Ministry of Graphic Design: Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01

Identity & website

Modeled after a gov­ern­ment agency with five distinct depart­ments and exploring graphic design’s rela­tion­ship to political and societal mores across the world, designing the identity and website for the inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial in the United Arab Emirates involved research­ing ways to both embrace and subvert con­ven­tional bureau­cratic forms, as well as forms arising from simple mass production.

After exploring many options ranging from gov­ern­men­tal seals (too obvious) to depart­ment names that branched from the main title (too abstract), the idea of using Friz Quadrata arose. While no longer even close to being in fashion in con­tem­po­rary design circles, it nev­er­the­less retains a sort of hidden ubiquity in the everyday — par­tic­u­larly in the UAE, an important con­sid­er­a­tion. It can be found on every­thing from gov­ern­men­tal let­ter­head to pawn shop signage, both a remnant of the past and also a default option today for many mass-​produced goods.

When set with care and paired with novel graphic approaches (a dynamic set of frames, a bold color palette), it once again comes to life — unex­pected, but strangely familiar.

The website pairs Friz with Pica, mono­spaced and typewriter-​inspired in another nod to the gov­ern­ment aesthetic. The line between the two languages on the site is blurred by not offering a simple language toggle link, but rather a slider, randomly posi­tioned at first, that can be used to rotate one or the other into view as if two sides of the same canvas, with the Arabic logo at some points paired with the English and vice versa.

The content of the website was designed and developed to be largely unstruc­tured and freeform, in line with the sprawling and com­pli­cated nature of the biennial, with the recog­ni­tion that the team of designers involved would create a cohesive patchwork reflect­ing the themes of the initiative.

I haven’t touched even the most basic elements of setting Arabic type in any mean­ing­ful way that’s ready for vis­i­bil­ity and pro­duc­tion outside of this col­lab­o­ra­tion, but took it as an oppor­tu­nity to learn and work with a team of fellow designers and friends halfway across the globe that do.