Google Doodle is more than a fun little sketch

By The Peninsula Qatar

For VCUarts Qatar graduate Hazem Asif (B.F.A.’16/A; M.F.A.’18/A) creating a Google Doodle of renowned Pakistani artist Moin Akhtar was a unique opportunity to celebrate a man he greatly admires.

On December 24, 2021, a doodle created by Asif welcomed viewers to the landing page of Google. He designed the artwork for Google to mark the 71st birthday of Moin Akhtar, who is one of Pakistan’s most loved actors, comedians and entertainers. 

“Never in my life did I think of working as a guest artist for Google Doodle…let alone designing a doodle for the legendary Moin Akthar,” said Asif, who has both a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA from VCUarts Qatar. “I was not expecting it and when I was approached at first, I felt humbled and honored. Working on this project has been the most rewarding experience of my career to date.”

The opportunity came last November when the art director from Google Doodle US reached out to Asif. They had seen Asif’s work on his Instagram account (@worldofhazem) and asked if he would be interested in creating a Google Doodle to mark Moin Akhtar’s birthday. For Asif – who grew up watching Moin Akhtar on vintage television sets in the ’90s – the response was an immediate ‘yes’.

Google Doodle US shared guidelines, templates and a few samples of past work with Asif. They also handpicked a few examples of Asif’s past works that they liked for the approach and color palette of the new doodle.

“Google’s creative team said they loved how I integrate my portraits into the surrounding narrative of the person who is the subject,” Asif said. “As an actor and comedian, Moin was popular for the impressions, often with a sense of humor, that he made of other people. They suggested that it would be great to see that element of Moin reflected in the doodle. 

“Additionally, Google’s logo had to be incorporated into the artwork as a part of its visual narrative and drawn from scratch rather than use existing digital fonts,” Asif continued. “Other than that, as a designer who was familiar with the cultural pulse of the region, I was given complete creative liberty to create a doodle that was reflective of Moin’s versatility – his performances as an actor, comedian and stage performer.”

Asif, who currently works independently as a full-time science illustrator at a university in Pakistan, aimed to create a doodle that had a classical feel to it. He sought to invoke a sense of nostalgia for the viewers by paying homage to Akhtar, who is a household name in Pakistan. 

“Doodles can take the form of a hand sketch, idea process art or minimalist line art that leads into something more complex,” Asif explained. “In this case, I mostly drew inspiration from my own childhood – memories of watching classical Pakistani shows on PTV (Pakistan Television Corporation).

 “As a family we’d gather around our television set – the vintage type that was common in Pakistan in the ’90s – to enjoy his performances on stage,” Asif continued. “Later, in the 2000s, we used to watch the widely popular television comedy show ‘Loose Talk’, where Moin would impersonate hundreds of different characters and personalities with his trademark humorous take on the social and political events of the time. 

“I wanted the final artwork to be a balance between showcasing his multi-faceted talents and evoking a sense of nostalgia for the ’80s and ’90s,” Asif said. “Those who grew up in the ’90s will notice how the color scheme was also inspired by the retro technicolor palette of those decades.”

Images: Hazem Asif’s Google Doodle of Moin Akhtar and Hazem Asif from The Peninsula Qatar.