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A oud with turquoise details. Neon-coloured Arabic greetings. The letters nun and waw in orange and pink; kaleidoscopic patterns made from those and other alphabetical characters. The illustrations are by Yusef Alahmad, a Saudi-born designer and illustrator who currently lives in San Francisco, USA. For this week’s Visual Sunday, we asked him to share some of his work and tell us about the creative process.
My name is Yusef Alahmad, I am a designer/illustrator who was born and brought up in Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia. As a freelancer working in San Francisco, most of my work consists of branding projects and commissioned illustrations. I like to think that my personal style is the juxtaposition of hard and soft, mixed media and re-designing traditional elements in a non-traditional way. A lot of my inspiration comes from Saudi culture and my childhood memories from there.
As a graphic designer, I am naturally obsessed with typography. All my design studies were in the US so they were geared towards designing in the English language. It wasn’t until recently, when I started working on my MFA thesis project on improving graphic design in Saudi Arabia, that I started appreciating the visual side of the Arabic language and realising what tremendous potential it has.
In my personal work, I don’t usually plan my colour choices ahead of time, they just happen. I sometimes spend more time on colour than the actual design of a piece. I take colour very seriously.
I think the genre of contemporary calligraphy and graphic design has improved tremendously. There are many new emerging talents as well as a growing interest from the general public, both locally and abroad.
We are seeing fresh and innovative ideas as a result of the internet replacing the recycled visual diet with fresh inspiration from all over the world. The Arabic script is beautiful and exceptionally versatile which makes the creative possibilities endless. I’m excited to see how the field develops in the next few years.