Creative Lives — Graphic designer and founder of Fuse, Jaheed Hussain, on his mission to elevate creatives of colour

Posted 11 November 2020 Interview by Indi Davies
Introduction by Siham Ali

Manchester-based graphic designer Jaheed Hussain has been keeping busy with the running of his platform and magazine Fuse Manchester. Fuse started life as Jaheed’s final major project while at the University of Salford, where a feeling of dissatisfaction with the creative industry, as well as his own imposter syndrome, led Jaheed to develop a platform he wished he’d had. Today, Fuse seeks to “elevate the voices and work by creatives of colour in Manchester and beyond”, and continues to go from strength to strength. Here, we speak to Jaheed about the importance of diversifying the industry, handling your finances as a self-employed founder and the power of having a strong social media presence.

Jaheed Hussain

Job Title

Graphic Designer

Based

Manchester

Previous Employment

Founder, Fuse Manchester (2019–present)
Team Member, Pechakucha Manchester (2019–present)
Internship, Textbook Studio (2018)
Internship, Yolk Studios (2019)

Education

BA Graphic Design, University of Salford (2016–2019)

Website
Social Media

Jaheed

What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I’m a graphic designer and writer who loves working on editorial and with words. I’m also the founder of inclusive platform, Fuse Manchester.

What does an average working day look like and where does it happen?
Usually from my bedroom – I wake up, get ready, eat, clean my small desk, and get started. I often get distracted so my hours are all over the place at the moment – the most ‘consistent’ schedule I have is working for a couple of hours in the morning, taking a break in the afternoon and picking everything back up in the evenings.

“I didn’t feel represented and I didn’t want others to feel the same.”

Can you tell us a bit about Fuse; how it came about, and how it’s evolving?
Fuse elevates the work and voices of creatives of colour. It started as my final year project in 2019, at a time when there was just a small number of Manchester creatives on a directory. Now we’re a magazine! On social media, Fuse posts daily content, resources and opportunities, too.

Fuse originated from my imposter syndrome whilst working in the creative industry. I didn’t feel represented and I didn’t want others to feel the same. I knew that something like Fuse was entirely possible – so I went and tried out an idea! It’s now evolving thanks to chapters with voluntary hosts, however, the brand, site, general admin and Manchester bits are all done by me.

What would you say are the best and worst things about running your own platform?
Being able to discover creatives of colour from all over the country is my favourite part. It’s incredible to be able to showcase, chat with and find fresh talent who have a similar dedication towards changing the industry and making it more diverse.

Alternatively, I find it hard to switch off, and usually feel guilty if I haven’t done enough work on a particular day. One day I’ll be able to hire people – which I can’t do at the moment.

With so many changes happening all over the world over the past few months, do you feel your outlook has been impacted?
I think so! This period has brought important work to the forefront. This has taught me that there are many, many creatives out there who will listen and learn, regardless of where they come from. I just want to help others and make their experiences richer.

Fuse Manchester events

Fuse Manchester events

Fuse Manchester events

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How I got here

Do you feel your upbringing has influenced your choice of career?
100%. I was fortunate to have been able to express myself and pursue my interests. I noticed that during my school years, many of my friends (who are also British-Asian Bengali) didn’t see the creative industry as a viable career. However, the freedom I was permitted allowed me to explore further than them.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience of studying, and if you feel it’s been useful to your career progression?
I loved being a student, particularly a university student at Salford. That period really opened up my eyes to how influential graphic design can be. It helped my confidence grow massively. I definitely wouldn’t be here right now without those experiences.

“Word of mouth is always a great way of securing opportunities.”

What were your initial jobs after graduating?
About two months after graduating, I had an internship with Yolk Studios, in Manchester. I worked on their magazine’s second issue and a project with Ace & Tate. In the background I was brainstorming ideas and growing Fuse.

How much of an impact has founding Fuse had on your career and opportunities so far?
Probably a lot more than I realise! It’s likely that every opportunity I’ve been faced with since graduating has come from making Fuse. Usually anything I get is due to someone wanting to work with Fuse directly or the person behind it. Word of mouth is always a great way of securing opportunities, too.

Inside Yolklore Magazine, worked on by Jaheed

Inside Yolklore Magazine, worked on by Jaheed

Inside Yolklore Magazine, worked on by Jaheed

Inside Yolklore Magazine, worked on by Jaheed

Inside Yolklore Magazine, worked on by Jaheed

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What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Because it’s not essentially a ‘proper job’ in the sense of Fuse being something I can’t make a living from right now, I’ve found balancing my income tough. Fuse is entirely done as a self-initiated project, so I’m open to full-time opportunities for sure.

How important have you found social media and self-promotion in your work?
Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have been extremely useful. Having that online presence has meant that I can create my own space, whilst also showing off any bits and pieces I’ve worked on. The networking aspect has been great too, as the reach is global. You get to look at beautiful work from all over the world and discover the people who made it.

“Grants and funding opportunities are out there to help get your project off the ground.”

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Always save when you can. It’s helped me get out of stressful situations. It’s easier said than done but if your income is sporadic, like mine is, you’ve got to keep it saved until the next payment comes in. Also, grants and funding opportunities are out there to help get your project off the ground. It’s always useful to research and keep your eyes peeled for those.

Yolklore: Making Mental Wealth

My advice

Is there any advice you’d like to share for someone wanting to follow a similar path?
Find what you’re passionate about and keep going. You won’t make waves instantly, but the more you do, the stronger your platform will grow. Graphic design is huge, and this year has shown how influential it is to the world around us.

Posted 11 November 2020 Interview by Indi Davies
Introduction by Siham Ali
Introduction: Siham Ali
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Graphic Design
Mentions: Jaheed Hussain

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