Monthly Archives: June 2012

Beirut Design Week Reviewed 2

By Admin N : Everyone who’s as dedicated as we are to the Beirut Design Week knows that he’ll basically spend the whole day running from one place to another, and what seems to be a day off turns out more chaotic than what we have on a regular; and still, we loved it! The vibe, the energy and watching the whole city coming alive is just enchanting.

What we called “our design tour” kicked off at the Mukhi sisters cross promo event at Beirut souks where we got to meet the oh so lovable sisters and checked out their collection of jewelry and got a bit spoiled with goodies. Of course, we had to drop by Zayan, their neighboring pop art store for a look at their colorful collection of clothes and bags, a style mixing vintage cuts with a modern practical feel that still looks original. The next stop was at PSLAB where we got a look at where all the magic happens, and believe me, it was quite worth it! PSLAB is a company that specializes in designing custom made conceptual lighting. We met the team who took us on a tour around their space and showed us the different working stations of each section of the company established on a campus that looks just like somewhere we’d like to spend all our time at!

Our tour continued with maajoun having an open studio exhibition where we got to see some of their works, from publications to posters to type, a very interesting approach to design that we already tackled in our blog, the visit was quite enjoyable and fun just like the guys at the studio and umm the delicious cake! (Who can possibly resist that?).

Altcity hamra was the next stop attending talks given by different speakers from different backgrounds; the talks started off with Joumana Ibrahim and her engaging talk about information design and the lack of data here in Lebanon. The information presented came out very interactive and proved that even though we lack data in this country but we still have very authentic substitutes enriching social studies with another layer that can somehow make up for inaccurate information; then came on Simon Mhanna and Linda Selwood Choueiry with a discussion about decision making and emotions, entitled: emotion flows in mindful design; started slow then ended with a series of questions and a debate, but proving how emotional thinking is important using rational means fastly rebutted their theory and made the whole quest less persuading!

Another not-so-convincing talk about design and creative entrepreneurship was given by Sofana Dahan and her guests, also practicing what they don’t actually preach since the 3 examples of entrepreneurs were originally coming from a family of entrepreneurs, or encouraged to follow such path. The talk sounded more like a dramatic stereotypical women rights lecture more than a debate about business and design, a topic to be tackled at a separate post as well.

Of course, every night, we attend the movie screening at the St. Nicolas stairs in Gemmayzeh to watch a movie and enjoy the 961 delicious beer that can easily make us drop some anger generated by some lack or organization, and an outrageously bad map, where people should find spots in Lebanon following street names, not landmarks (map designer apparently lives on Jupiter!)

Design Week is almost done, and we’re going to wrap up the week with a third post featuring more of the workshops’ outcomes, so if you’re enjoying the sun and the beach, move your freakin a**es and join this buzzing week you tanned blondies!



Beirut Design Week Reviewed 01

By Admin I : It’s quite familiar to us being designers how everyone in this field tends to envy the other, expressing a tremendous amount of hate towards a fellow practitioner suffering from the same issues and going through the same shit; yes we’re known to be good individuals and total failures in groups. So let’s break the rule and give away some of our Diva-ish-isnous (I can copyright my terms, right?!) and bluntly say: Beirut Design Week proved successful from its first day.

Why?! It’s not like we know the organizers or anything, but it’s that this country was lacking richness and content. Beirut Design Week was able to present a good load of material, immensely diversified and super engaging.

So Let’s start with the list of negatives before jumping to the detailed review in later posts:

A failing visual identity

This event was organized by the MENA Design research center (logo in Helvetica) and TAGbrands (logo in Helvetica), and guess what, the event itself was all tailored using Helvetica, from A to Z; No guys, I’m not paranoid and I certainly have nothing against Max Miedinger, but being “Helveticaddicts” doesn’t quite work with the purpose of having a “DESIGN” week, where innovation should’ve taken form at least in the logo. A custom made logotype would’ve solved the issue; and no one’s buying the “we didn’t have time” excuse; the typeface is overused, a safe reach for all amateurs designers.

Being called “Beirut Design Week” which is genius – marketing wise, the whole event lacked identity. Have you ever seen a local design event in any country with no local adaptation?! How come you’ve worked so hard on an identity that looks like Japanese Origami with a hint of Arabesque and disregarded having an Arabic adaptation?

The map as well needed simplification, which wouldn’t be so hard to achieve having all events running in a very restricted area between Gemayzeh/Mar Mekhael, Hamra and close-by regions.

Schedule overlapping and online interactivity

We highly appreciate having an event as rich as yours, but guys, having events all over the place with a full day schedule was a bit of a chaos simply because it becomes impossible to keep on track. Such schedule could’ve been extended for a better experience. Everyone wants to be there, so why squeezing the whole journey?!

A last negative note: Online. We’re in 2012, the website is worked with sliced images that made it look totally unprofessional with a zero reach to the interactive age of information. you can’t even select type, not to mention that you have to google each name to know more about it.

But let me tell you: content and workshops made all the difference!

The infographics and data visualization workshop started with an interesting presentation about the subject matter and the media used to visualize data. The workshop, having an outcome, will focus on studying the flow of information related to Lebanon during the period between 2005 and 2012, based on the ‘Guardian’. Interesting indeed!

The Design research workshop also came very interesting and above all ‘fun’. While the attendees worked in groups of ‘blondies’, students and instructors, the outcomes came out to be entertaining and benefiting, simply by finding solutions through narratives, research and collective learning.

In the end of this first Design Week review, I must admit that I had lower expectations, and that your hard efforts showed how dedication makes a dream project come true. We can finally say: We have a Helvetica week, shooot, meant we have a Design Week!!


Get drunk and revive heritage!

By Admin I : It suddenly seems that 20 years have passed and nothing changed (copywriters will start googling syntax here, I’m sure). Well, am not the typical “sleeping beauty” but it feels like advertising hasn’t really moved to 2012, for some brands at least.

In Lebanon, the new generation is disconnecting from its past.
Its heritage is being lost and it is becoming a society with no clear identity; but some Lebanese are choosing to keep their culture alive.

True to its values, Dewar’s believes that reviving the heritage and passing it on to the future generation is something that is just worth doing.

Just like Dewar’s, the protagonist of the film believes in the values of the past, which is why he refuses to give up on his heritage, and chooses to revive it.

Fine, the context feels very authentic and real, we are truly disconnecting from our past (which I think is very normal, the problem is that we have no “unified” past in the first place) and yes it is indeed true that we should revive heritage and celebrate our identity. The problem here is not the concept but the product. It is when advertising creates this layer of separation between audience and brand to an extent that whiskey becomes associated with “walking towards a better future” or “things worth doing” and other bling bling slogans that still follow a pattern designed for a 1990s passive audience and refusing to adapt to the new age.

It is the same background music, low saturation coloring, handsome model, shining liquid and a pack shot! The voice-over is even the same, with the dark wide pitch and the same lines we no longer digest; the whole approach comes out obsolete whether made for Dewar’s or any other brand. When heritage is as over advertised as Nadine Labaki, agencies should stop and give it a thought!

Again, Advertising 101: audience, context, concept!

“Some thing are just not working”

Illustration by Admin I

Questioning “Graphic” Design 02:

‘It never existed in the first place!’

By Admin N : Just the other day, I was listening to ‘Susan Cain’ talk about the power of introverts and how introverted people perform best in term of productivity and creativity and it got me thinking, what am I? am I an introvert? An extrovert? Then I realized that I am both. I may have been an introvert at some point of my life, but then society happened and I was forced to come out of my shell and face the world I live in and thus I became an extrovert. But as a design student, you are encouraged to take a back seat and observe things in order to come up with solutions for the problems around you. Your friends noticed you’ve changed, you have become by their own definition: weird! But the question here is: am I weird because I am a design student or am I a design student because I’m weird?

What’s this nonsense, you may ask? But bear with me for a second here. The message that I’m trying to get across is the following: design is not a job, it’s a way of life (come on, don’t tell me I’m the only one who enjoys a good ol’ game of lets secretly bash the menu every time I go to a restaurant!). Well truth is, In order to become a good designer, you have to be on the constant lookout for everything that surrounds, it consumes you body and soul and completely alters your life to a point where simply calling yourself a graphic designer is somewhat offensive to your being. There is so much more than just vomiting a little CMYK mash-up on some adobe software then sticking some vector graphic art to it, design goes beyond the medium in a quest to find solutions. Whether we end up working in a big advertising firm, or founders of our own design studios, or even fulfilling our long lost dream of becoming a waitress in an Italian restaurant on the Virgin Islands, the truth is we can’t shake off the design thinking, once we have it, it stays forever. And that is why my friends, ‘Graphic’ design is dead, for me it never existed in the first place. Design was never just about visuals, it has always been about a message.


Illustration by Admin I

Questioning “Graphic” Design 01:

Does “Graphic” Design exist in 2012?!

By Admin I : Let me make some things clear from the beginning: I know as a young graphic designer that I might not be experienced enough to discuss such a topic, but who cares, it was never about experience in this blog but about triggering some question marks and initiating debate, so save your fingers some action and lose the hate comments, we’re here to discuss a major issue: “Graphic Design is DEAD”.

Yes I was acting surprised the minute I heard that expression from a teacher but deep down, I was totally aware of that matter as many aspiring designers are. It’s the same issue taking several forms in many fields: there’s the nurse and the doctor, the tailor, the couturier and the designer.. it’s all about hierarchy which doesn’t exist in Graphic Design (junior,art director, creative director is not really a hierarchy to me). It is when you reach a decision even if you are in your early twenties, that “fuc* it” I do not want to spend the next 20 years designing editorials, brochures and logos for mediocre clients waiting to have enough money to fly on my own. NO. “Graphic” design is not really what it should be – at least not what I want it to be (and yes my ego’s highly interfering here).

Being part-time nerd, full-time diva, I was intrigued to do some readings about the subject, and surprisingly, google level readings were enough to prove my point. 4 years ago, the The New Views 2 conference held in London managed to formulate a take on this subject matter:

“we currently see design education as teaching people to design. Instead we want to teach people THROUGH design.”

The conference believed that graduates need to be politically and socially engaged. You’ll never achieve that teaching Photoshop and yet this is what we fool ourselves in to thinking and claiming. Instead we shift approach and teach students about the world in which they are living, using design as the tool to do that and allowing them to demonstrate what they have learned through design. Learning Photoshop then becomes a skill that is picked up to show understanding of the world, not because it is a skill in itself. graphic designers can’t tackle crime, for example unless you think a nice leaflet will do that. But as ‘Design Against Crime’ has shown, designers can.

Losing the word ‘Graphic’ opens up so many possibilities it’s hard to understand why anyone would resist.

So back to me and my design rebel: yes folks, it is indeed a need for us all to claim for our right to lose the word ‘Graphic’ from our educational system, simply because it flattens what we do to a ground level where we are only asked to take care of aesthetically oriented matters and remain highly passive towards the flow of information coming from orthodox design communities. If you think you have more to do than to choose colors from a pantone booklet or get OCD’ed about a layout’s alignment, then you should really join this quest!

Many of you think it can be easily solved by asking “why did you go for Graphic Design as a major?” and the answer can be quite simple: “Design” is what me and a bunch of fellows cherish and practice, classifying designers into categories just because they can choose a typeface (which usually is Helvetica), match tiles to wall colors or recycle garments and call it couture, is quite demeaning to us as individuals and to design as an existing world-changing phenomenon.

“degree-level design education needs to define itself so that it offers something to the world beyond simply churning out people who can make a leaflet selling crap nobody wants.”

This is all what i have to say for now, waiting for more enthusiastic people that are ready to lose the word “Graphic” from their “labeled” CVs and start searching for new tools. Let’s all get out of the Adobe shells we were programmed to fit; The “design” age has already started!

Who’s in?!

Reader’s comment: This mess of a campaign, although not exactly a copycat, is heavily inspired by the Be Stupid campaign.
“To be stupid is to be brave, when you risk something, that’s stupid” says Diesel’s manifesto.

The two campaigns are quite similar in the sense that both show examples of people acting stupid. But Lebanese Brew, being the brave beer it is, does not hide this fact. It reinforces it the by employing the same typographic composition.

Lebanese Brew’s “TRY SOMETHING BRAVE” inspired* or not?!

By Admin I : Okay so it was just a matter of hours that the flow of feedback around the LB Beer new campaign started shifting towards the negative; and yes, it was somehow expected because it’s such a Lebanese ritual – bashing successful work – that takes over our minds the minute we get exposed to a certain controversial approach.

The Diesel manifesto, or the “BE STUPID” campaign was previously mentioned when LB adapted the “Brave” approach a couple of campaigns ago yet the similarity was totally irrelevant, but now we’re facing 2 bluntly similar campaigns both playing on guts and bravery even if one called it “stupid” and one insists on “brave”; guys the approach is the same, yes. the layout looks very similar, yes, but to me the whole campaign for this exact product trying to find a point of difference in the market is still worth crediting.

I’m very sure, like 100% positively sure that Interesting Times knows more than me and you that Diesel manifesto is too famous to imitate, it’s just too well known, so again they went for the “brave”  – knowing how wickedly insane they can be – which still makes sense being executed to fit our local lifestyle.

It was worth looking at both campaigns and will totally leave the decision for you guys: Inspired* or not?!