On Saturday 28 November, AUC Press celebrated the launch of its newest book, A History of Arab Graphic Design, with the authors, Bahia Shehab and Haytham Nawar. The event was held in Ewart Hall, on the AUC Tahrir Campus, and in the presence of almost a hundred attendees, from graphic design students and professors, to journalists and friends of AUC Press.
“This is a truly unique book, the first of its kind to chart the history of Arab graphic design over the full course of the twentieth century,” said Nadia Naqib, AUC Press senior commissioning editor, in the introductory remarks of the evening.
“It spans key designers from across the Arab world and a very wide range of graphic design uses, including books, magazines and newspapers, posters, advertisements, stamps, and signage.”
In his remarks, beamed via Zoom, AUC president Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., then invited Shehab and Nawar to give their book presentation, not only praising their work but emphasizing the significance of A History of Arab Graphic Design in the larger context of Egypt’s place in the world.
“Egypt has just always been the fountainhead of creativity for this region and the entire Arab and Muslim world throughout the years, and this book really helps to bring that alive for foreign audiences because it is published in English.”
The authors dedicated their hour-long presentation “to all the forgotten Arab designers,” noting that their book is “only the beginning,” since many more designers from the Arab world still merit wider recognition. “We are simply scratching the surface,” said Shehab, a Lebanese designer and practicing artist who is professor and founder of the graphic design program at AUC and the founding director of TYPE Lab.
While paying tribute to the influence of Islamic art on the visual culture of the Arab world, the authors lauded calligraphers such as Sayed Ibrahim, who contributed greatly to the development of graphic design. With enlarged illustrations from the book projected onto the auditorium’s screen, they highlighted pioneers such as Abdel al-Salam El Sherif, “the father of graphic design,” and important names in Arab design, such as Hussein Bicar, the creator of Sindbad, the pioneering children’s magazine, and Hassan Fouad, artist, designer, journalist, and screenwriter, who created a significant body of work for the Palestinian resistance.
As reflected in their book, the authors also acknowledged the vital contribution of Arab designers in the diaspora, many of whom had emigrated to Europe and the United States, such as Hashim Samarchi, Rafa al-Nasiri, and Dia al-Azzawi.
From left to right: Nadia Naqib, AUC Press senior commissioning editor, Bahia Shehab,
Haytham Nawar, and Khaled Seoudi, AUC Press marketing specialist
In the question and answer session that followed, Nawar, who is associate professor of design and chair of the department of the arts at AUC, said he hoped one day to see “a museum dedicated to Arab graphic design,” since there is no institution today devoted to collecting and archiving this creative heritage of the Arab world.