Exposing "Ithra" Audience to The Aesthetics of Arabic Calligraphy

21 October 2018

Tareq Atreesi is an international designer and calligrapher. He has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the American University in Beirut, and a master’s degree in Arts in Interactive Multimedia from the Utrecht School of the Arts in Netherlands. His work has been published in books and international magazines; and he has received many awards for his extraordinary work. He is interested in typography, especially Arabic calligraphy. Atreesi participated in “TANWEEN” in King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), on October 11, 2018, with a Talk titled “Inventing Solutions for Local Problems.” The lecture discussed using design as a tool for social influence and solving issues in the Arab society.
Atreesi started his talk by mentioning the challenges that graphic designers face in the Arab world, as their work opportunities were limited to advertising agencies until recently. In addition, they face a false stereotype about the designer’s role in the creative process, which he emphasized the need to change in order to give designers the freedom to unleash their creativity. He also highlighted the importance of using our unique Arab culture and the rich visual content surrounding us historically as an inspiration, especially with the increasing numbers of graphic design graduates in the last two decades. He discussed the ways Arabic calligraphy is used in creating identities and commercial brands, and how his work in exhibitions and art galleries contributed to this, indicating that Arabic typeface can give more depth to visual identities compared to other type of design.
Atreesi also mentioned the difficulties facing designers when dealing with clients. He wondered about how to improve society’s taste, and how to change the concept of Arab identity inside the Arab world to suit global concepts and standards. He told the audience a story about a project where many designers from all around the world were invited to design a poster about tolerance. Atreesi chose a strange and controversial design, which, according to him, is the designer’s main job. The importance and interest of these projects lie in the opportunities they give designers to express their own perspectives, and the freedoms they give them to discuss complicated matters in a simple and interactive way.
Afterwards, Atreesi visited his experience in working with Apple, whom he said appreciate the designing process and realize its importance in building consciousness. He spent three years designing Arabic typefaces to reflect the company’s tone and identity. He said that the font is a representative of the brand. He also said he is working on creating visual identities that consist of identical Arabic and Latin typefaces.
Atreesi continued talking about the nature of designers way of thinking, saying that a large part of working in graphic design lies in looking for a rational explanation for what we see around us, and seeking to increase the visual content using the available resources, whether local or international. He emphasized the need to launch initiatives documenting the history of Arabic graphic design. He asked the designers to be creative, find their own ideas, try to help in solving issues and use their creativity to create products audience can relate to.
About the role of graphic design in solving issues, Atreesi gave the example of the Chilean government. The government imposed a new law that bases the wrapping on the quality and nutritional content of the food; and prohibited any wrapping with drawings compelling to children or similar promotional methods. This was done with the intention of fighting obesity in the country. Atreesi said he hopes a day will come when designers become a source of creative ideas; and when designers will be braver and more innovative in coming up with radical solutions instead of following existing ideas. The designer concluded by quoting the American-Hungarian designer, Tibor Kalman, which states that when you do something, some will love it and some will hate it, so if you try something new or start a new method, you will face both, and both are part of the design process.