in the industry dates back to 1999 in Beirut where I started working as a part-time printing operator and artwork while continuing my studies. So, since that time and as my career kept growing in this direction I was always exposed to this environment, surrounded by talents from all different diversities both in the design and art industries.
I then got my BA in business administration and marketing, but my career kept growing essentially in art working, graphic design, and photo editing until 2012 where I started shifting more towards managing and leading studio teams then supervising creative departments in the areas of brief handling, processes, and delivery.
Now I am focusing more on this segment of creative services management as it is becoming an essential part of any successful business that relies on creative work to deliver its messaging be it through advertising agencies or in-house creative teams. This was more revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic like many other sides of the business that we took for granted.
I am now working with large organizations and SMEs, helping them in their creative setups. It is crucial now not only to make sure you have a creative team that can develop strong conceptual ideas but also a setup that is creative and innovative in its ability to keep performing under different circumstances. This cannot be achieved without a lot of work in the background on all different phases of the creative process from briefing to finding the right skillsets, delivering and monitoring their marketing campaigns.
What impact has the pandemic had on the creative processes and creative community in general?
There is no doubt that the pandemic brought many serious challenges and the impact of it is here to stay on many levels. It is more of a forced fundamental change in the way we used to think about work processes.
Remote working is in happening right now, not only because it showed its advantage in some areas but it also made everyone rethink how we do business and all the possible scenarios that can leverage productivity and profitability. We will yet to see more of its results for years to come in my opinion as the mapping out process continues.
We no longer have talents sitting together in one location to process creative briefs but working individually and brainstorming through video calls. Despite the fact that this is not ideal at times but it is a reality that we are forced to accept. This means that the search for talent will be more narrowed now and focused on the skillsets more than the talent’s social conditions. I think it is important to progress that we need to cherish, understand and adapt to.
And the community is now facing a challenge of inspiration. Creatives depend on their inspiration from everything around them which was pretty much outdoors. Now everyone was forced to work from home so we are all challenged to look and think beyond our habits and find inspiration in our new parameters and online.
This is in fact an opportunity to dive in more into the digital and social worlds and look at all the possibilities there.
With such disruption in the global economy and investment being diverted into disruptive digital tools such as AI graphics design platforms, what are your thoughts on such developments?
This is also a very important aspect that has been and still developing in parallel. AI graphics tools allow creatives to give more time towards thinking rather than executing which means that the messaging and visuals will be enriched with more thoughtful approaches and that definitely enhances every piece of creative work.
Some might think that AI graphic tools will replace designers’ jobs, but this is not accurate or at least it is too early to judge it from this angle because with every evolvement many specific roles are no longer needed but a lot of new roles emerge.
AI graphic tools are used to make your work faster, and to cope quicker with the flow of ideas helping you to execute them with less time. They don’t play a conceptual thinking role. The concept itself is human-made and is still a collective effort from marketing and creative teams.
A good example is Adobe Sensei which is the AI platform for the most famous software company among creatives. It is a great tool that allows non-designers to produce design work with multiple easy-to-use tools and AI analysis in the background that learns the user’s preferences. But it did not replace anyone who thinks about the idea, it only added more people to the pool of executors.
Which key areas should creatives focus on to keep on-top of their game?
That’s a very good question! Thank you for bringing this up.
I can assure you that many good talents can waste great opportunities if not a dream job by simply missing on the basics of how they should present themselves and show their talent through their CVs and portfolios.
It is the first impression to anyone looking at their profiles and it needs to be simple but completely informative, neat but bursting out with a creative spark and flexing their creative muscles.
In order to do that it needs to be always up to date with their latest projects that are specifically related to the role, they are applying for.
Taking care of your portfolio is probably the most important ongoing project for any creative as it is what the world sees about you, so it needs to reflect one’s uniqueness and skillsets in the best possible way at the present.
I always advise the creatives I work with to keep enhancing and crafting their portfolios, so they always impress and stand strong against other candidates. No one should risk being rejected for a first bad impression. Recruiters and heads of creative departments receive loads of CVs almost on a daily basis so only the ones that impress will get attention.
What creative requirement trends are you seeing from clients?
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic started, short videos were the trendiest as the newest social media form that tends to answer what consumers always seek which is easy-to-consume content. However, as we discussed before that the pandemic impact was unpredictable, so brands were forced to change their marketing annual plans almost overnight and answer to the new needs of their consumers immediately.
UGC (user-generated content) increased immediately, not only with social content creators live streaming to feature a product, but this same product being purchasable at the same moment. This is as close as it can get while we are living indoors. It is like the new door-to-door sales. But UGC had all the infrastructure ready, not like other trends that are still growing strong despite their technical and cost of production challenges, but they seem promising and will see them reaching the top soon like AR (Augmented Reality) and voice search or even visual search like what Google is exploring with Google lens.
Also, not to forget the change that happened on the messaging and the content itself which I can’t name as a trend but another evolvement for brands in being closer to their consumers on an emotional and principal level. Brands are now more involved in sustainability, human rights, and the empathy we all share towards each other in pandemic times. This only proves that the most successful communication for any brand is the one that gets closer to people.