It was the morning of September 14, 2012 when Ahmed Alrashid bought a cup of Starbucks coffee that would change the course of his life. The iconic green twin tailed siren, a muse for the coffee giant for almost four decades, seemed to call on him to create in the white space that surrounded her. That night, compelled by the white, he posted a picture of the cup and a rainbow of a dozen permanent Sharpie markers with the question “should I draw on this?” The response was outstanding.
Emboldened by his followers he created a design that covered the cup’s entire white space. Circles, horticulture, stars and designer-wear come together in a gold and black design that captures the eye from afar, and keeps you interested with intense details as you get closer. The cup was a huge hit, and caught the attention of the Starbucks team in the Middle East when a friend mentioned one of their team members on the post.
“Starbucks contacted me and said they wanted to do it as a campaign,” he said. “They didn’t know what I would do. They thought they would all just get the cup with a flag on it and maybe a single landmark. I ended up drawing a lot more detail than they expected.”
Instead, Alrashid added as much detail as possible from each country to create 10 works of art over the month. Every design was done on a paper cup, and had to be perfect from beginning to end, a difficult task when working with permanent markers on a round surface. The Kuwait cup was drawn in the national colors and included major landmarks like the Kuwait towers, and the country name in beautiful calligraphy.
The designs came easily to the 12-year graphic designer. Alrashid had always been interested in calligraphy and drawing and found he had a unique eye for colors. At first he worked on logos and campaigns. Posts on his private Instagram profile highlighted his corporate work, but he found that it was impersonal and did little for those following him.
“I wanted the people to react to the posts,” he said. “So I started doing the Good Morning posts, where I would design the simple words in unique ways. They loved it, and I was amazed at the response.”
Soon after his success with Starbucks Alrashid decided to create a design on the popular Converse shoes. The plain white sneaker was transformed into a work of art comprised of intricate designs with a simple black marker. The originally priced 20 KD shoes were sold at an auction for much higher, and Alrashid realized he had tapped into a huge market.
“I felt that people really wanted to have unique items, things that no one has and no one can have,” he said. “The problem with Converse was that people complained it wasn’t their size, so it limited the market. So I said, why don’t I do Nespresso machines, that way anyone can use it.”
His first design, a doodle using the UAE flag colors, was a huge hit. The auction was another smashing success. His designs were gaining international attention, and the companies had taken notice. He was booked for a shoe-customizing event at Levels in the UAE, where he sat with his personalized beats headphones and created art on all types of shoes. His Nespresso work gained him an event at 360 Mall, where he designed 15 machines that sold out even before the event began.
During that time he also headed over to San Francisco for the HOW Design Live conference. He got to meet some of his biggest inspirations like the creator of Adobe Max logo, Jessica Walsh, and the senior designer for Coca-Cola and Vitamin Water, Alex Center, and show them his work. They were blown away. Center left him a message on his Instagram “Talking to you was inspiring to me. Please stay in touch! I wanna know everything you do forever!” Mike Peck, Starbucks Global Creative Director of Packaging was blown away by his Starbucks Middle East campaign.
“These people don’t lie, they don’t sugar coat,” he said. “Peck asked me to do one (a personalized coffee cup) for him. There they respect good work, and want to sit and talk to you. So those that I had gone to hear from were interested enough to sit down and talk to me about my designs.”
After his success with Levels, his confidence from the HOW Design conference, and his growing following, Alrashid decided to focus wholeheartedly on creating unique designs for companies, and on a personal basis. One of his most successful projects has been personalizing designer handbags, like Louis Vuitton. Alrashid has the uncanny ability to create a design that is reflective of the original designer, the owner and his own creative abilities. His own Bottega Veneta messenger bag has attracted comments like “I haven’t seen this style from them.” He has even personalized bags for supermodels like Brazilian Ana Beatriz Barros, most known for her work with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and Guess?
Alrashid’s designs have created a buzz around the world, and he is only just getting started. He hopes to inspire young designers to do the same, and tries to help any way he can through workshops and advice to his followers. While he is looking outside of Kuwait to learn more in his field, he hopes he will always create work that is loved and is an inspiration to others.