Lectures & Travel

By Tarek Atrissi

It has been an active end of the year, particularly with the lectures I have been invited to give at different international design schools and design conferences and events. Lecturing on design and visual culture has became a main part of academic activities, and I still find it an excellent opportunity to experience different design academic environments, but also a chance to meet other practicing designers and listen to their approach on design marked by different cultural and professional challenges.
In September 2008 I took part for the first time in the Society of News Design’s annual conference, held this year in Las Vegas. The three day’s conference offered exciting sessions in design, graphics, multimedia, typography, management and creativity, all with a bigger focus on Visual Journalism and design for the news sector. The conference was internationally driven, with several tracks and many sessions covering aspects of design that fit a wide range of interest. One of the lectures I enjoyed most was the talk of Andrew Devigal, “Telling data-rich interactive stories”, showcasing some outside-the-box case studies from the New York Times interactive approach to journalism. I Enjoyed as well the conference’s displayed selection of national and international archived newspapers, showing front pages of remarkable dates in history and forming a “mini news museum” in the hallways of the venue. On top of that, the conference had a special session dedicated to the Middle East, focusing particularly on the booming News Design industry in the Gulf. The track included Douglas Okasaki and Mohammed AlMezel from the Gulf news English daily and Ramzi Rajab from Al Emarat Al Youm Arabic Daily in the UAE. They presented the process of their newspapers’ current designs, as well as their views on growing and developing design scene in the Gulf. It was interesting as well to hear that the new design of the Khaleej times daily newspapr is the work of Paola Scher / Pentagram New York. My own lecture focused on Arab Visual Culture generally, and specifically going into the design for the news sector, and the typographic challenges and demands when designing News, either in print, TV, or in New Media, through case studies of projects we have developed at Tarek Atrissi Design.

From the Newspaper design archive displayed at the Las Vegas SND conference.

Another interesting lecture and workshop I gave was at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam; my second visit and involvement at the School in Rotterdam. The lecture and workshop were part of the “cultural diversity” week organized at the Visual Communication department of the school. Cultural diversity is a definition of the Netherlands nowadays, and maybe this definition is valid in Rotterdam more than anywhere else in Holland, where a large number of the “Moroccan”, “Turkish” , “Surinam” and “Antilleans” youth communities exist. Young people that are born and raised in Holland, yet considered as somehow foreigners (or “allochtonen”, the Dutch “untranslatable” word defining them). The student population at the Willem de Kooning Academy is not a reflection of the cultural diversity of the city of Rotterdam- generally the case as well in design schools overall in the Netherlands – suffering from the same lack of a more “hybrid” young student body. The workshop focused on analyzing the reasons behind this situation, and on thinking of innovative and creative methods to reach and attract the youth of the second generation immigrants in Holland; and make the WdKA in short and long terms steps a better reflection of the Dutch society.

Poster Series for Tarek Atrissi’s Lecture at SVA, September 2008. Designed by Sumayya Elsenan.

My trip in New York included two lectures at two of the most prestigious design schools in Manhattan, Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. It was great to be for the first time at Parsons; but of course being back at SVA, at the MFA Design program where I graduated from, was an exciting place to be as a guest speaker. There is a creative energy at the department that- even for an Alumni- boosts your design ambitions, inspiration and excitements. My lecture addressed to the first and second years students of the program, came as part of the ten year anniversary event of the MFA Designer as Author program. The event was marked by the publishing of Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s new book, The Design Entrepreneur, which summarizes really the essence of the graduate program of the school, and includes some of the most successful entrepreneurial projects developed at the School. My favorite part of the event was the distribution of book specially designed for the 10 years celebration, entitled: MFA-Z; a 10 year encyclopedic history of the MFA Design at the School of Visual Arts. The Publication, beautifully designed by 04 graduates Sam Eckersley and Stuart Rogers (RED design), included all the info one can possibly think of for about the program: Students, Graduates, faculty, rumors, memories, locations, first day at school, class clowns, mentors, quotes, and many other humorous statistics and

informational diagrams.

Preview of the 10 year encyclopedic history of the MFA Design at the School of Visual Arts, by Sam Eckersley and Stuart Rogers.

Finally, back in The Netherlands, and in the occasion of concluding the Exhibition “Arabic Graphics: the work of Tarek Atrissi”- an evening of Arabic Typography was organized at the De Levante foundation in Amsterdam, which included a brief introduction to the topic by Titus Nemeth, followed by two presentations by Thomas Milo and myself. An online recording of all three talks can be found on the following link thanks to Kaveh Bazargan.
My last lecture of the year took place at the Utrecht School of the Arts, on the topic of design entrepreneurship. The new year, 2009, will start with a lecture in Kuwait city as part of the “Nuqat ‘ala Alhuroof” seminar in end of January. Always exciting to be back in the Gulf.