Young Guns 18: Tala Safié

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.







When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I first heard about it when I moved to the United States toward the end of 2016. Americans are big on design competitions!

Congrats on winning Young Guns on your second try! What made you enter again this year?

I was nominated by two of my previous SVA teachers who encouraged me to apply. I believe my portfolio was a little more focused this time than last, and it mainly consisted of editorial and publication work, which might have helped?

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I'm terrible at curating a personal portfolio. Most of my work is client and brief-oriented, so it looks inconsistent when seen out of context. I decided to enter recent editorial projects from the last three years that I enjoyed working on — and hoped they didn't clash too much when grouped together.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

I thought, "Yay, that'll help my O1 visa application!" 

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

I would pick the New York Times print special section, "Internetting with Amanda Hess". The best part was getting to work on it with my co-worker Andrew Sondern. The whole premise of attempting to put internet videos into print was quite absurd, which made it a memorable and fun project.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

I don't have a distinctive signature style. Most of my work is brief-oriented, so I adopt a different design approach to each project and client. I do try to make the process collaborative and fun whenever I can.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

Studio Safar + Reza Abedini + my under-grad thesis advisor, Dr. Zeina Maasri taught me everything I know!

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

Kevin Brainard (YG2)!

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

For me, 2020 was a difficult year to be away from home. The August fourth massacre at the hands of the Lebanese government in the port of Beirut was devastating on so many levels. In a matter of seconds, half of my city got destroyed. People lost their loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods — all of that during a pandemic and a severe economic crisis made exponentially worse by the blast. I still feel hopeless, heartbroken, and angry. In times like these you think, "Who gives a damn about work, design, or career advancement?" You just want to help and be useful as much as you can.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

I'd like to become a better writer.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

I'd like to take this opportunity to say that we launched a print sale to help fund relief efforts in the wake of the Beirut explosion. 


"Tala’s work was a manifestation of a feeling that I think we all long more for as we get further into our new digital normal. The ability to experience information in the tangible form that finds itself residing in a space reserved for pixels. It was refreshing to see the worlds collide and ultimately switch places with one another. We need more experiences like this so we don’t lose touch with the power of print."

Brandon Drew Jordan Pierce
VP, Executive Creative Director

"Tala has a refreshing taste for quality and an impeccable eye for art direction. Her editorial work is driven by authentic narrative, culture, and careful collaboration. Her nuance and skill are distinct as she weaves the content of her work with design, illustration, and method, to breathe life into meaningful stories and journalism. It’s rare to find hybrid designers so attentive to all aspects of the process — but Tala is able to design, direct, and produce it all."

Chase Body
Senior Designer
The Working Assembly

"Tala's work is very diverse, balancing and highlight under the specifications of the design and composition, clean and sharp!"

Katalina Silva
Creative Director & Co-Founder
Enigma Creative

"Full disclosure: I know Tala Safié. I was her instructor at SVA MFA, and I am a huge fan of her work. Yet it was somewhere in the third round of judging, after looking at hundreds of entries, that I was surprised and delighted to discover she entered Young Guns."

"It’s rare within this competition to see a designer with a singular focus on editorial. It is even rarer for that type of work to stand-out. One hurdle is the inability to experience publications in person, all the work is reviewed online."

"Within the design discipline there’s plenty of great branding, beautiful posters, and amazing environmental typography that is more likely to grab your attention. And judges spend countless hours — even days — reviewing work. Focusing on every detail and scrutinizing every decision, even their own."

"Tala’s work, although sometimes more reserved in its execution, is powerful. Her books and magazines exquisitely crafted and often bilingual serve a higher purpose. Many are progressive and inclusive documents that openly confront the status quo, champion the disenfranchised, and promote a message of equality in the Middle East and abroad."

She designed the launch issue of AIGA Eye on Design, a publication dedicated to telling long-form stories of design innovation. As an integral member of the team under Perrin Drumm, Tala contributed to, curated, and art directed all subsequent issues of the publication."

She has art directed and designed special sections for The New York Times. “Internetting with Amanda Hess” pushed the conventional news publication into new design territory while the more traditional, yet equally compelling “The Ruthless Saudi Prince,” is straight forward, hard-hitting journalism."

Tala’s work is not trendy, although it could be. Her work is not traditional, although it can be. Her work is linguistically fluent, stylistically diverse, and often politically progressive with a keen eye and a powerful, singular focus on storytelling."

Kevin Brainard
Creative Director, Designer, Educator & Founding Partner
Area of Practice
Young Guns 2 Winner



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



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