The world, for me, is always full of exciting possibilities and as our industry grows there are so many talented new faces that are breaking all kinds of barriers left and right. One of those amazingly talented individuals is Hashim Ali. Hashim has studied Visual Communication Design from the National College of Arts here in Lahore but is now professionally working as an Art Director.

An Art Director by virtue of their role, is the developer of what we in layman’s terms say, the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of a project. Because art direction is a fairly new concept in the Pakistani industry, we were very happy to have the opportunity to speak to someone who is a part of it and is doing amazing work.

SiddySays spoke to Hashim Ali, and here is everything you need to know!

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Who is Hashim Ali?

Dobby, the House elf.

From what we understand you identify yourself primarily as an art director. What is that like?

For me an art director is a visual storyteller, and no matter what I am creating I like to tell a story.

Tell us a little bit about your projects. How has your experience been so far?

My experience has been nothing short of extraordinary and overwhelming.

Some of my projects include art direction for the L’Oreal #Coloureverafter “Disney Princess” campaign, fashion editorials for the likes of Natasha Kamal, Jeem by Hamza Bokhari, Bombay stores (London), “Paintings of the world” winter campaign for Aamir Naveed. It was a lot of fun conceiving, designing and executing the album artwork for the New Noori album “Begum Gulbakoli Sarfarosh”, especially transforming Mandana Zaidi into the fictional character. I also had the pleasure of working with Asad-ul-Haq on Dekh Magar Pyaar say as a stylist and costume designer.

Art Direction is a fairly new field in the country. How hard is to find your way to where you are?

Well. Art direction has existed in Television commercials and films for sometime now, but for fashion shoots it is a slightly foreign concept for the clients. It is easy to bag projects where a set or props are needed but where there is an absence of these, the client fails to understand the need of art direction. Everyone confuses art direction and set designing. Creating this niche in the market was not easy.

I feel very lucky to have met the right people who understood the importance of my services to their visions. The international makeup artist Saima Rashid Bargfrede and the uniquely talented Alee Hassan have played a key role in boosting my confidence.

From beginning to end, what is your creative process like? 

After listening to the client’s demands I start visualizing the feel and the story I want to achieve in the finished visuals. The color palette is also conceived here. Then I start making mind maps, which includes jotting down ideas, concepts, visuals and sketches. Since I am creating an environment, the characters and their stories are vitally important. For theater and film, the characters are already present but in fashion shoots, I create these characters myself (solely to help me visualize their environments), which is so much fun. My theatre background really helps here. A conceptual board is created and forwarded to the client. After which it is all about getting the execution done.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) it all happens within a span of a few days.

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You have worked with set designs for film and theatre both. What do you enjoy more and why?

I am going to be a bit diplomatic by saying I love both the mediums equally, as both of them have their own charm. I love working for screen because one can add tiny additions to the set that will never be picked up on stage, and I love working for the stage because it is much more challenging to create depth and three dimensionality as the probability of creating blind spots is much higher.

But, (yes there is a but) recently, I designed the production for “A Streetcar Named Desire” held in Karachi, so my love for the theater has been re kindled.

Which project was your first? What was the experience like?

My first significant project was way back in 2010 where I was hired to direct, and design the production for a stage adaptation of “Corpse Bride”. The audience may have liked the play and we bagged a good run but, for me it never quite turned out the way I wanted it to.

Anything and everything that could go wrong, went wrong with my ideas. I think I had envisioned too many things and wanted too much out of the actors and the crew. Maybe even things that were not humanly possible!
I cherish the experience to this very day, because I learnt and grew so much from this project.

What is one thing that an aspiring art director must always do? What is one thing that is an absolute no-no?

I think just being true to your own voice and vision and finding the balance between your ideas and the clients is a must thing to learn. For me the most unattractive thing is being rude and dumbing down the labor workers in your team. Respect from the tip to the root is a must.

What is one thing that you love about working in this field? And what is one thing you would change?

I love new experiences and meeting different people, and this field is perfect for this.

What can we expect to see from Hashim Ali in the coming future?

I just wrapped up two TVCs and a photo-shoot. You’ll be seeing my work on the Inglot campaign. Other than that, I am ready for whatever the future throws at me.  Got my boxing gloves on.

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Written by Foha Raza
Assistant Editor.