Featured Design Studio

Fikra Design Studio

April 2018

Neighbouring Dubai in the city of Sharjah, we were so lucky to catch up with Salem Al-Qassimi founder of Fikra Designs (and also Fikra Campus—keep an eye on what's happening there!). Read on to hear what Salem has to say about the evolving world of digital design and the importance Internships have on a young designers career.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

I have plenty of memories that contributed to my decision to pursue design. In the 5th grade, I remember my brother showing me how to stylize titles in my notebook (which I still do up to this day, however differently). And I remember designing my own magazine using the colored 3D glasses in the 7th grade. In the 11th grade I was asked to design the spreads for my class in the school yearbook, which I enjoyed so much and was asked to design again the following year. I also ran a blog, and a design forum around the same time. However, I never thought this would be a potential career path or an educational endeavor, until I saw my friend’s sister who was studying design at the time doing a typographic book that had beautiful alphabets — I then knew this is exactly what I wanted to do.

Give us an elevator pitch on what you do

We are a bilingual (Arabic and English) graphic design studio, with a design-led education program. We often address elements of the UAE culture and identity through our design work, whether commercial projects or self-directed research.

What’s your take on internships?

I think internships are important opportunities for young creatives starting in their careers. It provides them with an insight into the real world, and allows them to experience the different possibilities and things they can do within their disciplines. Some universities require students to do internships before they graduate, and for me, doing my internship early on was probably the most valuable experience that I got — it really influenced my career path. We do have an internship program at Fikra and have interns working with the creative team.

Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if so how it shapes your practice?

Yes, I have been teaching for the past 6 years, and am a full-time faculty member of design at the American University of Sharjah. I have also conducted various workshops in different countries. Teaching changes the way you approach and think about your work. It makes you look at your work from a lot of different angles that you wouldn’t have thought were possible. Teachers learn tremendously from students. Each student comes with unique design problems and solutions and it is always inspiring for teachers to take part in the students’ design process.

What role does digital design play in your studio in 2018, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?

Graphic design is ever-evolving as a discipline — the tools and mediums are constantly changing. Our work evolves based on the capabilities of the tools. Also, designers nowadays are no longer only using existing tools; as graphic designers, we are creating our own tools in order to make things.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

After 12 years of running as a graphic design studio, we have recently expanded into Fikra Campus, a design-led educational platform that comprises a co-working space, design studio, café, gallery and library. We are currently developing cultural programs for Fikra and preparing for the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial which is happening in November 2018.

Website: fikradesigns.com/studio

Instagram: @fikradesigns


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