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You can instantly spot an artwork by Najmi Arifin that always features his signature dark, bold and edgy style. Like the iconic album covers that he loves, Najmi seeks to create unique pieces of his own that stand the test of time. Below, we speak to the graphic designer on his love for music, how he navigated being partially colour blind and more.
When did your journey as a creative begin (both personally and professionally)?
When I was a kid, I loved to collect any kind of music magazines, I loved bands logo even though I never heard of the band. I would cut out the logos and put them on my bedroom wall without even knowing that the process is called 'collage' at that time. My first exposure to graphic design was when I started my diploma in graphic design. That was my first introduction to my creative journey.
Professionally, I started doing work as a graphic designer while I was studying in college, I did a lot of posters for gigs and showcases. I didn't really take any commission work at that time because it was like a personal escapism for me to experiment with new things without any visual requirement from lecturer or clients. So the love for music became the major factor for me to become a graphic designer.
I've been freelancing for almost 5 years and am also a full-time as a graphic designer at 33.3 Studio.
What is your life ethos and how does it relate to your creative journey?
Things of quality have no fear of time. I don't really like the idea of multitasking especially as a designer because while I see the results of myself doing multiple tasks, the only thing that suffers is the quality.
What do you wish to achieve with your works?
I'm not really sure about this but I'm excited to know how my work can somehow give impacts on people in the future. For example, the iconic album work of Peter Saville for 'Unknown Pleasure' by Joy Division is still an endless interpretation in fashion, art and music until now and to know that it's just an album artwork is amazing to me.
What was the most significant/impactful project for you thus far — why?
One of impactful project for me was the album artwork for LUST called 'Vantablack' that I did last year, because they really believe in what I can do for them so it felt good when you have the freedom to present your ideas. I really enjoyed the process starting from the first brief of exploring the idea of Vantablack (meaning the blackest black in the world) and how the direction connected with human interaction, feelings, and the meaning of the whole EP.
It's a conceptual EP from the art direction to every track, and presents a journey for the audience to explore. I really loved hearing so many good feedback on this especially when the audience bought the physical release of the EP. Shout out to @lustography and everyone involved in making this happen. You guys are amazing!
How do you see the world?
I see the world as a place of learning to be human based on what I learned from a Japanese concept of living called 'Ikigai' (meaning the purpose of life or reason of being). Everything starts with what you love when you find the purpose of life.
What type of artist do you wish to be, and what's your ultimate goal as a creative?
I don't really consider myself as an artist, I feel that graphic design still requires responsibility because as a designer I want people to get something from my work or somehow consciously intervene in the individual narrative of my specific audience. My ultimate goal is always to have work that really gives impact to people.
…The love for music became the major factor for me to become a graphic designer.
What is your favourite and least favourite part of the creative process?
Submitting artwork to clients, especially when you need to show the first draft is the least favourite part for me because I kind of have this bad feeling of what client might say and the nervousness kind of sucks! Favourite part will be the opposite, of course.
What’s your guilty pleasure(s)?
I subscribe to Living Big In A Tiny House on Youtube. Please subscribe and watch it every morning before you work!
How would you describe your creative and artistic style? Do you feel much has changed?
I love anything that's bold (bold typeface, bold colors) partly because I'm partially color blind. I can't really see the different shades of color but I can point at which one is primary. So from this, you can actually see why most of my works only involve primary colors.
I could say that my work have something in common which is a dark and alluring visual with focus on typographic details. I feel that my has work actually changed towards understanding the structure of design and visual communication because while I believe that you can master your skills in just a few months with a lot of experimenting and an endless tab of Youtube tutorials, you still need to have the basic understanding of what design can deliver and change accordingly for the audience. This is the hardest part for me personally and I'm still learning until now.
Who is someone you would love to collaborate with and why?
I don't really have a specific person that I want to collaborate with at the moment but I do enjoy collaborating with people with different type of skills and seeing how it turns out. It will be nice if I can collaborate with someone who has an architectural background and practice, and maybe do a blueprint series of Archigram, cool right?
Please share with us who/what you are constantly inspired by!
I love music and I love seeing album covers. I make sure everything on my Spotify playlist has better album artwork than the music itself! [laughs]
Lastly, please shoutout 3 of your favourite local creative crushes and their IG handle!