Pendar Yousefi is a blogger, designer, cartoonist and Google bomber. He has always been very creative in his designs and ideas and his works have been displayed in several magazines. We see here one of his designs: Xerxes King in an American comic style. I recently interviewed Pendar about his blog Lego Fish, his various projects, and Iranian blogs.
Please introudce yourself and your blog
I'm Pendar Yousefi; I've recently finished engineering grad school but I'm currently more involved in design, illustration, and cartooning. Besides my daytime design job and various freelance work, I make a weekly Persian comic strip which is currently being syndicated by a division of the BBC. I also maintain a website, Legofish.com, which houses my blogs, photoblog, portfolio, and online store. But if anybody knows me, it's more likely because of a couple of cultural campaigns that I started; the Arabian Gulf Google bomb and Project 300.
As for the name ‘Legofish’, part of it comes from an old nickname, part of it comes from a nice experience at the Lego store in Tehran, and the other part I'd rather keep a secret to make it more interesting. But I'm not a particularly huge fan of either Lego or Fish – although I enjoy eating the latter.
You have launched a Google bomb campaign, Project 300, as an answer to 300 the movie. Please explain its objectives and the current status of the Google bomb.
I like to refrain from using the term “Google bomb” for this. Typically, Google bomb targets are usually either a simple static page, or a pre-existing website. By contrast, Project 300 is a dynamic arts blog and gallery which now has a steady daily readership of 4,000 visitors and is updated regularly. I did use a Google bomb approach to improve the site's search engine ranking for the phrase “300 the movie”, but there is much more to it that organizing massive linkage. I think labelling the project as a “Goolge bomb” detracts from all the effort that has gone into this project by myself and all the artists who have participated.
Also, I don't see Project 300 as a direct answer to the 300 movie. As a comic fan and an art enthusiast I have a lot of respect for the artistic direction of the movie 300. Of course, I also don't think that villifying a real nation and portraying a real event in history can be dismissed as “fantasy”, specially when you demonize historic figures that many people hold dear and feel proud of. Reading the petitions that were circulating in protest of the movie, I knew many people felt the same. But instead of limiting the focus to a single movie, I decided to use the 300 movie as the common platform that would bring Persian artists together for a bigger cause, showcasing their work and thereby showing the world a side of Iran and Persia they usually don't see in the media. After all, if we want to clear the common misconceptions of Iran, as Iranians it only makes sense to actively get involved ourselves, instead of criticizing the western media for their inaccurate portrayal of us.
We might not have the resources and organization necessary to take on the big media empires, but we have a lot of really talented artists, many of whom are waiting to be recognized for their work.
So all of these ideas suddenly came together on a busride home, and on the eve of the North American premiere of the movie 300 I launched the Project 300 site and wrote a post on my blog asking artists to submit their artwork and bloggers to link to it.
In less than two weeks, the Project 300 site was brought up to the first page of search results on most major search engines, including Google. It also generated a lot of interest in the media, being featured on the BBC and E! online.
With the steady traffic I decided to keep the contents of the site updated by turning it into a blog about Persian arts and culture. As of right now, there are 3,444 sites linking to Project 300, and the page is still on the first page of google results for “300 the movie”.
Of course, it hasn't been easy. Convincing artists to send their artwork proved to be a difficult task. Some of the more well-known artists politely -yet somewhat snobbishly- refused to send their artwork. And the excessive time and energy that I have spent on this project has taken a toll on my personal life.
But at the end of the day, seeing the nice body of work that has been gathered in the gallery, and with the encouraing emails I receive from both Persians and non-Persians, it all seems to have been worth it, and I continue to update the site with news and information about Persian arts and artists.
Some criticisms have been made alleging that bloggers are fast to react to a movie and launch a bomb but very slow and even careless about human rights abuses? What do you think?
I think that it’s great that, with the advent of internet and expansion of blogging among the Iranian community, people can react to issues that concern them much more quickly than before, whether these concerns are about culture, society, art or politics.
I have always stayed away from politics as I have more interest in other fields like arts and technology, but I think the answer to your question is trivially simple. As with other nations of rich history, Iranians take pride in their culture and heritage. If they feel that those values are being undermined, their natural reaction is to unite against it. This was evident during the Project 300 campaign as well, with blogs from both ends of the political spectrum and massively different views joining the project, uniting behind a common cause.
Taking part in an artistic and cultural campagin such as this comes with a feeling of doing something positive which is refleced upon and strengthened by a feeling of united fraternity, and has more immediate and tangible results.
This is not to say that political campaigns are not important. Perhaps if supporters of these issues focus on rethinking their methods and come up with more creative approaches they could generate more interest and willingness from people and gather more support for their cause. I personally like to focus on issues that unite us in a common cause, regardless of what kind of political or social streams we belong to.
As a designer how do you see the importance of images (photo, painting, etc.) in Iranian blogs?
Unfortunately, imagery doesn't have as significant a part in the Persian blogosphere as it does in many others. And this is directly related to the lack of high speed internet access in Iran. As a result, most Persian blogs focus on content rather than design and imagery.
With that said, I have noticed a recent wave of design-conscious Persian blogs that are setting the trend and raising the standards. Unfortunately, so long as dial-up modems keep their reign on Iran's internet, I don't think the situation can change drastically.
How do you view the importance of Iranian blogs as a media outlet?
I think Iranian blogs, and Iranian internet presence as a whole, form a big part of Iranian media. With the Iranian diaspora spread across the world, you can now have an almost instant access to matters of interest to Iranians all over the world. This is something that was impossible a few years ago, considering the limited availability of other forms of Iranian media.
There has been a new wave of multimedia web presense that has extended – and perhaps overtaken – the utility of Persian blogs. With Persian online TV and radio stations popping up – many of them with standards on par or higher than what's available in their conventional form – the future looks very exciting.