We spoke on 20th August 2020
Hey, Youssef! Thank you for joining the blog and accepting the invitation to be interviewed.
You mentioned in the Chinwaggers podcast that your first year was doing foundation and your major project was about psychology and the brain. You mentioned about this image that social media sites like Instagram creates.
What would be your advice to students who see Instagram accounts and are disheartened or discouraged by seeing ‘the perfect designer’ and not the struggle behind it?
I totally understand it, Instagram and other social sites are built for people to showcase their successes, however never showcase their failed attempts, endless hours, sleepless nights, and frustration to get there. All you get to see is the finished product and people perceive it as if it was the first try - which is totally unrealistic. I see it as an iceberg. You only see the part sticking out of the water but beneath is a deep long journey to get there. So my advice to students who get disheartened (I fall into this trap sometimes too - It's a constant battle) is that whenever you come across an account and see all the amazing work that they showcase, instead of feeling disheartened and feeling as if they are the 'perfect designer', examine the piece and ask yourself how they got there. See what elements they used and what you can learn from them to use in your own career.
You are an international student, has it been hard to adjust to studying in England?
In my first year, yes. Because before coming to England I had never even left Egypt before! So it was a steep learning curve for me. I had to adapt quickly and learn on the job kind of thing. It wasn't so much the studying aspect as it was the social one, just typical norms and values. However, once I got the hang of things a couple of months in, it's been an absolute blast since then. Absolutely fell in love with it and made some life long friends.
Sticking on the topic, what have you learned from your four years at university?
So much I don't know where to start! I think mainly I learned who I am as a designer - Figured out my identity and what my approaches are when answering a brief. Also, picked up useful methods on problem-solving and questions to ask before answering a brief to come out with the best and most relevant answer possible that without university I may not have had the access to. I also learned how important networking is and getting your face out there.
You got a second-place medal at Two+Two, how did that feel?
Absolutely amazing. I went in there with no expectations and honestly kind of doubting myself whether or not I would even belong on the same table as everybody! We all get those feelings. If there's anything I learned from that experience is that everybody doubts themselves, the best thing to do is let go of all those thoughts and focus on the task at hand. I was lucky to have an amazing team with me and together we were able to come up with a solid answer to the brief. That would not have been possible if I had let my anxious thoughts get the best of me. We're all human. Instead of focusing on how you won't be on the same level as everybody else, just breathe and focus on what you have to do and put what you've learned and practised to the test. Also through that experience, I got to meet some incredible people and made life long relationships that I'm extremely thankful for.
What is like networking in Manchester? Any advice for students wanting to go to networking events?
Networking is vital in my opinion. I completely understand that it may be a bit daunting at first, but you'll never succeed if you don't try. The benefits far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. From my personal experiences, networking in Manchester is actually great! Everybody is extremely friendly and actually wanting to help! You get to meet some incredible people that are like-minded and can offer you new perspectives on things that can actually open up your mind to new possibilities. I feel like in order to grow, you must get out there and meet new people so that you are not trapped in a bubble.
You graduated at one of the worst times during the coronavirus. How have you coped with that?
It's been incredibly tough, to be honest, and has been the ultimate test of my mental strength and health. It come with some positives and negatives. The positives are that due to the lockdown, all distractions were instantly eliminated from my life and helped me to focus solely on my Final Major Project and through that, helped graduate with a First Class Honours! The negatives are that obviously, people are dying, the job market is the worst it's been in years and it's not exactly the ideal situation to be thrust into the real world. However, with all that being said, I still see it as incredibly important to stay positive. "This too shall pass" has been ringing in my ears ever since this began. All you can do is instead of letting life beat you down, use this time to better yourself and get the most prepared you can be so that when an opportunity comes knocking, you are ready to kick the door down. That's what I've been doing.
For my final question, what is next for Youssef Tarek?
Well, given that I've just graduated with first-class honours, I am now looking for a full-time design role in Manchester. I'm also about to launch my online shop where I'll be selling prints of my collages from my Instagram (@YoussefTarekDesign). Till then, I'm working on learning new skills, experimenting, and expanding my portfolio to get it as strong as it can be.