Sharjah, United Arab Emirates: The Fikra Graphic Design Biennial will launch its inaugural edition under the theme of “Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 2018: Ministry of Graphic Design,” proposing an exploration of graphic design’s influence in shaping the present and imagining the future.
Set to open on the 9th of November 2018 and run until the end of the month in Sharjah, the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial creates a departure point for dialogue, research, and thinking within the field. Anchored in Sharjah, but with a reach into the wider region and beyond, the Biennial will offer a global platform to shed light on the role of graphic design in the 21st century.
The “Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 2018: Ministry of Graphic Design” concept draws its inspiration from the innovative governmental structures within the UAE, such as the Ministry of State for Happiness and the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The fictional yet familiar format of a “Ministry of State” will facilitate innovative and nuanced thinking about graphic design and its influences on public opinion, entrepreneurship, culture, and society at large.
The Ministry will include several Departments, each curating their unique analytical focus within graphic design. These Departments include the Department of Graphic Optimism, Department of Dematerializing Language, Department of Non-Binaries, Department of Flying Saucers, and Department of Mapping Margins.
The theme and departments centered around a Ministry for graphic design were chosen to help catalog and exhibit existing graphic design works; to workshop real-world problems and theoretical questions, and to create speculative designs that project future scenarios and solutions for the discipline.
“We are excited to launch this first-of-its-kind, international graphic design biennial in the region. We envisaged creating a graphic design biennial for both professionals and the general public alike,” said Salem Al-Qassimi, Founder and Principal of Fikra, and Director of the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial. “The event aims to communicate the importance of graphic design as a practice and help designers understand it better. More importantly, I think that it is crucial to have a representation of this region in the discourse related to graphic design practice across the globe. It is equally important for us to carry forward our ideas, culture, and narrative.”
The Biennial team consists of Salem Al-Qassimi, Founder, and Principal of Fikra and Director of Fikra Graphic Design Biennial; Maryam Al Qassimi, Principal of Fikra and Co-Director of the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial; Eleonora Cervellera, Head of Programming and Partnerships; as well as Artistic Directors for the inaugural edition of the Biennial: Emily Smith, Na Kim, and Prem Krishnamurthy supported by a team of curators. Additionally, the team includes an advisory committee of prominent and leading experts such as Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Pascal Zoghbi, Kiyonori Muroga, Catherine Ince, and Uzma Rizvi.
Fikra is a design-led educational platform that comprises Fikra Campus — a co-working space, café, gallery, and library — Fikra Design Studio, and Fikra Graphic Design Biennial.
Salem Al-Qassimi — Founder and Principal of Fikra, and Director of the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial
A multi-disciplinary graphic designer and entrepreneur. Al-Qassimi studied Multimedia Design at AUS and earned an MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After working at various companies in the UAE and abroad, Al-Qassimi founded Fikra Design Studio in 2006, an award-winning multi-disciplinary design studio.
He has participated in several exhibitions both in the UAE and abroad and has published numerous articles, reviews, and essays on Arabic typography, culture, and design. Al-Qassimi has also won several international awards, namely the Type Directors Club (TDC), the Young Creative Entrepreneur Culture Award by the British Council, protoType at Typecon2016, ShjSeen Startup award, and has been featured in Forbes Middle East ranking list “The Leading Young Entrepreneurs in the U.A.E”. He previously worked as an Assistant Professor of Design at American University of Sharjah (AUS), College of Architecture, Art, and Design.
Maryam Al Qassimi – Co-Director of the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial
A bilingual Arabic and English graphic designer based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She graduated from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication. Her work was shown in several exhibitions across the United Arab Emirates and abroad. She was part of the Campus Art Dubai program, and was an artist in residence at A.i.R Dubai in 2014 organized by Art Dubai, the Delfina Foundation, Tashkeel, and Dubai Culture. She is currently Principal at Fikra.
Eleonora Cervellera – Head of Programming and Partnerships
A strategy and public affairs professional, Eleonora has been working on cultural partnerships and leadership programmes within the creative industries in the UAE for the last 7 years.
Specialised in research and stakeholder engagement programmes, she has extensive experience across public policy, sustainability, thought-leadership, strategic planning and communications.
She holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Milan (Italy), and a Master of Science in European Public Policy from University College London (UCL) in the UK.
About the Artistic Directors:
Prem Krishnamurthy works between design, curating, writing, and teaching. He directs Wkshps, a multidisciplinary design workshop that follows the award-winning studio Project Projects (2004–2017). Prem founded the experimental New York gallery P! (2012–2017), while organizing exhibitions and teaching in art, design, and curatorial
programs worldwide. He recently established K, — a yearlong “workshop for exhibition-making” in Berlin
Emily Smith is an educator, designer, and researcher focused on the intersections between graphic design, visual anthropology, and choreography. Her work applies observational, participatory, and conceptual approaches in reconsidering exhibitions and narrative practices. She is currently Vice Dean, Professor and Leader of Communication Design at the UE University of Applied Sciences Europe, BTK Faculty of Art and Design in Berlin. UE University of Applied Sciences Europe, BTK Faculty of Art and Design. My roles should now read as Vice Dean, program leader for Communication Design, and as professor are included.
Na Kim is currently based in Seoul and Berlin, as a member of Table Union. She was responsible for concept and design of GRAPHIC magazine from 2009 till 2011 and has initiated series projects based on her monograph, SET since 2015. In addition Kim has been a curator for Brno Biennale, Chaumont Festival and Seoul International Typography
Biennale. Kim’s works been invited to many international exhibitions at MMCA, V&A, MoMA, Milan Triennale Museum, Die Neue Sammlung and etc.