I’m Alexis Baydoun, from Beirut, Lebanon. I do graphic design, brand identities, advertising, and 3D Art. Earlier on this year i took a look around me and realized something i hadn’t really noticed before: I am living a life of complete freedom where on one hand i am getting paid to do what i love doing: digital design, and on the other i have space and so much room to pursue further what i’m passionate about: art.
I can tell you very clearly and right away that getting to that point, however, was not an easy thing. And how i got there involved around 7 years of non stop hustling, of non-stop wondering who to work with, where to go next, what to learn, when to leave, when to say yes and when to say no. For 7 years straight i didn’t work based on making profit, but based on learning, building an experience and a portfolio that doesn’t make me feel obliged to introduce myself and explain my character wherever i go.
To be a designer, i learned, you have to be young-spirited, worldly, vibrant, talkative, in love with trends and colors and popular culture. I, on the other hand, I barely speak by default, can go on for 4 days without talking to anyone effortlessly, and although I am creative it’s not at all in the conventional digital designer sense. I sleep at 9 PM, wake up at dawn, have published a book of poetry, take long walks in nature before sleeping and listen to religious choirs and church music for fun. A character like mine, at least from my experience, was very easily prone to be vilified in my culture and especially in an agency’s setting. I was always not strong enough, not vibrant enough, not hungry enough, not gossipy enough, not political enough. And so, when i tell you that i had to hustle to prove myself, it was the “shut-up and take it lying down” kind of hustling. For 7 long years. Day in day out.
Last year, at the peak of a depression before stopping full-time employment once and for all, i got contacted by Accenture digital for a digital designer position in Berlin, telling me i have an “impressive” profile. It was at that moment, in October 2019, that life decided to hit me on the head with a large shoe, and force me to redefine myself and my life experience, and take a look at my work and my profile objectively and actually “see” it.
Since then, it’s been both alarmingly comfortable and beautifully challenging. Ever since i started freelancing again life has taken on a full circle and i found myself landing exactly the kinds of projects i want, working with company cultures i really enjoy connecting with, and getting paid the average startup hourly rate for projects i love doing (between 40 and 60 USD/hour). I have also connected with wonderful people, joked with professionals from all over the world, rediscovered kindness on a larger scale and actually felt interested to make friends again, a feeling i can honestly say i hadn’t had for a long time before 2020.
Most importantly, there are weeks when i am excited to work 40 hours and others where i choose to barely work 10, making room for a life of quietly wandering around, living around trees and snow and plants and fog, reading about art that inspires me and learning and developing skills like making 3D music videos. Had it been not a year of lockdowns, face masks and apocalyptic measures, i would probably be in Ireland right now reading in a park, visiting a museum or church and cemetery-hopping with my camera.
If you want my advice to land a job that makes you feel fulfilled and happy, it’s very simple: work hard enough so you no longer have to defend your character. Whether you’re too shy, too quiet, too dreamy, too loud, too vulnerable, whatever it is. Work hard enough so that you will land the job of your dreams, in the culture that you feel most comfortable with, and will be respected and acknowledged however you are, as long as you’re not entitled. 2020 has been truly a very karmic year, and if you learn to love what you do, work with ethics and dedication, and pay attention to digital trends and to ongoingly developing your creative and technical self, you will sooner or later have room to explore every curiosity you have, and have great fun while doing it.
How was your University time?
Hazy, full of drugs, friends, and sleeping on unfamiliar beds. Between writing poetry, painting and wanting to work only with my hands, I couldn’t properly figure out a way to sit behind a computer and see it as a friend. I was very confused in my early twenties. As soon as i finished my education in graphic design i moved to studying english literature for 2 years. At the time, i felt that digital design was intrusive to the field of the arts, and i couldn’t see how you can be an artist and accept working with a bunch of computers serving big company bucks at the same time. Obviously my perspective has drastically shifted, and I believe with the introduction of AI, bots and VR we have embroidered and crafted a new art form by collaborating, communicating and connecting with machines. The monument of technology we are building as a human species is something i’m completely in love with.
Why did you choose a career in this field?
Almost everything i’ve done in my creative projects has been inspired by music and/or sound. My initial drive when i decided to pursue digital design was to create visual art to accompany musical projects. Until this day I still find myself working on creative projects that are a response to other creative projects. Although i’m extremely independent in my life and creative pursuits, I choose to be a student a lot more than a teacher. The idea of an art medium that’s created in response to another art medium fascinates me, and i’m not interested in reinventing the wheel or being a brand in my work.
What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you get to where you are today?
I was a lot more career oriented than profit-oriented earlier in my career. And so I forced myself to work with the whole bunch: corporate companies, creative agencies, freelance independently, and startups, just to learn as much as possible from all of them. I had plenty of people yelling at me earlier on. Plenty of people telling me to get out of my shell, to trust in myself and that i had it in me. I couldn’t let the artist be the driver of my first projects because I didn’t know how to carry commercial work and pleasing clients on one hand, and my love for the arts on the other. Obviously i had to spend more than a handful of nights hustling in order to get there. It wasn’t easy balancing a commercial career as a digital designer while creating self fulfulling personal art projects on the side, but it had to happen.
Can you provide some book recommendations?
I love “Other Electricities” by Ander Monson. Poetry and prose pieces written about electricity cuts and snow-blocked roads in a small neighborhood in Michigan. Also love “The Available World” from the same author, a collection of love poems about junk emails, qr codes and hospital lights. I admire the clarity of thought of CS Lewis, “The Problem of Pain” and “Mere Christianity” mostly. “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham was written in response to “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf. Love the two books. Also love reading books of thoughts from artists that have greatly inspired me, like butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski and experimental Buddhist vocalist Meredith Monk.
Things are changing very fast in the industry; how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletters, podcasts, events, etc.
I limit consuming distractions a lot. Follow mostly influencial artists, digital agencies, illustrators and 3D artists on Instagram, and use Behance as the main search engine to find out trends and iconic projects that are blooming at the moment. On Pinterest i look mostly for commercial and hip visual ideas and moodboards.
Favorite agency’s work: https://www.instagram.com/jessicavwalsh
Favorite 3D artist’s work: https://www.instagram.com/frederikheyman
Favorite illustrator: https://www.behance.net/watanabemayumi
Favorite photographer: https://www.behance.net/guworld
Favorite installation artist: https://www.behance.net/taoyagi
Any advice about CVs?
Don’t design it, it’s a waste of time. Let your portfolio do the talking, and make your CV as clear, brief and straight-to-the-point as possible. If Elon Musk wanted to create a CV, i’m sure he could fit in everything he’s ever done to introduce himself and his career in one simple page without any design involved, you can do the same. Focus on your skills, your passions and your contributions to society.
Advice for someone looking for a job?
Build a body work of work you’re confident with before expecting a reply. In every project you create tell a story, that’s the most important thing. We are heading towards a world where AI is increasingly replacing human workforce, it’s your story-telling that will make a potential client remember you and want to work with you. Try to avoid generic content and designs. Try to avoid projects that push you to stay in your comfort zone. Know what you want, what can make you happy and what can work for you.
Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.
If you love your work and you put your honest self in your projects, even if you didn’t get certain jobs, the right jobs will come and find you, and hopefully you’ll get a few compliments and encourgements on the way as well!