Peter is a designer at heart. He has been leading design teams for over 20+ years now.
In this episode, we discuss how his spiritual journey lead him to to Islam via design and curiosity.
Maruf: Hey, Assalamu alaikum. This is Maruf, your host. Welcome to Muslims On Fire. Today, I have a very good friend of mine from far away, from Western, from Australia. He is an award-winning designer and is a brand expert.
And most importantly I know him also as a great Community Builders. Well and one and only Peter Gould, how are you my friend? Assalamu alaikum. Welcome to the show, bro.
Peter: Walaikumassalam. I’m really great. How are you doing?
Maruf: I’m doing good. It’s always a pleasure catching up with you. Even though you’re from Australia, always catch up in Dubai, don’t we? Somewhere in the middle.
Peter: Yeah, Australia does really feel like a different planet sometimes which is usually a good thing. But yeah, Dubai is often where yeah, we catch up and a few other friends. It’s sort of a good meeting place for lots of things.
Maruf: Awesome. I mean, we’ve known each other for six seven years now.
Peter: Yeah, I guess so. Well, I mean, you know, it’s hard to measure things in just simply, years like it feels like you know what things we were doing or I mean I don’t know if you feel the same.
But you feel like it’s sort of measured by how old my kids were at that time. What was the kind of life at that point? And yeah, but it has been a while. So, yeah, so great to be chatting with you today man.
Maruf: It’s true. I mean we’ve been doing a thing with, been doing different projects, you know something that would be, all been learning and growing and here we are. Today, I think the time is yours.
We get to know you and I think some of the committee I mean, you’re already well known in community but today A is as we said, we’re gonna go back way back to your child and try to understand that, you know, take all the rate of Peter Gould and what makes him to the person he is today.
So let’s go back and try to understand who you are. So tell me Peter one of the first memories you do remember, you know as a child, you know, what you may say to make an effect.
Peter: Wow, we’re going way back man.
Maruf: That’s exactly what we do
Peter: Okay, well firstly then if any listeners are still listening, I appreciate your time and I’ll try and extract the useful things for you because I know everyone has a lot and there’s so many amazing great podcasts and books and articles and things to read.
So I’ll try and find some learnings and highlights that they’re useful rather than a long three-hour stroll through my, you know, not always interesting life. But yeah, look very briefly. I feel super blessed. I had a really happy childhood.
I really wanted to literally memorie. I think of like, you know, I have, I guess more visual sort of memory of in sensation of like we know early life even I remember the kind of Errors I was.
So, I grew up in kind of Southern Sydney and kind of sweet not not very well-known kind of tired of Sydney that’s sort of, you know, got a lot of parks and birds and trees and you know being near the beaches and little bays and things like that and you know as you get older you appreciate, you know, just just a natural setting.
So, remember a lot of that type of thing and being with you know, my grandparents and my parents. So yeah, I feel very grateful to have that, at the start and you know, largely pretty uneventful childhood, but all the sort of normal kind of learnings and things that you go through as a young person.
Yeah, so, you know, I guess I don’t know what would be key learnings from that but definitely okay, you know, it’s something I try and do as a parent now you think as a parent for your own kids are, like I feel responsible that I’m trying to help create their earliest memory, which is a big like a true Amana, right the big, you know trusted like okay. I want their earliest memories to be happy and finding good. So that’s how I see things now, you know through that much too.
Maruf: Okay interesting. So tell me that, did you like school? Did you end up subjects you like to go out or maybe you love school. Some people are scared. What happened there?
Peter: Yeah. I was pretty fortunate. So like my early school like what we call primary school here or infants. Yeah. It wasn’t just a local school. I had a generally pretty good experience, you know, I enjoyed it.
I did pretty well. Yeah, I have like, you know, I remember a couple specific teachers like I had one teacher who was pretty cool, who used to play Cat Stevens songs on the guitar in class. So I used to like no, these Cats Steven songs and I had no idea the time but much later, you know, that would become an interesting sort of revisiting some of those through it, through more spiritual ends.
And actually, you know, meaning that Stevens, you know, who became Yusuf Islam that was just an interesting thread of life, you know, you know God plans for you. Anyway, that was the one memory but going to high school. Yeah. I gained and had a generally really positive experience, you know.
I was drawn towards. We have subjects in design and in art. So, fortunately our school had like, we had this kind of forward-thinking art teacher who created like this. Digital art lab which was pretty progressive in the sort of mid to late 1990s. So like you can imagine, you know, 90, 97, 98, 99 having access to like these Big Macintosh computers back then and big printers and it was all very like, conky by today’s standards, but I enjoyed that kind of teachs.
I can try to figure things out and how do you get Photoshop to like not crash and run out of memory to print on like a two sides poster and you know, so I was very Hands-On. Yeah, bit all the things you go through like, you know, it’s not like, you know, it’s not a dream that I got through high school.
You have all sorts of dramas and challenges to figure out. But yeah, overall that helped me kind of start get going in my kind of creative career.
Maruf: I see. So I mean what you’re saying is that your interest in those arts were. So, it was that time you can already see that you were drawn to Art. That’s what you’re saying a specific way.
Peter: Yeah, like I think as a young person like I was I could draw and sketch and figure things out and you know, some time ago going through like, you know, old Archive of documents and things I found a bunch of things I had done as a kid.
And I had made the design advertisement for computers that didn’t exist. So like I don’t know what but I had sketched up and fully specced out these really big computers. It’s like I guess, you know, they could do all these play games and they could have and I like I don’t know if that’s healthy for a kid’s of he designing advertisements.
But I guess, I was but you know, and of course what’s cute is like to have the big, you know CRT monitors, you know those big you know what I want like Flats good want to.
Maruf: Call them real 3D monitors.
Peter: Yeah. Really. So yeah, I was drawn to that and also a portion of my parents kind of, you know, kind of facilitate that they weren’t sort of you know, sort of artistic type of you know in their own hearts, but you know, let me to you know, I remember the enrollment like a cartoon school and different things like that.
So, you know and my grandfather was what you kind of describe as an interior designer today. So like he, you know help people kind of, you know, re-furnished the house and stuff like that.
But, you know sort of done quite differently back when he was practicing. But yeah, so I had I guess the right top form of the right kind of guidance around me.
Maruf: So design was in the blood, right?
Peter: Yeah, I think so. I mean even today like right on my desk every day. I carry keep a couple of objects from my grandfather, you know, I mean, he passed away many years ago, but you know, I have his camera and my desk and I just try and you know, just kind of think about that it’s a nice kind of link that I have got fortune to keep.
Maruf: Very interesting, right. So let me just say. So you finished the school, is it then you just went to University like to study art or what happened?
Peter: Yeah, so I had a pretty clear idea of what courses I wanted to get into. So we had here like you could do a bachelor of design and then different types of design you could get into and you know, those one called product design or industrial design as it was kind of cold.
And you know, those more of a graphic design type of course called visual communication that’s still very popular and you have to work hard to get into them because they weren’t just like oh if you really good with art design getting it was more.
Back then I was like you have to have like a pretty high Mark and across like things like math English science, really street it yeah, so, you know had to. The good thing was I guess I enjoyed it, you know, I really loved modern history for example and we had a subject called business studies.
And so yeah, I was just looking back as a portion to have a lot of the right ingredients around me. I think to sort of start baking something and then I went to bachelor design that was like a four year course and you know a nice stretch. That out as I was trying to start freelancing during that time.
Maruf: I see. So like you’re finished. So I think there’s like a bachelor’s that was 3 or 4 years. is it correct?
Peter: Yes. It’s true. The four year course. Oh, it’s like a four-year honors, sort of course special design. And you know, sort of a couple one or two years into that. Well, I guess I should go back a little bit earlier that’s late high school. I was working, like basic jobs, like working McDonald’s working at you know, stuff like that.
Just trying to get cash you know, just do you just kind of do things at late teenagers will do and you know, I really love diving into the world of you know, crazy things in Photoshop and you know changing images and making posters and all of that.
So that was kind of picked up by I guess a couple people around me and I remember a school friend in grade 11 asked me to design a poster and I’m like, yeah sure and I’m like, but how about you pay me $20 to do it, you know just kind of picking and it was like, yeah sure.
Maruf: That’s good. Business from the beginning.
Peter: This is yeah and you know, and I realize oh, that’s the equivalent of working five hours at McDonald’s. That’s getting it.
Maruf: You were enjoying it.
Peter: Yeah, that’s fair. And so I put all my heart into this poster. I was probably like the most terrible poster I’ve ever designed. But it was good enough that he was happy. He paid me. I’m like, wow, I pretty much spent a whole day working on for design. And that sells like okay. This is what I need to do. This is about art to do that kind of stuff.
Maruf: It’s amazing, isn’t it? You can make a difference and you can also live in business.
Peter: Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. If you can align all those things, I was listening to a great kind of those actually online webinar things, just this week with an author that and I think that I really followed Bill Burnett and it’s a book.
He’s got a book called Design Your Life and then it has a renew one coming out called design your work life. And anyway, it’s great. And the reason I bring that up is because he was kind of describing after many different case studies.
They kind of scene like, these three factors of like kind of call meaning impact and expression and it’s saying that look you ideally with your work life would be great. If you get to work out you can’t, they can’t always be full, you know, sometimes you know, there’s the different one.
So, one might be more impact but it’s not sustainable, you know financially. So, it’s kind of you know, we’re always experimenting with those different kinds of levels I think and even though you might love designing, working in design.
It’s very different than when you want to try and actually make that sustainable into like, a business that’s going to pay the bills, go to pay school fees, you know, all these things. There’s a whole layer of you know, turning that into a healthy business.
Maruf: Absolutely, but I think there’s some listeners asking questions. I think we’ll get to that I think when we begin to, you know set up your business. So let me just ask this after finishing the university, did you work for other companies or you dive into creating your own agency, how did it work out for you?
Peter: Yeah, so I was just kind of organic in that. Basically, I was experiencing and just started with people I knew, through different community types of activity and you know people that I can kind of new here and there.
I mean when you’re sort of you know, 18, 19, 20, your kind of network is not that big or the people, university.
And yeah, I guess, I was kind of trying to you know hustle a little bit get some design work and help people design their low back then like, you know, it wasn’t like today you can just go online and find all these services to do what you know, you kind of had to find a designer and someone to help you create your kind of, you know, identity and Maybe a little website for them and coding HTML manually all this stuff.
And anyway, I found myself a little in demand and just as that grew there’s sort of clients. I started working with that. There was one in particular that was going to start an agency with one of their people like, one of their kind of former colleagues and the basically said look on will you come and help like kind of build out design team, but we also need you to you know, help set up the tech and you know hire people and so I technically never worked for you know, like joined anyone as an employee.
I was always Kind of freelancing but so I was you know, help kind of do that but that became you know, a pretty successful small agency that then grew and you know, I helped them kind of win clients. I learned a lot through that. It was almost like being day-to-day in another company. But I still had plans on this side first intrusive.
Maruf: So, you actually could have bypassed it, usually people create their business, but you actually helped, so when you create, you can get paid, so he’s almost zero risk, right? You learned that tactic. So in the later, you can create on your own if you want to. Is that correct?
Peter: Yeah, something like that, but I was probably painting it to idyllic it. I mean it was really hard because you know, I had to do a lot of overnights. I remember like sleeping under the desk sometimes before clients are coming in and you know working ridiculous hours and trying to be.
I mean, it’s just learning and that age, you know, like, you’ve had the time and energy to just, you know, embrace all of that and you know, just trying to dive, put the hours in and figure it out as you go.
Maruf: I see I mean, so, this is after the university, right? In this timeline what’s going on right now? This one?
Peter: Yes, right towards the end. Yeah, I kind of was towards the end of my University and actually delayed my University by a year. This is the kind of a way the business was going. And I kind of you know explore the idea of just, you know, letting go of completely and not finishing my design degree.
But it was cool that the last year about, University, is basically, it’s one whole year and a big project and there’s something I really wanted to do. And kind of make it. I was really interested in that at the time. It was kind of quite known which is pigmented reality.
So, you know around 2007 2004. That’s yeah. Yeah that time. Yeah, it wasn’t iPhones and there was no Facebook back then. It was like 2003, 2004 and yeah. Anyway, I kind of made this working prototype of an AR kind of headset using some, you know, open source software and some of my own ideas and design anyway.
So, I spent that was kind of like my side passion for a year and finished that in 2005.
Maruf: Okay. So, I mean, look, what was the time like you helping this company to build up the agency? When was the time to say? Said well, that’s enough. I’m going to do my own thing and that was a time you could decide it or you were slowly at transition and how did it happen? Because sometimes it’s an interesting question for the listeners, you know, if you want to set up their own agency or business, for example.
Peter: Yeah, that’s right. The thing is, every person on their journey like, you know, it’s easy to kind of look back and you see the connections but you know, it’s as many poets say you have you know, life can be understood backwards, but you gotta live it for waiting.
So it’s you know, the different threads having a number of things together and we’ll talk a little bit. I guess about my kind of spiritual journey, which started to come increasingly into my thinking at that time, but it was .Yeah and that had a bearing on it.
But essentially I mean it was the 80s you what was kind of funny in a way is that I kind of hired up that, hired the team and you know, we as they want more jobs and we were hiring people. I kind of made myself redundants being. Because you don’t worry, there were like people doing.
And I was trying to freelance and they were like say well, you know, we need full-time and what’s funny one of the people that hired, you know, I became really an amazing designer. It’s Dominic. I became quite good friends with it. And to this day. I just saw him a couple of weeks ago and this is 15 years ago or something now.
But it was you know, it was funny because he often jokes at all, you know, you can you hide me and then, and you kind of left so we have this Dynamic but it’s just a figure it out as you go, you know when it was exciting time like
in, things like social media or just happening.
And but I guess if we cycled back to my sort of personal journey behind this thread through these decisions at that time.
Maruf: So, this is exactly, I was going to ask about that question. It was the same time like, so you’re finishing school. I remember like, you know, you mentioned that this spiritual journey. At that time, I ask those fundamental questions of life or is it later? When was it?
Peter: Yeah, so another whole layer kind of that journey. I was just describing with you know, me just I guess trying to figure out life and at that age I think you are asking but no, figure out life speaking faster and probably than Australian. But figure out life and figure out the meaning and you know, a few different things were happening that kind of started late high school.
And then as I was going into University as well as but you decide their kind of thread or layer of what was happening while I’m having the design and your journey and that involves a few different things. So involving could actually know some Muslims getting to meet some Muslims not something that was planned or even thought about or even knew anything about.
So, it kind of got to know one Muslim and their families during high school and that you know, kind of kept a relationship where you know became to appreciate that, before something faith and religion. I didn’t have a really good opinion of I was kind of just unfortunately failing to the box of just labeling like anything to do with God or religion is like old-fashioned.
And just I fit into the you know saying Australia or a lot of love places in the US. It’s like Ito religion, this is not cool. It is like old-fashioned ruling micro, So, my parents did and you know, and then I would see the church and whatever it be like a yeah, it’s you have certain parts of you like my appreciate parts of it.
But overall you just so I just kind of follow the herd sadly without even really thinking much about it. But well until I got to know some people that took it more seriously and had a much more, you know, spiritual kind of understanding of the world and a bigger picture.
And they didn’t focus necessarily on you know, the church or you know, so, it was a different type of learning for me where it just kind of opened my understanding. I realized wow, I had missed so much and like I just wrote off a whole part of human existence, I just kind of you know, I took the time to get to know and then through these Muslims and I started reading I started to visit.
Maruf: Before we dive into the Islam, Australia must be full of other religious people do. Why Muslims, why this guy, what was the reason, why this you folks in the boat? Because he was a good friend or?
Peter: Yeah, well, initially, it was a girl actually and her kind of family that I got to know that lived near me and I just was really fascinated with you know, why people would even take any of this stuff seriously.
And it seemed like something very strange or foreign something that I just had not any relationship to like, I joked that you know, my understanding of God came from like The Simpsons, you know. It’s like then Ned Flanders character across the road and like, you know, it was just something that I can have this strong.
And I just feel as completely as blind by popular culture and not taking the you know, the time to study, don’t have. Yeah. So yeah it definitely you know, some Muslims in Australia like there’s not a big number. Becky said there’s many many different cultures and groups of different communities here.
And I mean, I can’t really explain why that I happen to have this connection apart from you know, it was planned and it felt just kind of took me down a path and yeah, curious. I kept exploring it and this wasn’t like this lightbulb moment of Rocco. This is it. I wasn’t like, struck by something on the hill.
It was just over time seeing, I guess the certain wisdoms in it, even though I had a lot of questions and some things, you know didn’t make sense and looking for a lot of things in history. I still have to figure out. But just this inner awareness starts growing when you start having those questions about meaning about.
I’m really just you know biology and chemistry. These people, I’m told, I interactivity, all these types of things. What is the soul like to people, you know, we communicate with language, you know, sounds through our mouths or you know ink on paper, but is there something more and deeper that we can express through just simple language and simple kinds of sounds.
And as that wareness grows that sort of self-awareness that self-actualization you start seeing your limitations, you start seeing things in a whole new light and I just found that Islam and the various kind of wisdoms in something that from like say Ramadan from the outside for someone just exploring that looks very strange and difficult like, why would you just not eat? And yeah, it’s just from the surface level. It’s like that. It’s really that silly. Just have some water.
Like, It’s okay. You’re still fine, but you start appreciating that. Yeah, certain things you just kind of surrender to and then when you actually do it, you feel it your experience and that inner kind of Sakina, the inner peace you get from practicing these in a certain ancient wisdom that you feel in.
Someone put it this way. It’s like, you know, you can describe the taste of honey all day. But until you actually taste honey yourself, then you’re like, oh no that’s the honey. So that was like me. And coming into Islam.
Maruf: I mean, I think I’m just trying to understand probably it’s almost possible. But I think you saw you have if you were exposed to this Muslim girl so somehow maybe your friend maybe in the course together, like before religion was like foreign to you, right?
It’s just a caricature from The Simpsons, but now there’s a person in front of you doing these things for the name of God, right? Whichever doesn’t make sense and then just bothers you in one way or another.
But some kind of so that’s what you’re trying to do, right? Like basic questions or maybe I miss something and you try to kind of go into deep trying to explore is that what’s going on? And behind the whole process during this time or something else?
Peter: Yeah. It’s a gradual journey of like, you know being confronted with you know, challenging yourself, you also realize that I think any sort of a key to a peaceful existence in you know, in this world is just accepting that not everything is completely rational and scientific and just measured.
You know, just always do one plus, one equals two like there is just a whole other layer to you know, which the, you know, ancient civilizations and traditionally I think humans understood there’s existence.
There’s just more than you know, the such a simple kind of irrational everything there is just you know, there is another layer of its depth that the Muslims just kind of grow up with and you know, they kind of get because they just being around environments and thinking and have but when you when you’re not raised like that, yeah, it’s you really grapple with this kind of fronting.
So yeah, when you start just having that awakening through many different kinds of interactions and readings and thinking and you start letting go of the what if all the questions you have like, oh my God, I can’t pray five times a day. That it sounds like too much work and yeah, but then you start experiencing it and you realize that is it, a depth and a beauty to it.
Maruf: Here’s my question. Look, I mean if anybody like any other person like this say, if logistic curiosity like you would understand. Okay. Oh, this is what it means and just move on with your life. But you are taking it to the next level. I mean you’re talking about praying and then etc.
Why are you taking these? Why were you just keep pushing forward? That’s the question like burning me crazy. Does that make sense? Like I’m saying sometimes excuse this week with. Okay. This was Islam. Yeah, that’s fine, you know. Some people do that and say this is more with their life, but in your case that as we know, it’s not the case that you are just taking you are trying to like willingly or unwillingly, you know, I’m not going to do it but I have to do it.
I don’t know whatever is on your mind, but somehow you could try this dualism in human endeavor Humanity, right and just trying to understand and like willing that willing you are just dragging yourself to this point. Why would you do that?
Peter: Yeah. Well, I didn’t feel like dragging. You know, it just got more. You know organic and just kind of it’s more of a feeling, you know, it’s the thing like if I tried to rationally explain it to you or anyone is like well, yeah, it’s like explaining rationally why you would fall in love like it you will you can’t really rest, you just kind of know and you just you just experience.
And that I was just going through and yeah, I will I mean there’s definitely moments a lot of moments of challenge and confusion and questions marks, but then just moments of clarity moments where you just try praying or you try said or you just kind of okay.
Everyone told me that Lisa dieker. Everyone’s sitting with Arkansas, go visit them. People are doing this thing. I’m like, what is that? Like, you know now you can imagine like someone who’s never encountered that to then take the time to sit and just be quiet and reflect and start trying those kinds of activities.
And then wow, it can be pretty profound. So when you have enough of those little moments you go. You know what, I don’t quite get all of this stuff, but I just know there’s something very right about it for me and I can’t explain it for everyone else and I can understand everyone has their own path in.
Rumi says everyone has you know, this many Pastor God is there are people on Earth and so that was my path and it just you know, but I feel like I’m still on it, you know, like you go through it for and , and you just feel very fortunate to be enriched with all sorts of new experiences and learning.
And then you start seeing these challenges you have are actually kind of wisdom in disguise. So if I didn’t have certain things going on back, you know have the door open for me if you know spiritually.
Maruf: So it was this time, you finished your college, you’re going through the spiritual journey and I think you were working in this agency. Now you’re coding and so is it the time when you start your first agency at a time? Is the time like or something later?
Peter: Yeah. Well, I mean, technically, I had pretty much from basically, when I started University and I registered a company, it was very old school back. Then I went and met Dr. The bank manager in person and started an account and like, registered the company.
And it was like a thrill but also scary because it’s like men I’m just this kid like I’m you know, it was sometimes like yeah, I can do this another time like man. I don’t know how to do paperwork. Like what do I do? And I just, you know, didn’t really have mentors or like designers that I could reach out to.
I was trying to figure out reap and whatever I could and just kind of learn as I go and yes, I kind of had started the company then technically but I didn’t really feel like a company I guess, until I started growing a team.
So that started when I was at University and you know starting to get some more projects and clients sort of requests and I needed help like I couldn’t do my assignments and the projects and you know everything as well.
So I started hiring some of my classmates saying like hey, you’re really good at like, illustrator? Can I pay you to help me do this thing, you know, and I was able to figure out you know basic math as like, okay. Well I can give this project for this much and I can only do that much. I’ll have to hire someone else.
Do the rest and it just kind of grew and by the time yeah, I had, you know, finished University and I was moving a bit away from helping this other team to start my own. It was the same time. I had sort of embraced Islam at hook around that point and I think.
Maruf: Under the previous, I think it was called Peter Goodwin. It is at that company or it was something else.
Peter: Well, actually, that agency which called creative Q. That’s what it was. Okay, great. And yeah, it was a little logo like it was the idea was creativity cubes, you know, like there’s a little kind of 3 exponential creative director creative cube. And yeah, it was intentionally just sort of, you know, like a little design agency type of feel. But it just kind of worked.
Because I guess I love the work. I like to meet new clients. I was really driven to try and build something and you know, end up getting first like local kinds of government projects as well. And then that led to more, you know, bigger ones and soon we were doing, you know, some quite big projects for you know, big departments in the country here in Australia.
And something started happening. Go to the secret, I remember my kind of creative Journey link to the spiritual journey. So I started traveling. So, you know after I got married which was sort of around the same time. I went to part of that was going to southern Spain, going to Abdul Lucia, joint about Cumbre and that was like this awakening moment.
And then it was like everything at that time became about how can I save up enough money to fly back to more of these kinds of places. So, you know, we started saving and flying, went to Morocco for a month and just immersed in the language and the culture there and then, you know, it was such a joy to be able to do all that.
Maruf: So, I think that your agency the Creative Cube at the time like was it like kind of inclined angle towards the Islamic projects or it was general because I remember later on it was you’re also getting more clients from the Muslim world and more like inclined toward it. Maybe I don’t know what. That was my impression. Am I right or what is?
Peter: Yeah. No, it was all kinds of links. So as l was going kind of more mainstream, regular kind of commercial client and corporate type of design work. As I kind of became a little bit more aware or active in Muslim Community in Sydney people started to try to figure out who is this guy, who is this, you know what this guy about?
And then when I got to know some people that are like as explaining their own graphic design and you know building digital kind of projects and things like that, you know, I started to get a lot of requests to help you set up, you know, it will help design, you know, the identity for organization or event posters or things like that.
And I was only too happy to just help do all of that because you know, I had to just get into it at that time and that just resulted in these two really strong strands of work coming in and projects to due process and Muslim Community and then our regular kind of corporate.
So what that led to just in a nutshell is like a couple years later. I was like, well I had this strand of kind of Muslim projects called through what I call the Azan. It was called. Then and it was like Azan creative and I have to some of my photography on there some of my artwork that was inspired by the travel and kind of almost Muslim projects.
And I remember sitting down at some point in probably two thousand five or six and just writing his whole thing is like, I was like, you know things I would love to do and I remember writing like, I would love to have a design company that can work for you know Muslim work on cool Muslim Brandon projects and you know and designed for Muslims like wouldn’t that be cool?
Because at the time like when you searched or even looked for like, you know some designers or you know, some graphic design. Do it like, almost like no results like it was just sort of wasn’t like today where you have all these great design teams and you know for Freelancers that understand graphic design or design really well, but, you know have this kind of faith lens or background in chemistry into it.
Maruf: I see, that makes a lot of sense. So, I mean fast forward from that moment for fast forward, today. You are today, the co-founder of Zileej, right and tell us more about your transformation from Creative Cube to Zileej.
And like how was it transition? I just would like to know the vertex. I know it’s a big long story, but just try to make it as brief as you can.
Peter: Yeah. Well, think of it this way. If you know all of us, whatever we do in our personal life were always experimenting, iterating, trying things out and as a designer you kind of think of yourself as so, I feel that you know my whole, you know approach to having a design studio has been lots of prototyping which means trying things out, you know, every once in a while things go.
Well, a lot of the time, you know, it’s an experiment. It’s just learning. So, if you think of that I would say the short version of that transformation over 10 years is you know, consistently having this kind of you know idea of where you want to go, what kinds of work and clients would like to be working with and what kind of brands you want to be working on.
But you know trying out dozens of little experiments and as you know, I remember, like you would have seen some little prototypes and projects I tried and you know building some apps and trying lots and lots of that and what that including incrementally has met through all of that iteration and learning is you know, creating this now what is the leech.
And the lead studio is, you know, having this strong sense of purpose and trying to create meaningful brands that you know, create better representation and diversity. Bringing a strong kind of Muslim presence, but you know, I sort of this inclusiveness through either like consumer products that we’ve designed or digital products we designed both that we built ourselves or even toys and games.
But also, you know regular serving, you know, great clients would love to work with Launch Good who are you know, just how much I just hit hundred million dollars raised through their platform and doing in helping develop their brand and their communication.
So I guess the short version is like having this sense of purpose and meaning and trying to be guided towards that vision and that mountain, not knowing may be precisely what that is, but just always kind of, you know, following that and following your heart, you know designing from the heart.
And there’s a great speech by a guy called Neil Gaiman who has his speech called, make good art and he kind of describes this, you know, this distant mountain that you want to work towards, you know this vision or whatever it is.
And as you go opportunities come up and you have to make decisions and basically does this take me towards the mountain or just take me away, something might look good and be kind of profitable or you know like a good job, but is it you know, is it kind of going to take me away from what I want to try to be doing it live. So, you know that type of thinking awareness will get you a long way, I think.
Maruf: It’s a very interesting approach. So, you know, like I know because we also run, not me. I would say the graphic violence comes out. We have a single agency. I know it’s the challenge. So tell me what’s the one of the biggest struggles with running a creative agency? And how do you find solutions to them?
Peter: Yeah, we’ll look at there are many and you know, I think one of the challenges is consistent change, but that’s really across any business. Now, you know, any comment, today’s also has to have a digital presence.
So in whatever you are, even if you’re a florist it, you know, and or medical you need to have some sort of digital way that people access to you or book or at least find out about you. So, you know, we’re all in this transformation phase and I think if I look at when I started like, early on and the type of work and the type of you know, the way now kind of day-to-day work compared to now, it’s changed a lot.
I think it’s just being excited about embracing a little bit of change and you know, you’ve got to kind of just be ready to try things out all the time. But yeah, there’s the same day to day challenges you know, maintaining good projects and maintaining really strong relationships and you know being ready that there’s things you just can’t be ready for things just come along.
We might have, there’s a certain project that was going really well and you know, it was everyone loved a good feedback and we don’t have made big decisions around it. But sadly the main investor for that passed away unexpectedly. He was very humble. He’s only in his 30s.
And that sort of changed the course and this whole inner set of decisions that were made. So, things just happen and you appreciate God really is the best of planets. It’s only to see that wisdom later or you know, maybe not for a long long time.
Maruf: I mean, there’s still just talking about, you know, sometimes it’s a sad thing that we think it’s bad. But actually we should look backwards like cooking all the characters that’s going backward, right? Maybe yeah, most of the time it is good for us. We don’t know. We just actually all of us just exploring one day at a time.
So, many people when they look at you, I guess they look at this serial entrepreneur trying to do, you know, try to learn something successful, you know, didn’t usual. That’s totally fine. And I understand you because I’m also something like that. I understand.
But I think what they might not know, actually one of the things I noticed personally a little baby what I don’t what you think. I think you’re a very good Community Builder as well because whenever we meet in Dubai or in the you know, they’re like, hard to community. This is not that elected to business.
But you guys like your team as I think you guys created that community. I think that’s an amazing community. So tell me more about that. I mean which is not directly business, but still you carry me to my community because I remember when we go to Dubai we’re always having these meetings when this meeting is where we end up meeting amazing cool Muslims around the world right now, would have never met. So tell me more about that. But how do you see that fit in the long-term vision?
Peter: Yeah, I think it’s a sense of the term that I kind of adopted is like hearted or like heartedness. So, you know, I mean, people that we making spend time with to anywhere we’re not necessarily like-minded, you know, in terms of sometimes I think differently would, we have different approaches and you know, which is good thing a like harder than means that what you kind of, the kind of change and positive things you want to see happen in the world.
You’re very much kind of aligned there and whatever, you know, whatever your kind of career as happy as you know, you overall had this kind of hope and aspiration. So it just yeah, I mean things like that had come about over the years for example, you know, probably out of the need of just wanting to connect and find a tribe of creative Muslims or kind of Muslims on this path of trying to, like respect the tradition.
And the legacy that we have, you know, that beautiful creative sort of heritage that is there. But how do we interpret that day? Today, now, very digital very kind of social world like, looking back at this great, you know architecture and art and calligraphy Mosaic and you know, this Islamic art, for example, just kind of stuck in that time in history or is it living and thriving flourishing can who were the people doing those things?
So I just personally had this, you know this drive to find other people that are trying to figure this out and that meant that I was doing events with a friend of mine and we call creativity in the spiritual path and we would have we had these in San Francisco, in Toronto, in Malaysia and you know, in Sydney and Melbourne.
And we did a few of these, you know everyone a year, just to end, it was just wonderful sense of people trying to figure this out and we would have talks and all these great kind of emerging artists, someone like El Sid for example, we caught it very early on before he was kind of well known and kind of befriended him and others.
And then we’ll bring masters of the past. People like Peter Center, the photographer origin or Dean. That would kind of help guide us in these kinds of questions and we what the head lettuce is out as I started to spend more time in Dubai, you know, I ran another one called instead of creativity in the spiritual path, I call it startups and the spiritual path.
And I had taken a lot more interest in you know around that time, you know had done a two year Stanford course around entrepreneurship to really understand like, the language of startups and the role of design there and so, I felt like to buy was an interesting place to do that.
It was a hit. A lot of people kind of flew in forward and we just connected on this idea of you know startups on the spiritual path. How do you connect entrepreneurship and spirituality and creativity and design and Adam that just came with this organic is like a magnetic kind of effect that then you know, because I was kind of base there for a while once a month people would start coming.
And it would just attract more people each time and this is kind of a special journey. This is like 2016, 2017, 2018 when I was kind of reactive there and it’s just people you know, people on that path, but trying to together meet with like hearted people and I’m sure, we met a few times there and you know, that’s now kind of just sort of floats around the world and its own way in different places.
And yeah, it’s just people just trying to do something great in the world and you know, but really embraced his sense of like togetherness. We’re building something, we can support each other and just counter a lot of the negative energy in the world with positive projects. You know startups with trying ideas with helping each other launch apps platforms.
You know more people that have taken it really far and succeeded and launched into a funding and build things or just visual artists who were like asking really good questions and you know creating beautiful art that becomes a window into modern kind of Islamic experience or you know modern experience that Muslims have.
So yeah, that’s kind of a yeah, the overall journey that it’s been.
Maruf: Okey. This exactly precisely, you know explains what it is. So I know we’ve been talking for a while. I just try to keep it short. So here’s the thing Peter. Like, as I want to ask. I will not get one more question. I think the question I’d like to ask you. The question is that. What do you think? What does success mean to you?
Peter: Yeah, great question. You know, that definition for me is to actually, has changed. If you asked me 10 years ago to probably be a little more cliche and cheesy around.
Maruf: Give me cheesy first.
Peter: Cheesy first was like much more materials based but you know in balance with family and aspirations and home life and those things like probably more conventional and understanding and of course that’s still old relevant but I think as I approach 40 now, its success is much more of an inner understanding and an inner state where you know, it’s getting to a place where you’re in a state of else a reba.
So reba is, you know deep contentment and that is what success looks like now if that’s not a new thing that the timeless thing that the Ancients understood that you know, Muslims understood, the layperson understood, the scholar understood is that inner eight and inner acceptance and awareness.
And I asked my one of my teachers what is riddle like it is it meaning like inner contentment and is like surrender and you know, like that’s sort of the the state you want to be and he explained is like well, it’s actually that but it’s actually being accepting fully, every decision that has ever been made in the history of everything and existence and everything that ever will be.
I was like, wow, that’s a much deeper stay over the which is, you know, I was putting a very, you know ego lens into. It’s saying about me and my surrender but it’s really, accepting all of existence that’s deep, some still navigating that but success has a lot more to do with Interstate inner contentment, piece, Sakina, reba and of course living in the world, trying to do that while achieving certain things you want to build certain impact you want to have lives, you know, you want to inspire your kids and create products and brands.
Allah has given me some kind of encouragement to go down, you know building these types of things, you know, and to do them in a positive way, inspire people. It’s all of those things together and just trying to, you know, to be a good dad, good husband, you know, stay healthy, try to be fit, have some fun.
It’s a hundred other things and it’s never just static and it’s always in motion and you’re always in Psych. It’s like a Wi-Fi signal. It’s like sometimes it’s full other times it’s like the connection drop and what’s happening, you know, it’s learning and growing.
Maruf: That reminds me of something from the Quran. That’s the first self, what’s called binder. Yeah. I think that says that. How do you translate it? Is like salt in civility and contentment isn’t it?
Peter: Yeah. I don’t know the Arabic so well, but yeah, it’s I mean the one that I kind of think more when I want to try and understand date and concepts around reba you know, how truly hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah and that vicar that the Allah that remembrance is this so simple but so profound a concept.
And you can interpret that remembrance. However, you know, that sense for what you’ve worked for.
Maruf: You know, the interesting part of reba is that that result if I understood correctly doesn’t come because of the outcome right? It’s a irrelevants outcome that’s the density to profound this, isn’t it?
Peter: Yeah, You accepted instead. And I feel like life further. I understand more. My understanding hopefully will become richer and I’ll get more clarity real for it. As it is right now. It’s like, you know when you’re busy, parent and trying to do 20 things at what everyone day and you appreciate that you can implement that clarity.
And those moments of the other key concept of suqar of just gratitude. I think peaceful existence as well. Just being graceful as I do each day where you know, I just try to be in that state as much as possible. And that’s how I kind of think of prayer as well as like a state of gratitude where you know, you take time each day. Just remember and what’s the first in a line of thought it was Alhamdulillah.
You’re thanking God for your blessings like I mean just if you were to strip everything away, just at the very heart is just being grateful while you’re alive. You’re breathing. Look where you are. You’re safe. You’re healthy and then you could just go out and that you know, to infinites number of blessings you have around each day.
Maruf: That’s the highest note in the show, I think so, let me ask you, so do you think I should have asked a question that I should ask you. Would you like to add something to the cherry as a cherry on top to what we discuss?
Peter: Yeah, I think the only thing well, I’m cool. I think that was great. You could ask me what I’m working on this year or next or something like that because I’m working on it. And you kind of thread of work. So yeah, you can ask me something like that.
Maruf: So we were driving up soon Peter. So tell me what are you up to these days?
Peter: Yeah, one thing that I threw in this kind of journey you know, I notice a quite a few people reach out or people kind of, you know, right and ask questions or I’ve done a few kind of workshops or speaking engagements, this kind of sharing parts of these stories and the fact that I’m still trying to figure it out as I go but share the little that I know.
And one of the things I felt is, I really should track, you know, try and write this down trying, you know, find a good way of answering those questions. So I’ve been writing what may become a book or hopefully at least a course where I’m teaching some of these, you know, it’s kind of really bad designing from the heart or designing with heart and designing this broad sense.
Not just you know, literally graphic design or designing app, but really helping you design your life designing, you know, your kind of career or trying to design your help design parts of your journey to have make the impact that you hope to do that also do that in that state of you know, the no caramel sukar, you know the state of gratitude, having that understanding of reba in and kind of contentment. How do you do it?
Those things so I definitely don’t have all the answers and I haven’t. And sort of some high-level sage this tunnel this but I can share a few things that I found helpful. And that’s what I’m going to try and write and do this year Insha Allah.
Maruf: That’s awesome. So we are looking for what forward to that book until then if you did links are what size would like to mention that would be the best time now, so we’ll also of course will see a link to in the show either I think that one of the sides is the leech is that they can you spell it please?
Peter: Yeah, it’s dead ZILEEJ and it’s just so people know eligius actually the Moroccan or under Lucy word for that beautiful Islamic tiling. So if you’re in Morocco or southern Spain and he says the Zileej, they’ll point to the patterns on the Umbra Omer off and say Zileej or in you in Spain. It’s like the Zileej that’s a beautiful Mosaic pattern. So the idea is that each of us are individually tiles, but when we’re together we make this beautiful pattern when we all work together. So that’s why I kind of chose that name.
Maruf: Beautiful name, beautiful story Peter and may Allah reward you for your time and for sharing your story and hopefully, you know by this one we can end up inspiring for the future generations and many generations to come and by having said that I’m gonna thank you for your time. Assalamu alaikum.