I received my BA in Graphic Design and Minor in Anthropology from The American University in Cairo, and have been practicing photography on the side for the past decade in the streets of Cairo (and sometimes around the world!). After graduating, I worked in a multi-national advertising agency that taught me so much about design in my region and about its rich advertising world. In one year at my job, I collected 10 awards with my talented team for 3 of my favorite projects! I also participated in 10 exhibitions and 11 workshops focused on design and photography over the past 5 years. Now a freelancer, I passionately specialize in publication design, packaging and illustration with other things in between.
The most powerful edge that design has in Egypt is, in my opinion, its cultural background. Based on the diverse ancient Egyptian art, Islamic art and history, folk culture, and modern fine art, Egypt’s design scene becomes a unique hybrid of cultural contribution to the world. Being able to display that cultural heritage has been a priority in my work as I think developing a design identity is every designer’s dream. With the state of globalization around the world, it’s the designer’s role to protect and spread their identity and cultural heritage visually. Whether it’s done by using local design trends, Typography based on local language or documenting visual culture in the city; the end result will always be clients that respect identity and culture and enjoyable projects that reflect this designer’s style. After all, every designer attracts their own clientele based on what they offer!
I am one of the believers that design education is a combination of many things and not just a degree or school of thought. A lot of designers complain about not having enough resources or advancement in design education locally. However, I find that It’s all about what you make of the things around you, the good and the bad, your personal experiences, the visual culture in the streets, local art, etc. If you can’t feed off all these elements in addition to your academics then it will become challenging to grow as a designer. In terms of culture, I find that Egypt is one of the most visually rich countries ever… and that is a true experience that no top-notch university or educational facility might be able to give you.
This might sound cliché and most designers probably heard this advice a hundred times before, but it’s “Never stop sketching”. This is something that I personally struggle with but have found to be the most powerful tool for design practice. Keeping a personal sketchbook and constantly drawing things and ideas around us doesn’t just make us better designers, but better design thinkers…. and I think that’s the ultimate goal for every designer. Technical skills are easy to learn, but visualizing your ideas and being able to reflect them on pen and paper, build on them and actually use them is the hardest but most rewarding part about design. Keep on sketching, kids!
Don’t settle. The way our industry works is if you settle, then we all eventually might need to settle. Many of us don’t get enough in return for the amount of time, effort and creativity we put in our work. Don’t settle for a job and don’t settle for being just an “average” designer. Work on bettering and educating yourself as a designer but also know your worth. You don’t need to become a robot because you feel a little intimidated by the design world. The idea is to work on projects that reflect who you are and explore more creativity and design thinking. This is especially relevant to new grads because they are too eager to start a career so much that they become less picky about their choices. Bottom line is, it’s okay to take your time and explore where you really want to be… so don’t settle!
As designers, we tend to focus so much on finding our identity in design and creating work that reflects our style during our practice. After we somewhat achieve that, many of us end up working for a company, brand or towards a specific commercial purpose in order to really make a living. Along this journey, I feel like we often forget the impact we can have on society. Few designers really tackle design for social change or reflect on the question of “how can I use my design skills to change the world?”. I think if every designer aims to dedicate one project per year towards social impact or a cause they are passionate about in addition to their everyday job, then design would really spread more as a powerful tool for change worldwide that can solve or take a step towards solving social problems.