Why did you choose to attend OCAD U?

Ideas need space, and OCAD U was the perfect space for my ideas to find a way to manifest themselves in the world. OCAD U provided not only the space for my ideas but also the right network of people within the creative fields to help me get a great head start in my career.


Please briefly describe your current job/practice.
I’m currently working and living my life as a Creative, in the general sense of the word. I’ve been working for advertising agencies and design firms for most of my professional life, most recently I was a Regional Creative Director at JWT in Hong Kong. However, I just left to start my own business, where I simply sell ideas. So far, I’ve been doing everything from organizing music festivals to branding, hosting product launch events to promoting small businesses.


How did you get started in your career? 

My career started in my third year of OCAD U, thanks to the Gail Yacula scholarship with its included internship at Leo Burnett. Long story short, there was a portfolio review (This was back in the day when portfolios were big black books, not iPads or websites), we all had to leave our portfolios in a room, and a representative from Leo Burnett would come and review them. I did my homework about Leo Burnett however, and I knew the founder had a thing for red apples, and each office at the entrance has a bowl of apples. So I simply put a red apple on my black portfolio, which easily stood out among a sea of other black portfolios. And within the hour, I had my first job.



Did you volunteer or work in your field while you were a student?

Yes, besides the aforementioned internship that happened in my third year, I was also very active in bringing together creatives from across different majors at OCAD U. I would regularly organize events, as well as work together with the Student union and faculty to create and foster a sense of community.


What were your policies regarding internships, volunteering, and paid work?

The not so glamorous side of working in the Creative Industry is unpaid work. I did it for 9 months of my life. As much as it sucks, it really does build character and appreciation for when you actually are getting paid. If you have an opportunity to work somewhere amazing, but it’s unpaid, my advice is to take it, but set yourself a goal, to get noticed by the management and get yourself a paycheck by a certain date, and be very pro-active to get on their radar. As long as you set goals and stick to them, it's worth it.


What do you enjoy most about your work? What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

Discovering the in’s and out’s of different industries and products every day. I also really enjoy the fact that being creative means being whatever you want. You are the blank canvas. You're in the business of ideas. You can be an artist, you can be a designer, you can be creative. My career has seen me create everything from brand identities to TV ads, silk-screened posters that have been exhibited around the world, to fashion shoots. The most challenging aspect is to not become complacent and remain creative. Believe it or not, when you start actually making good money, you become comfortable, and comfort is the enemy of creativity. You need to be vigilant to remain creative and at the top of your game even when you’re comfortable financially.


What skills or relationships developed at OCAD U helped you participate in your field? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Being exposed to different disciplines that are taught at OCAD U greatly helped me understand and appreciate all the various forms of creative output. I don’t think I would have done anything differently!


What are the key responsibilities you maintain for your practice? 

To stay creative, one needs to remain curious and interested in the world. Always ask questions, whether it’s a project, or just simply in life. Challenge the status quo, be bold, find your voice, and don’t be afraid to express it. That is ultimately what makes the best creatives. Always have a variety of creative side projects to bounce back to in moments of frustration or boredom; because they do happen. Personally I have a couple, for example, check out my @portraitsbyib on Instagram, where I create mini Street style “Music Videos” for fashion-forward people that I meet around the globe.


What are your personal and professional goals for the coming years?

Develop my own creative business throughout Asia, and start designing my fashion line.

Ibraheem Youssef Portrait
Ibraheem Youssef Portrait Thumbnail
Infographic showing Ibraheem Youssef's Career Path
Camp 4 DJ poster
Breakfast @ Ibraheem's Invitation
Aziz Ansari's The Dangerously Delicious Tour
Ibraheem Youssef's Reservoir Dogs Poster
Ibraheem Youssef's Moonrise Kingdom Poster
Ibraheem Youssef's Inglorious Basterds Poster
Ibraheem Youssef's Canada Turns 150
Freelance Creative Director
To stay creative, one needs to remain curious and interested in the world. Always ask questions, whether it’s a work project, or just life in general. Challenge the status quo, be bold, find your voice, and don’t be afraid to express it.
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