Berlin is a long way from Bechmezzine Al-Koura in north Lebanon, but it is there where 30-year-old Lebanese-German Communication Designer Daniel Arab’s journey began towards developing his own Berlin based brand Color Blind Patterns. After studying Communications Design in Hamburg and Berlin, it was a commission to design a name card “with an African motif” that led him to develop his signature style, a fusion inspired by the patterns on old tiles from Tripoli and Berlin streetscapes.
”I was overwhelmed how those 200-year-old tiles in ancient buildings in Tripoli still looked very graphic and modern. It inspired me to try and create something timeless,” Daniel says. “Living in Berlin, other stuff came to it. Fashion and street style in Berlin, and the architecture of East German tower blocks,” he added, “My client did not think my patterns were African enough, but I now had a whole collection and I was trying to work out how to use them,” Daniel says. “The idea of making patterned bags was inspired by Berlin – everyone was walking around with those Tote bags.” That is where his mother, fashion designer Heide Marie Arab came in. All the Color Blind products are hand made by her in their Atelier, in the Berlin district of Wedding, and they offer many options for individual, custom made products. They are also sold at the shop Berlin Beirut Multiples where Daniel works – a project run by a publishing house that closely collaborates with Lebanese and Berlin-based artists to create, publish and manufacture limited edition products.
Daniel says he had never wanted to leave Lebanon. “Our parents had always emphasized that we were in Lebanon because we wanted to be there and not because we did not have other options,” Daniel says. He worked in his father’s shoe shop in Tripoli and felt all he needed was there in Bechmezzine. “There were Olive trees, the sea and mountains and when we wanted a big city feel we went to Beirut,” he says. It was during the worst of the fighting during the 34-day war in North Lebanon in 2006 when Daniel fled to his uncle in Hamburg, where he began studying design. He then followed a girl he was in love with to Berlin where he continued his studies. Daniel’s talent for patterns was reflected early in his schoolbook doodling and his drawing skills were honed doing typographic graffiti on the walls of Bechmezzine.
“We had a tag and crew in our village, but we were caught by the Syrians one day. One of our crew members had wasta so we got away with it,” Daniel says. “We were rebels in an innocent way. Rebels with a small ‘r’. We weren’t aggressive – we just did graffiti and had funky haircuts and we hung around dark places smoking cigarettes far away from parents. Our crew was gossip topic Number 1,” he continues smiling, “Sometimes when I close up shop here and look up the street I get flashbacks to my life in Bechmezzine and how far away from it I am now.”
What is your favorite part of your job?
What are you working on currently?
Working on offering more, bigger “patterned” products.
What do you find most different about life inside and outside the Arab world?
The people’s mind-set towards art and artists in general.
What do you find most different about work inside and outside the Arab world?
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Germany, and grew up in Bechmezzine, Al-Koura in the north of Lebanon.
Where is most of your family?
My family is now mostly in Germany.
What were the circumstances under which you/your family left your home country?
I left my home country as a refugee in the summer of 2006, during the war with Israel.
Where else have you lived?
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
The nice balance of chaos and German efficiency.
What is the worst thing about where you live?
Where will you eventually retire?
Dream location would be the South of France or Senegal, West Africa.
Finish this sentence: In a year from now I will be…
Finish this sentence: When I die, I will…
Have good memories.