Graphic Designer and Entrepreneur Soraan Latif: On a Mission to Help Young Artists
7 Shades of Black is a free, independent arts and music magazine which features a mixture of the established within the underground scene, first launched in 2011.
There are currently 5 digital issues of 7sobm digital edition released, with a London, Paris, and New York editions coming within the next six months.
7sobm was initiated by entrepreneur Soraan Latif, a recent Graphic Design graduate from Middlesex University.
At 20, he had released the first digital issue of 7sobm. At 23, he has three variants of the original magazine, including both digital and print editions, a blog, as well as two agencies. Currently Latif is an intern at Folio Arts illustration agency as an in-house designer.
The ever-expanding core team that runs the publication and blog are made up of 35 young people at the moment, ranging from the ages of 19 to 23. 7sobm originally started off with 20 members, with the youngest contributing writers being just 15 and 16. They are fellow students, friends, and contacts of Latifs’. Each member has a different role in contributing to 7sobm, while Latif acts as the president and editor in chief.
Latif and his fellow 7sobm editors quickly learned through first hand professional experience what it takes to run, distribute and manage a design blog and magazine. They developed editorial, journalism, and design skills, going above and beyond what they were expected to learn on their undergraduate degree courses.
Most recently, Latif has launched both a digital marketing agency and an art agency through 7sobm; helping to further promote up-and-coming musicians and artists in their respective industries and communities, in a much more hands-on, personal, and dedicated approach.
Your magazine seems to be focused for the most part on young up-and-coming artists in their respective industries. Why do feel it’s so important to focus on what young people are doing, as opposed to exploring what already established professionals are already doing in the industry?
That’s the exact reason – they are already established. They have the reputation, jobs and money that goes alongside that, they don’t need any help and there’s nothing we can offer them. Young people need that extra push, exposure or help to get them going and hopefully in turn they will help others in the future.
Do you think it’s more difficult for young artists to get a foothold in the industry without outside help?
Let’s say it’s always easier if your Dad or his friend is working at one of the top agencies in the country. No doubt in our field of work it’s not always about how good you are but who you know. If you don’t know anyone, become known.
How would you recommend young artists market themselves, or promote themselves now, compared to 10 or 20 years ago?
Internet. It’s free, we all have access to it and we spend all our days on it anyway. Go through as many avenues as you can such as blogs, befriend some artists in your field of work who have more experience than yourself and learn from them.
You’re a young artist yourself, only just recently come out of university. Did Seven Shades of Black factor in to your university course work at all? Was it negatively affecting your work load overall, or were you able to balance both your university work and your professional work?
My university work suffered for it, no doubt. It’s not easy managing 30+ people across the globe, creating an issue while promoting the one which came out the day before, while searching for new people for the next issue and managing a degree. Having said that I learned enough design skills from it which made give in a decent grade within two days of work and not six weeks like other people. The balance is almost impossible though because when you spend time managing university and catching up, you then need to catch up with the magazine and blogs, then again.
What existing platforms, free or otherwise, do you know of that are the most useful to help artists get themselves noticed?
Tumblr. No other social media outlet gives your work as much exposure as Tumblr does, for free and which could be seen by potentially so many big bloggers and other websites. All it takes is one of them to post about your work and it could really elevate you a huge audience.
Would you say that degree level qualifications are vital to building up a career in the arts?
Not at all, though from my experience people who have gone through the formal route are more refined than those who don’t. For instance in my field of graphic design, a common thing for those who work for agencies straightway at the age of 18, they depend on many Photoshop effects, wrong font choices and so on, those are things that you subtly learn against at a design university or course.
How are you looking to help talented young artists with what resources you have at your disposal?
Anything from a blog post, interview, advice on their work and direction of it, maybe a magazine page or two if I really believe in them. Most importantly I think an honest opinion is hugely refreshing and can refocus a young artist or designer who is trying a million things at the same time.
Have you made money from Seven Shades of Black since starting up? How do you plan on making money in the future?
To date, twenty pounds profit within two and a half years. Now though with printing the magazines, selling digital copies and the alike, hopefully we can start to make some money because so far we haven’t invested a penny into it.
Is Seven Shades of Black something you want to continue indefinitely?
For the two years at least, after that I will have to see how far we have progressed. Everything has its limits in life, maybe we will hit ours in a years time, who knows? That’s when you have to look back and say hey it was great run. We learned a lot, helped many, but all things must come to an end. It will be hard to let go.