Meet Mohammad Alsalti (aka Teddy). You might not be familiar with his name, but I’m sure you’ve seen his work before. He is the creative behind the now iconic silhouette image of #OurThreeWinners, Deah, Yusor, and Razan.
Creating this piece last year was a pivotal point in Mohammad’s life. His parents had just moved to Raleigh a few months before the loss of Deah, Yusor, and Razan. They told Mohammad about the awful event before it had reached the news. “It was a crazy feeling. I didn’t know them personally, but it felt as if I knew them forever. These were three young Muslim students my age that lived regular lives just like me. I felt like it could have been me or any of my siblings or friends. I could relate 100%. So when I heard the tragic news of their passing, I felt obligated to do something.”
And so he took inspiration from photos of them and started drawing the silhouette image before heading to his morning studio class. He says, “it was a very instinctive design to make, and came together seamlessly. The purpose of the silhouette drawing, being as minimal it is, was to convey a meaningful message with less. So I finished the drawing, posted it onto my Instagram page with the #ChapelHillShooting hashtag, and headed to my class.”
Mohammad didn’t think much of it at the time, but a few hours later when he checked his phone, he found that it was buzzing with countless notifications, “nothing like this has ever really happened to me, so I was somewhat overwhelmed. The story of Our Three Winners started to garner both national and international attention, and with that, my image became more and more widely shared.”
“For a week straight my phone was going off non-stop. To be honest, it was a bitter-sweet feeling. As a designer, to actually get this much validation for your work is unreal. I just wish it was under different circumstances. However, some things are out of your control and you try to shed as much positivity on even the darkest of situations, and I feel honored and privileged that a simple image I drew was able to do this much.”
“Deah, Yusor, and Razan were three incredible individuals within their community, and left us a legacy that will be remembered for a long time.”
After the bittersweet popularity of the silhouette image, Mohammad began to reflect on the impact that creativity and design has as a vehicle to communicate important messages. The positive response to this piece enabled him to feel that his artistic approach was appreciated by others. After battling with the common feeling of ‘you’re not good enough’ faced by most artists, he found himself thinking, “hey, maybe you aren’t too bad at this and you can actually do something with it.”
Mohammad believes that the internal doubt about one’s style of design and art is one of the biggest obstacles faced by creatives. He admits that he still faces this challenge, “what people see on the outside is totally different to what’s going on inside. But to finally start taking hold of my thoughts and making a mental shift was liberating as a creative. That’s when I decided I would keep creating and keep putting my work out there, and continue doing what I love.”
Today, Mohammad is in the final year of his architecture and design degree at University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Architecture, Art, & Planning. Creative expression was an innate quality of his from when he was young, “I was always the kid doodling in my notebook and drawing my favourite cartoon characters and athletes.”
Being so close to graduating, he is at an exciting time in life, and feels that it is the time for him, and others in his position, to go after their dreams. “Right now, my goals consist of multiple things. From a career standpoint, I want to get into the UX/UI industry and start working creatively in a different avenue. Alongside design, I’ve always been passionate about entrepreneurship and I think that blending both business and creativity would be a dream career for me.”
Mohammad has been inspired by numerous influences on his art, life, and business-mindset. However, his core inspirational figures have always been his parents, “as cliché as it sounds, there’s absolutely no way I am where I am right now without them. (My parents have) supported every single venture I’ve done, no matter how crazy it was. Even if they didn’t agree with it, they still supported it. They share my far-fetched visions in life and instead of downplaying them they always encourage me to go after it. I’ve realized that’s a rare thing to find, and is something I’m incredibly lucky to have.”
So what can we expect from Mohammad in the future? Alongside design, he as always been passionate about entrepreneurship and he aims to blend both business and creativity together to build his dream career. He’s kickstarting this dream by launching his own boutique clothing brand – coming soon!
He has some advice he’d like to leave with you…
Don’t be scared to show your work. Whether you’re an actor, artist, musician, photographer, etc…put your work out there. Let people see what you do. If you enjoy it, then do it! No matter how crazy or childish other people say your talent is, go after it because other people can’t see your dream like you do. I’ve come to the realization that in life you should:
1) find what you love doing,
2) figure out a way to make money doing that, and
3) make that your career.
I’m currently on step 2, and it definitely isn’t easy, but it will definitely be more fulfilling once you find your way!
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