For this graduate, it was an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone he has and continues to admire.
“Never in my life did I think of working as a guest artist for Google Doodle or let alone designing a doodle for the legendary Moin Akthar. I was not expecting it and when I was approached at first, I felt humbled and honored (…) Working on this project has been the most rewarding experience of my career to date.” – Hazem Asif, VCUarts Qatar alumnus, in an interview for Google.
On December 24, 2021, a doodle by Hazem Asif, a VCUarts Qatar alumnus, welcomed viewers to the landing page of Google. The artwork was exclusively designed by Asif for Google to mark the 71st birthday of Moin Akhtar, one of Pakistan’s most loved actors, comedians and entertainers.
The opportunity came in the first week of November 2021 when the Art Director from Google Doodle US reached out to the Qatar Foundation partner university alumnus. They had seen the graphic designer’s creations on his Instagram account ‘worldofhazem’, and were duly impressed. Would he be interested in creating a doodle to mark Moin Akhtar’s birthday? For Asif, who grew up watching Moin Akhtar on vintage television sets in the 1990’s, it was a double honor of sorts – the response was an immediate ‘yes’.
Google Doodle US shared guidelines, templates and a few samples of past work with Asif. They also handpicked a few of the Pakistani designer’s past work that they felt were interesting for the approach and color palette.
“Google’s creative team said they loved how I integrate my portraits into the surrounding narrative of the person who is the subject,” says Asif, who has both a BFA in Graphic Design, and an MFA, from VCUarts Qatar. “As an actor and comedian, Moin was popular for the impressions, often with a sense of humor, that he made of other people. They suggested that it would be great to see that element of Moin reflected in the doodle.
“Additionally, Google’s logo had to be incorporated into the artwork as a part of its visual narrative and drawn from scratch rather than use existing digital fonts. Other than that, as a designer who was familiar with the cultural pulse of the region, I was given complete creative liberty to create a doodle that was reflective of Moin’s versatility – his performances as an actor, comedian and stage performer.”
Asif, who currently works independently as a full-time science illustrator at a university in Pakistan, and has had his designs feature on the cover of ‘The Lancet HIV’, a reputed UK-based medical journal, aspired to create a doodle that had a classical feel to it while invoking a sense of nostalgia for the viewers by paying homage to a person who was and continues to be a household name in Pakistan.
“Doodles can take the form of a hand sketch, idea process art, or minimalist line art that leads into something more complex,” he explains. “In this case, I mostly drew inspiration from my own childhood – memories of watching classical Pakistani shows on PTV (Pakistan Television Corporation). As a family we’d gather around our television set – the vintage type that was common in Pakistan in the 1990’s – to enjoy his performances on stage. Later, in the 2000’s, we used to watch the widely popular television comedy show ‘Loose Talk’, where Moin would impersonate hundreds of different characters and personalities with his trademark humorous take on the social and political events of the time.
“I wanted the final artwork to be a balance between showcasing his multi-faceted talents, and evoking a sense of nostalgia for the 1980’s and 1990’s. Those who grew up in the 1990’s will notice how the color scheme was also inspired by the retro technicolor palette of those decades.”