On the Rise: Tahreem Alvi

Get to know the Toronto based Wix Playground Academy 2021 alum, who’s passionate about experimental typography

By

Editorial team

Published

January 13, 2022

Illustration by

Name

Tell us about who you are: Name, age, location, and current professional status

Hi! My name is Tahreem Alvi and I’m a 24 year old designer and maker based in Toronto, Ontario. I’m currently freelancing while I explore more of my personal practice within art.


What are the (design or general) topics you’re most passionate about?

In terms of design, I’m really interested in experimental typography and unconventional editorial pieces (I love the use of contrast when it comes to paper, binding, and color). Generally, I love fashion and music (especially making monthly playlists).


Tell us about a project that got you excited.

I recently had the opportunity to work on the newest edition of Islam in the City, a student-run publication through the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. I was nervous to meet with the editor, but once we compared mood boards and started exploring the vision for this piece, everything clicked. I had a lot of free reign on this project—I ultimately art directed, designed, and worked on the accompanying illustrations for each of the articles. It’s one of those dream projects, where the client and designer align, and I think it shows in the final outcome.

You can flip through the digital version on issuu


Tell us about a collaborative project you worked on. My best friend and I recently finished up an experimental film for Mimp Magazine’s fifth issue, Cycles. The film captures relationships, platonic and romantic, through the cycle of being connected. We often find ourselves at our highest peak when we’re with the people we love.

We’re excited for it to release, so keep an eye out on mimpmag.com for updates!


How was (or is) your first year after school?

Honestly, my first year after school started as a great year. I was still working my retail job, thoroughly enjoying my summer after completing an internship, and had a Junior Designer contract lined up as well. It was when covid hit a month or two before the year mark that everything suddenly froze and I was left unemployed like most of the city.



What's the best advice you've received (and from whom)?

What’s meant for you will come to you. My Mom and my Nanoo (Grandmother on my Mom’s side) say this a lot and I truly believe it. That goes without saying—you need to put in the work for things to work out—but I’ve found that the things I craved and didn’t get were never meant for me. Something better has always come around later.


What do you look for in a first job?

Based on the experiences I’ve had from working in the office and doing freelance I learned a lot about what I need, especially in terms of mental well-being.

  • Diversity within the team, ideally with bosses who are women of color.

  • People that genuinely care about other people, especially when it comes to black, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ issues.

  • A healthy work-life balance.

  • Spaces that prioritize the mental health of their employees, whether that be through wellness workshops, check-ins, community events, etc.

I’ve felt uncomfortable in the workplace plenty of times before, especially when navigating a very white world, with multiple intersections of my own. It’s easier said than done but don’t settle for a space that makes you feel small and complicated, ever.


With which projects did you fill your portfolio? What was your selection process?

I chose projects that I was genuinely proud of. I think in the past I would pick things that would ‘look good’ or serve a certain purpose, but I would never want to spend too long looking at them or explaining them. This is the first time I thoroughly went through my work and chose projects that meant something to me and I felt like I showcased the type of work I want to do.


What are you working (personal or professional) on now?

I’m currently taking a break from freelance projects—I’m actually on vacation in Jordan right now! But when I come back to the city I have some personal endeavors I’d like to try out. I can’t exactly say what they are quite yet but keep an eye out.


What do you find most useful in your projects (research, visuals, softwares, etc.)?

Research and visuals are probably the foundation of all my projects. I write a lot of notes to myself in my notes app (my favorite app) or my notebooks. You’ll find plenty of question marks but that’s part of the process. Visuals are a constant part of the process but when I’m in the middle of the creation stage, I have to take a step back from them or they’ll influence me too much. Someone once told me to work from memory when it comes to visuals—you remember enough of what inspired you from it, but not enough to copy exactly.


Book recommendation: what book had the biggest impact on you, and why?

I don’t know if it’s had the biggest impact on me, but I think about it pretty often. I’ll always have a fondness for Sylvia Plath’s writing, so The Bell Jar would be it. I felt very connected to moments of the main character's life—being an overachiever, feeling motivation slipping away, yet having this big world ahead of you and needing to solidify who you are or what your purpose is. Anytime I’m burnt out I think about The Bell Jar and maybe it makes me breathe a little more easily, or releases the weight of things, even for a bit.


Where do you look for inspiration (online, print media, music, movies, etc.)?

Print is definitely my favorite when it comes to inspiration. I love collecting magazines. I purchased this publication called ‘A Good Book’ by John Kormeling for $5 at a random book sale 4 years ago and I turn to it anytime I need inspiration. It’s in Dutch and English and full of randomness, yet thoughtfulness, and I find myself in awe of it every time. Besides that, Pinterest & are.na are great image collecting spaces—I could lose myself for hours gathering things for projects that don’t even exist yet.


Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced creatively, and what helped you overcome it.

Overstimulation? Haha, it’s hard taking a step back and choosing a direction. I felt that pretty recently when I was working on the Islam in the City project. There were multiple different avenues to take. Having a lot of room to explore creatively is amazing but can also be detrimental if you don’t find your foundation. It’s important to trust yourself and the direction you’re going in. You can be easily swayed by basically everything around you but stick to what you decided and see it through. It really shows.


What was your key takeaway from participating in the Wix Playground Academy program?

Exploration! Wix Playground Academy pushed me to explore more. Okay, you have a couple of ideas, explore more. I think back to our mood boarding exercises with Noam Noy and how helpful it was in defining what I wanted. I mood board all the time, but this exercise was really extensive and challenging in a way! Everything at Wix was about pushing deeper, digging deeper to see what your full potential could really be and it felt good to challenge myself in that way.


In which design field would you want to focus on in your future?

Editorial design has my heart and always will. Especially having a hand in the art direction of a full publication, it’s really where I feel most at peace. I would also love to explore the music industry and work on an artist's full album roll-out—it’s a big dream of mine.


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