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Interview With Saad Moosajee


I recently had some time to chat with Saad Moosajee, a self-taught digital artist that has collaborated with brands such as Dell, HTC, Electronic Arts, and Nike. Saad also serves as a Creative Head for the Slashthree Collective. Saad is an old friend of Tuts+ and was first featured on the site back in 2009, when he was only 15 years old. In this interview we discussed several topics ranging from how his work has matured over the years, how he has challenged himself to improve, as well as why he chose to attend design school. Let's take a look!

Q. Hi Saad, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. The last time we interviewed you was back in 2009, when you were only 15 years old. How have you been? What have you been doing for the last 5 years?

Hi Grant, thanks for the follow up interview, looking back at that interview from 2009 is kind of surreal. Artistically I feel like I’ve changed quite a bit in the last five years. The interview from 2009 was my first, and led to features on other blogs like Abduzeedo and Lost At E Minor. When I first began uploading work in 2008, I was grateful that people took an interest in what I could produce given my age. I used the support from other artists and online press as motivation to improve myself. During high school I did everything I could to continue improving my craft, and eventually decided that if I wanted to keep pushing myself I would pursue art in a university setting rather than going straight into the industry. This led to me enrolling at the Rhode Island School of Design as an undergraduate.

Q. When we last interviewed you, it seemed like you were interested in lots of sci-fi and abstract artwork. When we featured you again back in 2011, your interest in 3D typography had become more apparent. How would you say that your style has changed over the years? How would you say that you have matured as an artist?

Looking at that link is also really interesting, It’s not something I had put a ton of thought in to but I would have to agree that my interests have changed a lot. I’m the first artist in my family and shied away from high school art due to my poor traditional skill, which led to a lack of exposure to different types of art. Present day, I’m still very interested in digital abstract and surreal work, but regularly find myself experimenting with design, animation, and drawing. Over the years I’ve tried to immerse myself in as much design and art as possible in an effort to refine my style and abilities. However, I really feel that art school helped me mature as an artist and designer more than anything else. I think my work now has a level of technical and conceptual consideration that it lacked before.

Seven Of Hearts
Q. How do you see your artwork progressing and improving in the years to come? Are there any techniques or skills that you would like to learn?

I’m currently studying graphic design and am attempting to fully immerse myself in design as a discipline. I’ve also been spending a lot of time exploring different intersections between design and illustration, and am hoping to expand my skill in both fields. Drawing has always been a weakness for me so I’ve attempted to expand my skill in this area more than anything else. I’ve also been learning new things in 3D modeling and animation.

Made Of What You Are
Q. When I was looking through your portfolio, I was really impressed with the disintegration effect shown in your Need for Speed piece. Can you tell us a bit about the process you used? I am sure our readers would be interested in the process.

Definitely. Those mood boards were created over a few days for California based agency laundry! to be pitched to EA. The original brief I received was to do something eye-catching that integrated footage from the video game with the EA logo using a transitional effect. I opted to use a disintegration-particle effect as I felt it would fit with the dynamic, intense atmosphere of Need For Speed.

Technically, the process revolved around layering different 3D particle renders over one another. I had thought about animating the entire sequence in 3D through key framing, but the disintegration was so detailed my computer wouldn’t have been able to render it. Instead, I used Cinema 4D’s polyFX in conjunction with the explosion deformer and physics particles to create different sized disintegrations of the objects in the scene.

Conceptually, it’s pretty easy to understand: the more polygons an object has, the more particles it will have when something like a polyFX is applied. Keeping this in mind, I would simply adjust the geometry of whatever object I was going to use to generate more or less particles based on the frame I was working on at the time. So I managed the mood-boards on a frame-by-frame basis, rather than doing the entire thing at once and then saving out key-frames.

I also did a rough storyboard sketch of what I wanted each frame to look like before beginning the project. Although it can seem kind of trivial to sketch out boards when you’re going to make them digitally, I think it allows you to make a lot of important design decisions quickly, and can actually speed up your process when the deadline is tight.

Need For Speed Most Wanted
Q. What are some things that you did to help challenge yourself and improve your design skills?

When I first began designing, I found that turning to peers and other artists whose work I respected was highly beneficial. I was lucky to befriend many talented digital artists at the Slashthree collective, and used them for constructive criticism whenever possible.

After gaining some freelance experience and building up a portfolio, I started turning to tutorials as a way of improving my technical abilities. I had a bad attitude towards tutorials for a long time, I felt that if one used too many tutorials they may lose the individuality of their work. However, if you have ideas the chances are you’re not always going to have all the necessary skills to implement them, so tutorials that teach technical skills are necessary in my opinion.

Another way I found motivation to improve would be to constantly challenging myself to make my next work better than everything on my portfolio, and of course If I had trouble determining this I would ask peers who were familiar with my work. It sounds simple, but if you’re very honest with yourself about the quality of what you’re producing, it’ll be easier to improve yourself.

Maserati Projection Test
Q. When I was in college, we didn’t have resources like Tuts+ or Abduzeedo to refer to. Can you name some specific times when you were stuck on a project and were able to turn to the design community for help?

I consider resources like Tuts+ and Abduzeedo fantastic, not just because of the educational component but mainly for the inspiration and community they provide. There have been too many times to count when I turned to the Tuts+ network to solve a technical issue I was struggling with, or to Abduzeedo to freshen up my desktop wallpaper. I remember looking at several Photoshop fundamentals tutorials on Psdtuts+ when I was working on my Tiger Beer project, and looking at Cgtuts+ to brush up on my 3D before working on some digital animations for school.

Just Do It
Q. In what ways has RISD helped you mature as an artist or designer?

A key tenet of RISD is understanding the origins of art and design before addressing what the disciplines have evolved in modern society. This way of thinking has helped me to become more disciplined in my decision-making process as an artist and designer. Type is a good example, I see a lot of young artists experimenting with typography and breaking what some would deem traditional ‘rules’ of design in an attempt to achieve something more unique. This is something I’ve done myself, and like many other designers I did it before actually understanding fundamental rules and origins of typography. RISD pushes its students to understand how type has evolved from the days of Gutenberg into what we see today.

Nature In Technicolor
Q. Are you working on any exciting projects that you would like to share with our readers?

Lately I’ve been devoting the majority of my time towards schoolwork and haven’t been super active freelance-wise. I am however continuing work on a personal project that explores how digital media can re-interpret traditional Islamic art. I’m hoping to release it a few months from now. You can see the first installment of the project here.

Self Portrait

Saad Moosajee on the Web

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