Viewing Category ~ arabic

July 12th, 2013

Kalimat Magazine

The new issue of Kalimat Magazine is out. I illustrated the cover for the mag, in addition to designing an info graphic.

During my time in Cairo, I’m staying at my parents apartment which is situated right in the heart of old downtown Cairo. A place called “Medan el-Opera” or Opera Square. This is the same building that my dad grew up in under the roof of my grandfather and grandmother god rest their souls. You can feel the history in the air. Unfortunately downtown has become an extremely filthy place, it’s really hard at times to be able to appreciate all the subtle beauty this place in Cairo has to offer amidst the insane crowds.

The Best time to appreciate the living being that is “Wost el Balad” or the City Center, is to head out right before dawn and take it all in. The streets are literally empty, the astounding old buildings with all the details and magnificent sign-age is there and ripe for your eyes to feast on. Which is exactly what I did yesterday.

After walking from our appartment towards the main station “Ramses Station”, I headed West towards “Tahrir Square” where the Egyptian Museum is located amongst many hotels and a huge government building. I encountered a bunch of kids playing the infamous Egyptian version of football, known as streetball. After observing them for a while, they invited me to join them, I couldn’t refuse. Time to polish the old set of skills, a humbling challenge since I was wearing slippers, especially given the fact that most of them were too and they were all really talented. The kid I handed my Camera and keys to was ecstatic, especially when I gave him a quick tutorial on how to use it.

This morning also marked two occasions, the beginning of Eid el-fitr (Celebration of feast) and also the end of fasting the month of Ramadan. I woke up to pray the dawn prayer in the morning with my family and we then all headed together towards the local Masjid (Mosque) to perform the eid prayer. A beautiful tradition that brought back a lot of memories from my childhood, the weather perfectly complimented the mood and smiles on peoples’ faces. This is looking to be a wonderful Friday.

I’ll be heading tonight to my friend Yahyas’ place south of a suburb of Cairo Helwan, called Maadi to spend the night as in the morning we will drive together, with his wife Heba and daughter Alia towards the remote resort on the north east coast of Sinai on the Red Sea, called Ananada, situated between Taba and Sharm el-sheikh. A 4.5 hr drive, I couldn’t be anymore excited.

September 8th, 2010

Welcome To Cairo.

Beautiful Chaos. Two words that I managed to derive together after being asked various amount of times from different people “What is Cairo like?”.  A huge metropolis that is situated on the river Nile in the heart of the middle east, Cairo is the place where chaos thrives.

I was fortunate to have lived here for 13 years, coming from Toronto, I was exposed to a completely different culture and language, an exposure I believe was integral in helping me establish a broader perspective in life & for that I’m extremely grateful. I briefly visited Egypt’s capital city for a week or so last year, but besides that, I haven’t been here for 6 years. A lot has changed, for good and for worse.

Upon first arriving here, it’s easy to get sucked into the obvious negative aspects of the city, heavily polluted, crowded streets as result of very poor urban planning, lack of cleanliness and order and the list goes on. But I decided long ago that as much as can, I’ll try to keep the energy I emit and interpret positive. The glass is half full and by the way, it’s filled with the most delicious juice you’ve ever tasted in your life.

Cairo is a city where so many layers exisit, an immesnse amount of history is contained in tightly packed rapidly expanding metropolis. Delightful details ready to tickle your eyes and mind exisit all around you, I truly feel blessed to be able to have left here for 6 years and come back with a fresh set of eyes and appreciation for what I took for granted living here in the past. Everywhere I go, there is an overwhelming amount of visual stimuli, coming from such a newborn fresh city such as Toronto, It’s like a little kid in a candy shop.

Ramadan in Cairo, (The lunar month where muslims fast) has also a very unique feel. Calls for prayer from hundreds of minarets ring wonderfully and mystically throughout the air 5 times a day, the majority of the population is all engaged in ubstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise till sunset. Then when the sun sets, people everywhere are breaking there fast, stores open left and right, if you happen to be in transportation on your way somewhere at the time, it’s completely normal to be handed dates or food from a complete stranger, welcoming you to break your fast. There are places called “Mawa’ed el rahman” which literaly translates into “Tables of the mericful”, located almost everywhere across Cairo, you can always find a table to stop and eat a full meal at.

I’m still in the midst of soaking it all in, the multiple stimuli and visits with family & friends. In the next few days after Ramadan ends, during the celeberation of Eid el Fitr (Celeberation of the Feast) God willing, I’ll be heading out east to the Sinai Penensula to a place called Ananda with a group of friends. Scarcely placed deserted huts on the Red Sea, a first for me and after hearing so much about it from all my friends, I’m really looking forward to it.

June 26th, 2010

Q&A with Ahmed Hafez (Fizo)

I have known Ahmed Hafez (aka Fizo) for almost 10 years to the date, I first met this extremely talented individual when I was attending The College of Fine Arts in Zamalek. He is one of the founding fathers of infamous Egyptian design troupe Fileclub, he has been one of the few individuals that have inspired me constantly over the years. I was fortunate enough to snag some of his time for a Quick Q&A session.

Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

My name is Ahmed Hafez Younis, you can call me fizo, i’ve been around for a little more than three decades, currently i work as an associate creative director in promoseven egypt and i guess that makes me a sith or a Darth rather than a Jedi.

Bonus Starwars reference, nice .. What do you consider to be your earliest creative memory?

My mother still keeps some scribbles i’ve done at the age of 4, they’re a series of illustrations for different animals in the zoo. The thing is i was old enough to know that the lion is king, so instead of 4 legs i decided he should have more, a little more than 10 legs actually.

Before you sit down to work, staring at that blank digital canvas, what triggers your motivation to start giving it?

Well, I don’t know about a trigger, its not like i wait for my muse or anything. Being pro for that long i guess makes you more capable of summoning your talent and tools at will. Ibelieve this whole thing for me became more like a process of translation, its like my mind speaks an alien language even to myself and the white digital canvas is where i get to understand and explain to the world.

Excellent I like where this is going, can you tell us a bit about the process of how you transitioned from someone who studied Arts to becoming a professional Graphic practitioner? Who were your biggest influences at the time, what inspired you become a Graphical creative problem solver?

Before we get to that i need to make something clear, I work in advertising now, in my position im not really an art director anymore. The borderline between copy and art is almost non-existing in modern advertising. I dont get to work with my hands in terms of everyday practice and I really think that is what’s triggering the flow of personal work, graphic design is more of an escape to me now, i.e. i create the problem then solve it.

But the graphic designer in me was the natural evolution of the art student, although graphic design was never my major, but i was always drawn towards design in general. There was always something interesting in the difference between a designer and a painter or a sculpture ” and then there was digital” a new world to explore, new tools, new ideas, new perspectives, new names suddenly emerged other than dali or picasso, names like Dave mckean and David Carson, it was the late 90s and change was in the air, i just surfed along with friends who shared the same passion, you know the names.

Looking at your body of work, it’s obvious you enjoy experimenting with Arabic Typography/Calligraphy, Sometimes pushing boundaries of what is custom or the the norm. What do you consider to be the pro’s and con’s of designing with that language in mind? And where do you see it heading in the future?

What I do with Arabic Calligraphy or Typography could be considered as crimes, for academic people me and “my kind” butcher the language by not abiding to its rules and roots, i simply believe in evolution,and by evolution i dont mean “Turkey killing the alphabet all together” kind of evolution, when we where children we just had to break some toys to know what’s really going on in there, think of it this way, if i can break it maybe i can pick it all up again in a different way. Thats not a crime, is it??

I believe the problem with arabic typography in design, is a conception rather than a designer problem or language problem, arabic typography has been blamed and still is being blamed for all mediocre and shitty designs all across the arab world , lots of people think that it just doesn’t look as “cool” as latin “3o2det khawaga. (editors’ translation: The foreigner complex)

The future is where we come, we have to change this conception, and i think we’re doing just fine.

Do you think Graphic design is currently being used to it’s utmost capacity in modern day Middle Eastern / Egyptian culture?

Of course not, i believe graphic designers didn’t fully digest the middle eastern / egyptian culture just yet. its a heavy meal, the inspiration, the details , everything, i believe there’s a lot to be done yet.

Can you share some of your favourite pieces?

What are some of the websites that you frequent on a regular basis?

but does it float

Thanks for your time, keep on keepin on!

Thank you

To view more of Fizo’s work you can head over to his Dripbook page here.

I came across this really talented fellow designer Muiz Anwar, from Manchester, UK on my daily Flickr browse lately, his work is striking and bold, definitely commanding my attention. From  reinterpretations of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, to in your face splashes of colour perfectly and carefully utilized over top some unique designs. Brilliant overall work, I got in-touch with him recently and bounced a few questions off of him, here’s what he had to say:

Ib: Hey there, Can you tell us a bit of your upbringing ..

M: I’m Manchester born and raised, which is in the North-West of England. Manchester is famous not only for its’ rain, but also for its’ iconic musical exports and design culture: The Hacienda, Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Oasis, Peter Saville, Malcom Garrett…

Ib: What’s the earliest Creative related memory you can recall?

M: My earliest creative memory is hard to pin point – but one of the earliest would be drawing animals and dinosaurs on the back of stapled bunches of outdated timesheets my mum would bring home from work. I think I still have one or two of these, but the colour has faded a little.

Ib: Was there a certain point in your life when you decided to explore your arabic roots creatively as seen in some of your work? or has this always been something that just happened naturally for you?

M: One thing has always fascinated me from a scientific, philosophical and theological perspective – is what I call, “the Origin of Order” – or how things came to be – including the various races of humans.

In terms of exploring my religious and cultural inheritance – I was really oblivious to it through my teenage years as I was solely into illustration of the comic kind. My work is incredibly figurative so the abstraction I had seen in Islamic art was too divorced from my current haibtual passion.
My main foray into the arabic aesthetic was primarily motivated / catalysed by the War on Terror. I had never consciously indentified or understood my religious, cultural, ethnic or political identity (like many other young Muslims of my generation), until we were put into the public spotlight following Sept 11 – where mass hysteria ensued of the Muslim Menace propogated by media stereotypes and misinformation. No one seemed articulate enough to clarify who or what this community I was born into were or represented and consequently we were easily demonised and targeted.

During this process of academic and rigorous questioning of my identity – to better understand who, what, where, when, why and how my faith is the way it is – I gained a more intimate and intellectual relationship and awareness of all these things.

I began to appreciate the mathematics of architecture, the science in the design, the technical precision in traditional craftsmanship of the Islamic Arts and Empires. They were incredibly sophisticated and so ahead of their time in allowing art to inform science and vice versa – and it ultimately helped me make the decision to pursue my career in visual communication, or Graphic Design.

The ability to communicate sophisticated messages through visuals (A Picture is worth a thousand Words) was an incredibly potent sign in giving design a sense of purpose beyond the superfluous / ‘soul-selling’ commercialist aesthetic. It had a function / significance / power to shape communities and minds – and as a member of community increasingly misunderstood, I saw it as a timely opportunity to use visual skills I had been blessed to have a lifetime’s worth of development to good use.

Ib: Excellent, when it comes to commencing any work, staring at the blank digital canvas, what triggers your motivation to start giving it?

M: It can be anything. I really am inspired by the world around me. Many designers choose to look to their own discipline and peers for inspiriation in their work – but my work and aesthetic has always been informed by a variety of things. It could the latest concept car by Audi or BMW, or a dress from a couture catwalk, a new scientific theorem, a piece of graffiti, a story in the news…. Whatever it is it has to be genuinely innovative – something that triggers excitement, imagination or challenges my preconceptions. These are things that make the cogs in my mind begin to turn and whur into motion – and trigger images and words which manifest themselves into typography, photography, illustration, product design, graphic design, fashion ideas which I will sketch of create immediately.

Creativity and inspiration can never and should never be overly defined – to do so illustrates a lack of objectivity to your environment and how that environment can inform you.

Ib: Can you pick three of your favourite pieces of work and talk about them, within the realms of the four W’s (What, why, when, where)?

M: What: ILM Magazine

Why: It proved that editorial design can be both cutting edge & have substance.

It also provided me with my first project where I did my own photography, styling, typography, article writing, art direction, fashion and publication design – so despite the issues I see in it now, it’ll always hold a very special place in my heart.

When: 2008 / 2009

Where: Designed in Manchester, England.

For more pictures click here


What: “Morse Code” Arabic

Why: It pushed Arabic to its’ legible & aesthetic limits. I used to think the beauty and complexity of Arabic was evident in its’ curves. I proved myself wrong.

When: 2009

Where: Designed in Manchester, England.


What: “Untitled”

Why: My first foray back to my first love after 5 years of intensive graphic work, I returned to my illustrative roots. Using my signature ballpoints, I began creating characters for a project that would explore how culture and tradition permeate through the generations, especially when those generations grow up in different environments. It’s the most successful form of characterisation through figurative illustration I have done in recent years.

When: 2008

Where: Created in Manchester, England.

For more images in the series click here

Ib: What are some of the sites that you just have to check on a daily basis?

M: Sites I have to check on the daily (too many to mention, I literally cruise upto 50/60 blog front pages from a meticulously organised bookmark library) I’ve included a small selection below:

Flickr / Twitter / Behance / Typography Served / FFFFOUND / FormFiftyFive / Creative Review Blog / Eye Blog / Wired Magazine / Vanity Fair Magazine / Coute Que Coute Blog / Icon_ology / Boston Big Picture / The Die Line / The Lovely Package

Ib: In fin, Just before you die, as you are about to expire from this world, what would you would’ve liked to achieve with your life?

M: Dedicated his life and craft to making a difference.

Ib: Thanks, for your time man, Keep on inspiring the lot of us.

For more of Muiz’s work you can check out his Flickr and Personal Website

Also, If you know anyone that you think would be a great candidate to conduct and interview/showcase their work (even if it’s you!) send me a shout.

Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

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