Vector Walla Raster: Creative Graphic Design Solutions for Egypt

From reviving national brands and redesigning educational books to creating social awareness campaigns and improving public services, 40 graphic design seniors are showcasing their talents at the Vector Walla Raster exhibition at the Sharjah Art Gallery.

The projects displayed at the exhibition are part of the graphic design program’s thesis requirement, where graduating seniors put their creative skills into practice and build their own physically transformative designs. “The students' projects present creative solutions to many of the problems we face in Egypt,” said Bahia Shehab, associate professor of professional practice in the Department of the Arts. “It’s extremely important for students to exhibit their work after dedicating a whole year to their projects. Exposure might get their work implemented in development areas where they are most needed.”

The theme of the exhibition stems from a designer term that means work is ready to print. “It is a question that is asked by the printer when a designer takes a file to be printed,” explained Shehab. “The printer usually asks if the file is vector [pixels] or raster [paths]. But when written in Egyptian colloquial terms, vector walla raster has its own local flavor for design practitioners. It is a reflection of the graphic design major’s mission to integrate with the local culture scene.”

Creative Solutions for Egypt

Students taking part in the exhibit had unique stories as to what inspired them to design their projects. For Mariam Gad, it is revamping Egypt’s railway website to enhance the daunting online booking experience for local residents. “Egypt’s current railway website is very difficult to use and is not reliable for many reasons,” said Gad. “My project focuses on user friendliness by making online railway bookings simpler, easier and clearer for everyone. I redesigned Egypt’s railway map by color-coding the different railways and using icons for different services provided in some stations.”

Already having introduced her project to the Egyptian National Railways, Gad hopes to find a sponsor who can help her improve and expand her project even more. “This project has developed into an idea that I strongly believe can change our lives,” she said. “I know that for some people, it will require adapting to new ways of doing things, but it’s a change that can help part of our country become more innovative at things.”

Also keen on improving Egypt’s large infrastructure facilities, Amgad Salem presents a new visual identity for Cairo’s International Airport. “My project is about rebranding Cairo’s International Airport to make the visual language comply with the logo, which is inspired by Square Kufic, a prominent Arabic calligraphy style,” he said. “The signage system is comprised of the same colors used on the airport’s tarmac, but the main combination is black and white because that’s the biggest contrast. All pictograms are outlined in white. I did the same with language, making Arabic –– the primary language –– in white so that it stands out more, while the second language –– English –– is highlighted in yellow. The black, white and neon yellow colors I use for the new signage system work well and are readable even from afar. What is unique about this new design is that it stands out from the airport’s architectural design.”

Part of Salem’s project is designing an optional multimedia system for travelers to get information about their current location at the airport. “The primary objective of the multimedia signage system is to inform the illiterate as well as make use its other qualities, of course," he explained. "When travelers check in at the counter, they’ll receive an electronic card that they can use in different locations at the airport. Travelers can swipe the card at any information station located throughout the airport to get information about their current location, gate and nearest services, such bathrooms or shopping stores. It’s very easy to use and can be adapted for people with disabilities. Also, even if the airport only had Arabic signage, travelers can utilize the card to get information in English or any other language. It’s a computer system, so it’s easy to add information.”

Upon finalizing the final design aspects of the project, Salem plans to present his branding design to the Ministry of Aviation. “About four months ago, I contacted the Ministry of Aviation and was told that I can present my project to them after finalizing any modifications needed,” he said.

In an effort to encourage men to understand and become more proactive about harassment toward women, Allaa El Belassy took a unique approach on how to raise awareness among men. “I wanted to do something that is important and meaningful to society in a creative way,” she said. “For my project, I filmed men reading harassment testimonies made by women. On video, the men were reading the testimonies for the first time, so their instant reaction is what you see filmed. You can hear them stutter and stop frequently while they’re reading.”

El Belassy started her campaign collecting testimonies through Facebook and has already gathered more than 100 real-life stories. “The moral is for men to stop being passive about sexual harassment and start taking action,” she said. “There are several campaigns out there that call for women to be violent toward men that harass them, but violence is not always the solution. There are other campaigns, like mine, that call for men to stop harassing women.”

The main challenge for El Belassy was presenting real-life stories in video format. “There were several men who felt uncomfortable reading the testimonies and backed down,” she said. “Some of them, in fact, didn’t want to be the men who cry.” One of the testimonies filmed has already reached more than 1,500 views on Facebook.

Considering herself a strong supporter of feminism, El Belassy looks forward to taking her project to a new level by creating harassment awareness campaigns in artistic ways. “At the moment, I don’t have anything in mind, but I believe what makes a campaign successful is how you promote it,” she explained. “There are many ways you can get the word out, but the key is how you can grab the attention of people in society and make them learn that this is wrong.”

Sohayla Helal also thought of creating awareness about important social issues in a different way. “I think a general problem we have in Egypt is the lack of mannerism,” she said. “I decided to develop a manners awareness campaign by creating a children’s book about manners. I selected 43 mannerisms and etiquettes that have to do with manners at home, school, public places and the streets. Some of the manners include closing your mouth while eating, not resting your elbows on the table, admitting when you do something wrong, sitting straight, not laughing at someone for no reason, saying thank you when someone helps you, and not using bad language.”

Helal creatively designed animated posters to be launched online. “I am waiting for a sponsor to launch my work on a bigger online platform so that I can target larger audiences,” she said.  

In an effort to preserve Arabic culture, Farah El Shafie designed a book with 100 illustrations of Egyptian proverbs. “Today’s generation is very Westernized, and whenever we want to describe something, we use English proverbs instead of Arabic,” she said. “I thought that visually illustrating Arabic proverbs would encourage our society to use them more often.”

El Shafie’s grandmother was her source of inspiration. “Coincidentally, as I was thinking of an idea for my project, my grandmother said a proverb that I did not understand. I thought this might be something I could document in order to preserve Arabic proverbs,” she explained.   

An example of a proverb featured in the book translates to English as the belly dancer dies with her waist shaking, which means old habits die hard. Another proverb translated in English is going to the bathroom is easier than getting out, which means getting into situations is easier than getting out of them.

Each project displayed at the exhibition presented a different set of challenges for students, Shehab noted. “Some students found the research part challenging while others found the production part difficult,” she said. “However, despite the challenges, the unique ideas they developed and their capability to turn them into physical designs is what makes them true creative artists.”

Three faculty members in the Department of the Arts supervised the student projects: Bahia Shehab; associate professor of practice; Haytham Nawar, assistant professor and graphic design director; and Nagla Samir, associate professor of practice. A complete list of students and their projects is listed below:

Farah Wael Adawy: Redesign Y6 Governmental School Book
Shahd Abdel Kader: Arab Music Book
Dana Ismail Abdel Latif: Weaving Products
Farah Fouad Ahmed: Design Beyond Sight
Lela Walid Ahmed: Visual Code of Ethic
Hashem Amir: Designing AAA Game
Ahmed Ayroud  Alternative Housing Solution 
Mariam Dayhoum: Egyptian National Football
Salma ElAnsary: Designing with Gems and Crystals
Allaa El Belassy: Sexual Harassment
Abd El Rahman El Bialy: Water Awareness Product
Saif Mahmoud El-Deeb: Educational Kit
Nour El Demerdash: Stress Release Booth
Habiba elGendy: Visual Culture of Downtown Cairo      
Shereen El-Khateeb: Women's Rights in the Constitution 
Kholoud Hussein El- Mala: Breast Cancer Awareness
Nada El Tanbouly: Rebranding Egyptian Ministries 
Farah El Shafie: Egyptian Proverbs Illustrated   
Farah Essam Emam: AUC Way-Finding App                      
Mariam Nabil Gad: Egypt’s Railways Branding            
Dina Hany Hamama: Rebranding Fish Garden   
Sohayla Walid Helal: Manners Awareness Campaign 
Farida Kafafy: Book on Body Art in Egypt 
Yasmine N. Khalil: Arab Emojis
Yumna Matar: Concept Shopping
Nadin Metwally: Branding Khedival Cairo           
Stephanie Mounir: Up-cycling Egyptian Public Seating
Ayah Okasha: Branding al-Karnak 
Alia Rady: Rebranding Carina
Omnia Mohamed Rafie: Egyptian Antiquity Shops
Yasser Gawdat Sabry: Intercepting Inaccurate Thought Patterns
Amgad Salem: Branding Cairo Airport      
Mennatallah Samir: Rebranding al-Azhar Park
Nada Sherif Selim: Database for Arabic Typefaces
Sarah Khaled Shebl: Arabic Font for Legibility
Salma Tarek: Korba Signage System 
Omar Ahmed Zaki: Extreme Sports