Beirut:  The intriguing Omar Al-Zobi, an art director, graphic designer and talented illustrator from Jordan, piqued the interest of all the team here at Made Journal

since we stumbled across his writings for Dubai Design Week. Omar, who is participating in Dubai’s design event as part of the Jordan ‘Abwab’ Pavilion is irreverent, passionate about Arabic culture and down right funny. We just had to have a chat with the man who’s not afraid of colour.

 

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Hello Omar! We were fascinated by your intelligent and irreverent write up for Dubai Design Week. Would you say irreverence and humour are strong themes in your work? Colour also seems to be a strong focus?

I do like to raise some eyebrows and get heavy statements slid across in a humourous and light-hearted manner – I, for example, held a whole solo exhibition that discussed sexual dynamics and new-found liberation and attitudes surrounding it by making it about food – that was fun. But that’s mostly to probe people more into conversations and even create the opportunities for inner-dialogues between them and themselves about the subject matter and not just for the sake of causing controversy. Also, I think we take ourselves a little too seriously in our industry and I feel like an element of playfulness should always be kept alive!

Regarding colour, I have such an odd relationship with it as I went through this phase where colour and use of it literally scared me, I always felt I could fall into the gaudy and over-the-top, but then I think I learned to embrace it and harness my sometimes-terrible choices in using all the colours that there is. This differs drastically though when I’m working on client-based graphic design jobs including branding and setting colour schemes and so, I am much more sane and collected there.

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As a graphic designer you’ve studied in London and New York but have returned to Jordan. Could you describe the design scene there for us?

Is there a rumour out there that I studied in New York as well? I am into that – it’s good publicity! I have studied in London to do my BSc and MA only to haul myself back to Jordan by late 2009. The scene have grown and changed ever since my return, there’s this wonderful air of hope and the Jordanian designers have two beautiful qualities (I may be extremely generalising here): they really want to do things and they’re much more transparent (in looser terms, No B.S involved) which is fascinating and wildly inspiring.

You’ve mentioned that you are driven by passionate for experimentalism. Why are you so passionate about it?

I think this could easily go back as an extension of the first answer – it’s about play. But to get more into it, we as designers tend to get into comfort zones very easily and end up not challenging ourselves enough. We pat ourselves on the back instead of kicking ourselves in the butt more. Therefore, the essence of experimentalism is to shake things up, go into unknown territories, value the process and the learning experience much more than the end product and arms the designers with a sense of ‘courage’ or outwardness that can be utilised in their day-to-day practice.

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Arabism is also a love. What is Arabism, and how did it come about?
I think it started brewing when I was in university, and the classic existentialist crisis comes on board and poses many questions that have got to do with reassessing everything and primarily identity. So I remember I was playing with the idea of identity a lot, and it was mostly about questioning the ideals of Pan-Arabism and where do they come from and who’s Arab and who’s not. So I sensed there’s a staunch sense of nationalism that didn’t sit right with me, yet I value my culture so deeply and I feel it gets lost and trampled in scathing politicisation. So I looked back at the language and most importantly, the representation and depiction of the language in what I would refer to “Arabic design”, and Arabism refers to us trying to find a cultural unity away from geographic and political differences and constraints to further enrich the Arabic letter and it’s contexualisation away from rotten orientalism and even worse self-imposed orientalism.
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Finally, you’re an avid ‘crap-collector’ – if we could peak inside your home & studio, what would we find?!

I don’t know much about the future, but I know for a fact I will be featured on one of these shows that do interventions to hoarders with their house just full of the most unnecessary things, yes I know I look into the future when I see that. I almost collect everything I own, from every pamphlet or flyer, to dry pens, to napkins (luckily unused), to bottle caps, Laha magazine (don’t ask), business cards, thread, yarn and pretty books. Yes, it’s quite the disaster.

You are welcome to come over at 157, Prince Mohammad Street leading to downtown Amman! We’re currently setting up an office as Eyen عين collective and would love for you to see my crap collection.

omar al-zo’bi

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All work Omar Al-Zo’bi. All photographs via Omar.