‘Searching...’ is a film I made in Paris in one day as a response to an assignment in the workshop ‘Designing Interactions: 2020 - 25’ conducted by Audi from May 25 - 31 at Parsons Paris. The film is speculative and prophetic and explores a time in which machines would truly be spiritual. The film was created in collaboration with Stephanie Burgess and Soohyun Park.
'Seaphilia' is another film I made with Stephanie Burgess in response to a sixty second short film challenge. Starring Leisa Haddad.
Four Broken Hearts (2014)
Transgressing the boundaries of the personal and the political, the temporal and the spatial, the real and the virtual, Four Broken Hearts is a hybrid transmedia storyworld encompassing film, live performance, location based experiences and social media that explores the lives and relationships of two Pakistani-American couples in the post-9/11 landscape.
Creator, Director and Storyteller: Babar Suleman
Director of Photography, Art Director, Audio Producer: Alex Tosti
Production Designer, Technologist: Lucy Matchett
Editor, Post-Production: Elia Villa
Storyboard Artist: Daniel Mastretta
Voiceover Artist, Make-up, Understudy: Stephanie Burgess
As a Fulbright scholar myself, I strongly believe in higher education as the solution to many of my country’s problems. I was, therefore, very excited to collaborate with the non-profit start-up Shaheen (founded by Harvard and MIT alumna) to build Pakistan’s first higher learning platform that gives students the resources and information they need to study abroad.
My UX work for Shaheen involved designing the website look and feel. The challenge was to find the simplest and most effective way to organize the immense information as we wanted users to access it in three distinct ways: by country, field and level of study.
I achieved it through a visually simple layout that lets users select an entry from each of the three categories and then look up the relevant information by hitting ‘Go’.
(Skip to the 9:57 mark in the video above to see me talking about Bulletpoints)
THE POWER OF STORYTELLING IN HUMANIZING DATA VISUALIZATION
Over the weekend of October 5-6, 2013, I participated in one of the most amazing creative hackathon events in New York City and won a very special award. I was one of the selected storytellers for Re3 StoryHack that invites creative storytellers to build great narratives around and give voice to important social issues using design, writing, technology and all other types of creative mediums. I was part of the team working on the issue of Gun Violence, with a story nominated by Marlon Peterson who actually works with the at-risk population in the Crown Heights area. Our challenge was to design a more emotionally resonant way to address the Gun Violence statistics that are usually represented so coldly in data visualizations.
My teammates (Kees Plattel, Aaron Hill, David Yanofsky, Julie Salzman and Jennifer Goldstick) and I worked hard from morning till late in the night over the weekend on a project we titled ‘Bulletpoints’ that turns the statistics of gun violence related homicides into stories that raise awareness for the trauma associated with gun violence both and after the actual incident of firing. We started off with Freddie- a composite character based on life events from people who have actually experienced gun violence. We filmed videos for the different events in Freddie’s violence-stridden life to show that violence had become a norm- and we need to stop treating it as one. Our project plan includes distributing these videos as digitally consumable media through Instagram as well as pulling them together on a website to create the complex narratives of Freddie and his community members.
The Daily Egg (2011 - 12)
Click here to read the design articles I wrote for The Daily Egg.
TONI&GUY Advertorial for Hello Magazine (2013)
LUMS Business Review (2013)
As the Art Director and Chief Editor of LUMS Business Review, I was responsible for the content as well as the look and feel of the prestigious annual academic publication. I decided to build the entire issue around Design Thinking, since I wanted to expose Pakistani audiences to the immense synergies between Business and Design. In addition to curating the artwork and content for the entire magazine, I also designed and wrote the cover story (you can see images from it above).
My Freelance Website (2009 - 11)
Click here to visit the website I had designed for my work as a freelance designer between 2009 and 2011.
Babar Suleman is a Fulbright scholar from Pakistan currently residing in New York City. He is a director, experience designer and writer. His diverse work experience and past credits include design work awarded by Intel and Hyperakt's Re3 StoryHack, design and marketing for Unilever (TONI&GUY, CLEAR), fiction work (praised by the likes of New York Times best selling author Mohsin Hamid), design writing (published by California based The Daily Egg), user experience design for educational non-profit Shaheen (in collaboration with Harvard and MIT alumna), art direction and editorial for the LUMS Business Review and film work that has been screened for audiences in Paris (NUMA) and New York (Parsons). With passion project Four Broken Hearts, Babar is finally able to combine all of his different interests and skills into a cohesive storytelling experience. Babar holds an MFA Design & Technology from Parsons The New School for Design and an MBA from Lahore University of Management Sciences.
65 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003
+1 (347) 863 5003
See appearance in documentary at the 9:57 mark below
The Window Makes It Hard to Sleep (2014)
For thirty years, designers have been experimenting with the intersection of the book and technology, but until now tools like Adobe InDesign and Layar Creator have not been so widely available and easy to use. With the wide proliferation of self-publishing, experimentation is increasingly possible. ‘The Window Makes It Hard to Sleep’ is a fictional transmedia narrative that seeks to enhance and modify the experience of reading a book in a variety of ways using technology. The intent is to offer the reader a more enjoyable, engaging and immersive experience than just plain text. This experiment could offer an innovative form for fiction books/ebook and/or open up ideas for writers to create new forms of stories using cutting edge platforms. ‘The Window Makes It Hard to Sleep’ is based on my original fiction since I believe that the form would only be suitable- and preserve/enhance the authorial voice- if it was drawn from the content itself.
The ebook, built with Adobe InDesign and Digital Publishing Suite for viewing on the iPad, has been enhanced with various interactive features:
‘Four Broken Hearts’ is extended through a film and other multimedia
An image carousel allows readers to browse through the actual photos I took during the trip narrated in ‘Undressing Portlandia’
Put on your earphones! Atmospheric ‘Oddments’ comes with a soundtrack (sound effects start at the 0:10 and 0:30 mark)
The print counterpart of the project has the same multimedia elements as the ebook but they use the stories’ cover photos as the anchor. Scan the cover photos with the Layar app to activate the story elements!
Life Size Display
Vulgar Display is represented literally through a life size display of a naked man. Scan the torso with Layar to find the real story- etched right on the body.
Body In Irrational Pain (2014)
Based on THE INTERIOR STRUCTURE OF THE ARTIFACT, taken from ‘The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World’ by Elaine Scarry
In this particular chapter from her definitive work on pain and inflicting pain, Elaine Scarry argues that objects are not only the imagined and, consequently, materialized result of the human body in pain but that they are also sites of projections as well as reciprocations of the live body, a ‘record of the nature of human sentience’. She starts by presenting inferences from the preceding chapters- the deceptive nature of description, the malevolent nature of political power- before addressing the issue of making and unmaking directly which she believes to be a requisite for understanding political justice itself.
After narrowing the scope of the current chapter to discuss (a) the object as a projection of the human body and (b) the relationship between the object as a site of projection as well as reciprocation, Scarry utilizes the first section to give examples of the former: Bandage and clothes are cited as extensions of the skin, while cameras, monocles and lens are seen as ‘projected materializations’ of the lens in the human eye. Similarly, phalluses have unconsciously led to skyscrapers, wombs to shields and shelters, and hearts to canal systems. Scarry does not just draw parallels between physical organs and made objects, but extends the projection analogy to bodily needs and capacities- memory became writing, film and xerox printers, and movement led to the steam engine. Here, Scarry extends her definition of projection to include aspiration: the made object as a magnification of our natural capacity. The computer is ‘an external materialization of our electrical and neuronal pathways’ as well as our ‘capacity for self-replication and self-meditation’ and all of Sigmund Freud’s work can be seen as the projection of sentient desire just as the writings of Karl Marx represent the bodily capacity for labor.
Scarry also delves into the nature of bodily projection itself, calling it an act of reversal. Traveling from the inside to the outside, ‘objectless-ness’ turns into a material object and, similarly, the material presence of the projection of pain outside the body makes it absent on the inside. She continues her analysis with introducing a more interior view of the body as an ‘aliveness’ or ‘awareness of aliveness’ but that is beyond the scope of this work.
I agree with Scarry’s view of making but not without reservations. As a critical response that could challenge her assertions, I experimented with a method of making that was, potentially, independent of the human need or capacity. I had been suffering from a nasty cold these past days and I decided that my own ‘body in pain’ was a good starting point for inspiration for this experiment. Drawing from the cut-up method pioneered by Brion Gysin and the Dadaist techniques of Collage and Assemblage, I used the packaging of my cold medicine, including the shopping bag and receipt that accompanied them to create the object seen above.
The object has origins in the pain in my body but, because of the method of its making, I do not believe it is a projection of a human need or capacity, a relationship which is inherently logical. Because Dadaist methods are rooted in irrationality and chaos, it can not provide the resolution and balance that Scarry insists is behind all making. One possible way to counter this argument would be to say that even ‘irrational’ objects are a projection of the human need for chaos but that is an area of exploration that Scarry has not touched upon in her writing which firmly sticks to the realm of human logic and necessity.
Perhaps, the text resulting from the cutup is a cryptic message that reflects my body’s plea for a cure:
“No Air! Please help. Read System Facts. Use Scent Strength 24 or Let Fen Blast Well Born Allergy”
Strangers Love Secrets (2013)
in collaboration with YuChien Kao
Sharing stories is a great way to make people connect with each other. We wanted to create an intervention that allowed people to achieve a sense of shared understanding. We hope these strangers will realize and appreciate the fact that all these people around them in the park share the same kinds of secrets, whether they are worries, aspirations, fears or longings, go through the same kinds of feelings and experiences, and that they have the power to give and receive, quite simply, love and happiness.
We wanted to give our users a quick way to exchange happiness with other people because secrets bring people closer but ultimately we all want happiness!
- Strange Secrets: A beautifully illustrated ‘wall’ with post-its- three on top of each other in every stack so the top one could hide the ones below and the ones at the bottom containing submissions and responses by strangers. We called these post-its our ‘secret holders’.
- Love Exchange Box: Share a happy moment, take one in return. Strangers can put a message full of happiness and love inside a box and take another person’s with them in return.
To read some of the happiness messages and secrets that people shared with each other, please visit the New York Secrets Facebook page.
MUHAMMAD BABAR SULEMAN
DIRECTOR. EXPERIENCE DESIGNER. WRITER.
Four Broken Hearts
(Film, Live Performance, Social Media, Location Based Experiences)
New York City
2014 - Present
New York City
User Experience Design
The Window Makes It Hard to Sleep
(Interactive, Augmented Reality, Installation, Print, eBook)
New York City
Body in Irrational Pain
Mixed Media, Writing
New York City
Strangers Love Secrets
New York City
Social Media Campaign
New York City
LUMS Business Review
The Daily Egg
2011 - 12
2009 - 12