Mention Graphic Design and most people usually assume it just means being able to create visuals using computer software or more realistically a phone app. And with hundreds of apps promising to help you create the next great poster, it is easy to assume it is just as simple as slapping a couple of images and selecting a fancy font.
We often mistakenly associate graphic design with art. While both are visual mediums, a welldesigned poster or postcard can be a piece of art, but as an object it is meant to solve a problem. It has a specific function and serves a purpose.
We came across some local work on Behance. net while actively looking for Kuwait’s unsung and perhaps not-yet famous creatives. An interesting collection of social awareness campaign posters lead us to Maryam Hosseinnia, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) and teaches the Graphic Design III course.
The course is taught to Graphic Design seniors at AUK. It coincides with a pivotal point in the students’ lives. Months away from graduation, students are but almost ready for the workforce, and are essentialy experiencing transitional state. This is the time when they start producing serious work. Hosseinnia explained how the course is structured, and students are asked to choose a cause they believe in, identify a solution and then design the campaign posters over the following six weeks.
Iconic Italian designer Massimo Vigneli said that “Good design is a matter of discipline. It starts by looking at the problem and collecting all the available information about it. If you understand the problem, you have the solution. It’s really more about logic than imagination.” He also insisted that design was utilitarian, and art was not.
It might be logical, but it takes a lot more work than just knowing the answer. Students work on understanding the audience first. A lot of research is needed to discern the different psychological, social and cultural contexts that come into play. They need to be anthropologists discovering why people act the way they do and how to change that. For social awareness campaigns to be effective, they need to be convincing. Change is challenging.
But they have the tools for it. They work on copywriting, typography and imagery to create a compelling message. According to Hosseinnia the most effective graphic design is a good marriage of text and visuals, where they come together and melt into one unit. It might not strictly be art but there is still a huge creative and aesthetic element to it. Luckily that is the kind of thing that the students learn. Form, composition, framing and all the things they need to make it visually powerful, pleasing and persuasive.
Execution of an idea takes a lot of research, sketching, thought and time management plays a pivotal role in this process. For students, the notion of time management and planning can be challenging. Being on time, punctuality with deadlines, and professionalism in presenting and communicating effectively takes time. Planning ahead, not getting overwhelmed and avoiding procrastination are skills we all need to figure out in life, sooner rather than later.
In today’s fast-moving world, slowing down and focusing is just as hard as conveying an idea on a single sheet of A3 paper. But students continue to rise to the challenge. Some add a personal touch by using themselves as subjects. Others have found that manipulating the typography can be a subtle and subconscious ways to get their message across.
Several students have taken their campaigns to their final semester. Building on them and using them as a spring board for their capstone projects. It is why these years of education can be so valuable. They are a time for exploration and self-discovery as well as defining one’s identity. And even if you are way past that, you can always learn something new and reap the same benefits.
Ultimately, students find their own voice through projects like these. The project forces them to look at themselves within a much larger context than their immediate surroundings. And it is perfectly timed right before transitioning from university to young professionals. But the skills they learn now are ones they will carry with them for life, whether they go on creating posters for social awareness campaigns or not.
Want to see more of Maryam Hosseinnia’s students’ work? Find her on Behance. Featured posters by Mariam Aleissa, Nada AlKharashi, Salma Abdelaziz, Abdulaziz Borashed, Nada Abdou, and Fajer Alfadalah.