Talal Obeid, a multidisciplinary designer born in Jahra, Kuwait, and currently living in rural North Carolina with three cats and a dog and his beautiful wife, is an entirely self-taught designer. “I don’t pride myself in my lack of academic credentials” says Obeid “but I do take pride in where my concentrated efforts took me without Academia’s help. I like to tease my dad and show off about how many times I lectured in universities and colleges without a degree.”

Oasis Magazine talks to the high-profile, self-taught designer and creator of the Tata Botata blog which transformed into a brand.

How would you describe yourself within the realm of Graphic Design?
I’m a visual culture fanboy, especially the neglected visual heritage of the Middle East. I approach my design with an almost archeological inspection of ‘visual sites’ and bring them up with all the respect they deserve to be the butt of some t-shirt joke later at some point.

What inspired you to get into the world of design?
The whole thing seems like a series of happy accidents in retrospect. I was fascinated by the original dot-com boom in the late nineties and I was determined to ride the wave. I begged my dad to buy me a computer and after a few hissy fits and a poem he caved in. The seller sweetened the deal with a hand-held scanner, that I used to scan all my family photos into the computer. I spent some time working on a picture of my older brother to make him look like a zombie. It got a few laughs and some people even believed it when I told them that he was possessed by jinn when we took that picture.
It really had nothing to do with art, I never won any competitions in school or anything like that. Eventually I got connected to the internet and that’s when fecal matter hit the fan. I got exposed to the work of David Carson on raygun, Neville Brody on The Face, the posters and identity work of Saul Bass and Paul Rand. It felt very natural for me to  want to do this for living.

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Do you consider yourself to be a conceptual designer?
I haven’t thought about it in these terms. I often treat all my projects as an exercise in functional design, that’s probably why my work is often misunderstood as plain. I just feel like good design is a lot like a joke, the more you explain it the worse it gets. I do, however, give myself a lot of freedom when I’m working on a Tata Botata T-shirt, a lot of the work that goes on these shirts is conceptual. I often like to stop right before the finish line and let spectator take it from there.

You’ve started your journey with a blog which has now transformed into a brand – selling different products and a popular t-shirt line. Tell us more about your journey.
Tata Botata started as a blog in 2004, at first the goal of the blog wasn’t clear. I wrote about what I knew, and at that point I was living and breathing advertising and graphic design. I was fed up with the quality of the work and I took it to the blog. I guess that ‘clicked’ with some people, overnight the blog gained a credible following and I started getting recognized on the streets (mostly for a ‘fro I was sporting at the time).
I was in the habit of collecting funny lines and ideas that I never knew what to do with, so I sat down one day and adapted the designs as t-shirts and sent the images to a few blog friends to get some feedback. The feedback I was hoping for immediately turned to pre-orders, the focus group cleared the first batch and soon after I was selling the t-shirts out of the trunk of my car at bloggers meetings. It lasted for while as side project but I was bad businessman at the time, every penny I made out of it went to fund yet another party. It was completely Rock ‘n’ Roll until I decided to get serious about it in 2010 and we been going strong since then, with more retailers in the region and an e-commerce store tatabotata.com.