The American University in Cairo (AUC) celebrated the graduation of its first class of students in the graphic design major. Bahia Shehab, who established the graphic design major within AUC’s Department of the Arts in 2011, said, “after establishing the program in 2011, I’ve watched the program grow and develop along with our students, the first students in the program and now our first graduates.” The curriculum she designed encourages students to discover their personal talents and utilize them in the best way they can to create solutions, she explained, pointing out that the difference between art and design is that designers solve problems.This was the case for Ahd Sherif, who graduated from the graphic design major in order to learn how to communicate visually. “I always wanted to solve problems, whether as a team or individually,” said Sherif. “In graphic design, we are taught how to find solutions through visuals. It’s not only about trying to make something look good, but it’s also about making something that will communicate well through its typography, colors, spacing, everything. All of this is graphic design.”
As part of the program, graduating students must complete a senior project, using what they’ve learned to address an issue of interest to them. For her project, Sherif designed a sexual education kit, focusing on presenting the material in a way that is accessible and appropriate for students. “For my senior project, I used graphic design to address a serious problem we have here in the Arab world, that is issues that arise when we try to teach sexual education. I made visuals and designed the kit, creating something that, in my opinion, can change someone’s life,” she explained.
Basem El Koury, another graduate from the program, focused on roadside advertisements, a project inspired during his commute to campus. “Driving between the University and 6th of October for the past five years, I always thought that there has to be a better way to advertise,” said El Koury. “I offered an alternative solution to billboards and outdoor advertisements, especially those on Al-Moneeb bridge that connects Giza and Maadi. The bridge has more than 900 advertisements, so the idea was to remove them and instead use digital displays that are positioned to be more driver friendly and energy efficient, while not harming the visual surrounding.”
These projects not only engage students in their local communities, but also help them build a portfolio for their future careers, El Koury pointed out. Working on his senior project for a year and a half, El Koury noted that even with the stress and pressure from the project, it is “the one project I will always remember.”
Farah Hamdy, a fellow graduate, shared the same viewpoint. “I was free to create whatever project I wanted, and the project reflected my personality and skills, along with contributing something important to society,” she said. “I plan to continue my project about Al Moez Street and expand the mobile application. My vision is to incorporate more of Egypt's culturally rich areas and hopefully to create a whole guide for Egypt.”
The first in AUC’s history, this graduating class leaves behind a lasting legacy, noted Nora Abushadi, another graduate from the program. “The deeper I got into the newly founded major, the more I realized that as the first graduates of graphic design, we are setting the bar high for generations to come,” she said. “As a student from the first class, I came to realize that there was no need to be hesitant entering a major with no history, since we’re the ones making history.”
As these new graduates go out into the world, Shehab encouraged her students to approach challenges with the same creativity and passion they had at AUC. “This is only the beginning of a long journey,” she explained. “We teach them from day one to work passionately. We want our students to stay passionate and to always be curious, to keep learning throughout what we are sure will be bright, successful careers.”