A new design magazine spotlights 70 designers from 14 countries in the MENA region
How 18 young designers at Cairo’s German University used the pandemic to their advantage by creating a new design publication about their region.
- Jyni Ong
- 21 July 2021
The editorial design students of the German University in Cairo used the pandemic to embark on a truly unique project. Combining the class’ forces, 18 young designers spent eight months conducting interviews with various designers from the MENA (Middle East and North African) region, shining a light on the underrepresented talent in the vast geographical area. As a result of the students’ efforts, the class decided to create a magazine, gathering the 70 interviews across 14 different MENA countries in a bilingual, non-profit visual culture magazine titled Makhzan Magazine.
Sohalia Khaled, a member of the class tells us about the project, and how her and 17 other peers used the pandemic to their advantage in creating this new magazine: “The most beautiful part of Makhzan is that it portrays the essence of the region,” she says. “The questions that are asked are not superficial since the interviewer is also from the region. Rather, it is in-depth, making sense of the local environment’s design scene. Makhzan is a genuine expression of the MENA region’s creative scene.” The debut issue features an array of names from the notable to the emerging. It includes the likes of Wissam Shawkat, Mohamed Ameer, Mohamed Oudah, Mena Asaad, Zero posters, Ali Almasri, Hey Porter, Razan Basim, Samar Zureik, Saeed Abu-Jaber, Alaa Sharfi, Khaled Abdelrahman, Noor Bahjat, Wafaa Otahbashi, Zena Adhami, Ghalia Elsrakbi, Nassim Azarzar, Ichraq Bouzidi, Khouloud Hajri and Hind Khari; just to name a few.
The MENA region’s design prowess is distinct in its rich, culturally overlapping history. “It’s impressive how the creative scene contains different dimensions,” says Sohalia, “from the region’s origins to the modern outputs it’s exposed to.” Despite being wholly unique as a creative scene, there is very little documentation on the MENA design sector in comparison to its Western or Eastern counterparts. It’s something the German University design students wanted to change. “We felt we must share what we have with he world,” explains Sohalia on the fundamental reasoning behind the new publication, “we would have loved it if we could have found a source of modern visuals and information earlier.”
In the past, the students have struggled to learn from or about local designers and artists in the MENA region. While they’ve found a few archives and studies on creatives in the area, the students otherwise rely on social media to gain inspiration, and sometimes the sources are not accurate. They can lack the colloquial Middle Eastern terms used in the creative industry for instance, something Makhzan counters in its journey through Arabic-script-writing countries.
As the creative endeavour unfolded, Zoom become the unofficial sponsor for the 18-strong group of young designers. Through their screens, the students traveled to many different countries and experienced a myriad of cultures. “It was amazing talking and sharing thoughts with designers we look up to,” says Sohalia. In one interview with Iman Read, the interviewees cracked up with laughter, too nervous at times to ask their questions to the designer superstar. In other interviews, the students were introduced to the realities of working as a creative: “There was a story where one designer was going to display her artworks but her works got bombed hours before the exhibition. But in all the interviews we shared laughter, perseverance and a lot of off-topic stories.”
When it comes to the design of the magazine, the students wanted to find a way to highlight the variety. In turn, there is no static design concept but a more dynamic approach. While there are common layout principles which punctuate the overall design system, the students found ways of injecting a range of personalities which resemble the differing cultural influences across the region. In this way, Makhzan stimulates an exchange between countries and creative minds through print.
The class also hopes to spotlight their findings in a website which further promotes inspiration and cultural conversation in the area. While the class has undertaken an astonishing amount of work to date, the magazine now needs the public’s help to finance a print run as well as translation costs and book binding. You can support Makhzan Magazine here.
GalleryMakhzan Magazine: ISSUE 0 (Copyright © The Editorial Design course of the German University in Cairo, 2021)
Makhzan Magazine: ISSUE 0 (Copyright © The Editorial Design course of the German University in Cairo, 2021)
Design, Concept and realisation by the editorial design course at the German University in Cairo which includes:
Alaa El Hadidi, Farah Yehia, Mariam Ramzy, Nadine Zein, Fatma Al Khyat, Sohaila Khaled, Malak Ghonnniem, Maryam Ehab Haidi Omar, Reem El Asad, Leena ZamZam, Nadine Gharib, Jasmin Sobh, Nour Rashed, Amina Al Khodairy, Zeina Abou Gamrah
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.