Meet a Member: Sana Iqbal

Inspired by her Instagram ‘Transform Stories’, this month I caught up with Sana to find out more about how words inspire her design work and what projects she’s most proud of.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

I’m a British-Muslim graphic designer who’s fascinated with the power of words and image to persuade the masses how to think, feel and behave. I’m obsessed with political art and studied Graphic Design and Illustration. Since graduating in 2015, I’ve been on a rollercoaster from interning at well-renowned design studios to leading on the creative for election campaigns. I currently work as a Creative Consultant at The Storytellers, where every day I’m distilling lengthy business strategies into slogans and emotive, story-driven campaigns.

Where did your love of words come from?

Words and language have been a strong part of my identity. My Pakistani heritage creates a rich, confusing crossroad between Urdu and English. My religion Islam reminds me that writing is the most powerful tool for change. My working-class roots placed me on the markets from childhood, surrounding me with banter and solidarity. All these facets make me who I am.

Propaganda from World War Two shook me. The Nazi depiction of Jews taught me that design in the wrong hands is destructive. Once 9/11 happened and we saw an increase in the toxic narrative around Muslims and immigrants, this made things personal. I would ask myself, ‘what would happen if I used the power of words to promote tolerance rather than hate?’ Then I became a Graphic Designer to do exactly that. I now actively use the power of words to write to key players on causes I care about to developing activism campaigns.

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

I work with Martin Clarkson at The Storytellers where he introduced me to 26 two years ago. Words are a vital part of my work, so 26 has been a fantastic resource of inspiration. The events, projects and newsletter keep my design juices flowing and push me to continue improving my writing skills. Plus 26 is full of talented people who I’m enjoying getting to know.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

I’m currently working on 26 Weeks interviewing my cousin, Asiya Siddique, who is an expat living in Shanghai. For Chinese New Year she surprised us with a home visit and her two-week vacation has turned into an indefinite stay in lockdown England. It’s been fascinating interviewing her and gaining her perspective as she straddles two countries – China and England

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

I prefer writing in a surrounding with little distractions, either in silence or with instrumental music. My preference being film music by Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer and Alexander Desplat. I avoid lyrical songs as the words end up on my page! I always carry a mini notebook and have one next to my bed so I can capture any ideas immediately.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a personal project called ‘Transform Stories’. Every day on my Instagram (@sanaiqbaldesign) and LinkedIn I share an inspiring and uplifting story of how people and businesses have changed during COVID-19. Writing these mini stories adds some creative fun and happiness to my lockdown routine.

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I’m proud of my publication ‘Impossible Until Done’, which breaks down British politics into an easy guide. I wanted to motivate people to become politically active so distilling my endless notes to powerful statements was a vital part of making the publication accessible. I combined the words with vibrant, screen-printed backdrops to make politics attractive. You can read the publication here.

Another piece I’m proud of, is when I became an accidental editor for Damien Egan’s Mayoral election campaign. I was brought on-board as a Creative Consultant because of my non-traditional approach to political design. I was determined to make his campaign material exciting and accessible. I may have become a writer’s worst nightmare by constantly requesting shorter, snappier copy. Who wants to read political drab? Unless you need help falling asleep. I believe the concise, friendly language combined with the vibrant design helped win the campaign.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I find political speeches are a fantastic source of powerful material and memorable phrases. I also follow design blogs such as Campaign and Creative Review to keep up-to-date with current design work. And without trying to get too personal, I also find I get my best moment’s of inspiration, in the shower! 

– Sana Iqbal, interviewed by Sophie Gordon

We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line Don’t be shy.

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