Ghada Wali

Changing the World through Graphic Design

As they utilize technology to liberate their imagination, graphic designers have leapt into the art scene, creating a sub-industry that became a strong pillar to the realm of art. The adroit Ghada Wali, who made it to Forbes List 30 Under 30 –Europe– in Arts, has mastered graphic design and vaulted to sudden prominence. Through telling us about her methods to strike such success and sharing the challenges that may hinder any designer, she reveals her unique thoughts and personality.

Tell us about yourself and how you got started.

I’m originally a painter, who has done advanced levels of painting in my IGCSE school. Even when I was a kid, I was always infatuated with painting people, portraits, expressions and feelings. I had no doubt that the Art field was my main interest, but when I realized that I can still make art and change people’s lives by delivering a message through ‘design/visual communication’, I hopped on the opportunity with the new graphic design program that opened at the German University in Cairo (GUC). This puts me as one of the pioneers of graphic design in my country. Of course, it was a great challenge to join a program happening for the first time in Egypt, but I insisted on marking my first step in my journey, and I believed in how graphic design can change the world and improve people’s lives.

What skills should a good graphic designer have?

Constant stimulation, passion and creative mentality are very important for a graphic designer. Art has been and will always be an immensely powerful tool that can create great impact, an honest reflection, and a documentation of the human evolution. Design plays an essential role in fostering cultures, scripts, history and finding innovative ways to preserve history while keeping up with the fast moving-pace of the future. A fresh eye on history’s treasures with a contemporary approach, while celebrating a nation’s history with global engagement is my objective, so our beautiful Arab identity can be proudly showcased to the world.

You have worked on different projects, which one is your favourite? Why?

I invest my all in every single one of my works, but maybe my graduation project was my turning point. However, spending hours of research and getting inspired by people, places, the products and services I am working on is an essential asset to produce real and honest story-telling designs. Consumers for me constitute the main drive of any design project I’m about to embark on. For example, one of the most enjoyable design journeys I have experienced was when I was asked to redesign Cairo’s national circus. I chose to spend a full month with the performers and audience to study and explore their behaviours, Spending the day in the circus; observing, recording, taking notes, taking pictures, as well as running surveys, and interviews, had the power to ignite inspiration and expand the horizons of any designer in building a great successful brand.

How do you handle good Feedback VS harsh criticism?

I’m grateful to good feedback and positive vibes; they always give me reassurance that I am on the right track, especially when my work really inspires or moves someone. It’s the best reward. I appreciate constructive criticism and try to maximize my leanings, but only if it’s relevant and healthy.

How do you keep up with the latest tools and trends?

Drawing, sketching, conceptualization, watching tutorials, reading design books, following the global scene, and reading the latest trending articles help me keep up with the latest trends. I also find attending major design conferences, workshops, exhibitions, competitions and design events happening around the world helpful as well.

What kind of challenges does a graphic designer face?

Half of the population don’t know what graphic design is, and the other half aren’t aware of the importance of visual communication, which all make being a graphic designer in the Arab world a difficult task. The lack of proper Arabic typefaces has been a problem I had to face since I was a university student. I always wondered why there aren’t enough Arabic typefaces in ratio to Latin ones! I was shocked to know that there are only 72 well-designed Arabic fonts compared to thousands of Latin. Working in advertising and dealing with multinational brands everyday makes it a very challenging task, since we face the problem of creating a bilingual logo or font. I’m not a fan of harmonizing Arabic fonts to create matching Latin fonts; instead I work on preserving and respecting the character of the Arabic letters as well as the Latin’s. Designers face many other problems from clients’ preferences and insufficient brand research, to technical difficulties and project budget limitations. Besides the many mediums for design adaptations could be hard to execute. A well-designed identity is one that could be easily used on various mediums and applications both consistently and effectively. Language barriers are challenging tasks as well and are very common when dealing with international brands. For example, creating a bilingual brand that feels, looks, and communicates the same with the Arab and foreign consumers is a complex task when it comes under application. On the other hand, a lot of brands fall in the trap of following the conventional identity guidelines without focusing on creativity, innovation and change. The targeted audience is also a huge factor that identity designers need to consider, brands that target various segments are harder to design than brands with specific target groups.

Being selected among the Forbes list 30 under 30- Europe- 2017 is a great achievement. How did this make you feel?

Honoured and pressured to push further. It demands years of hard work and tons of unmet trials before an Arab woman can make it to just the surface of having a fair chance of global recognition in a male-west dominated world. I am sure that within one story that is recognized, there are a million stories of women out there that have failed to reach out to a public mass.

What advice would you give to young graphic designers who look up to you?

You are changing lives here, so you better have big beliefs and conviction. Fall in love with them, do not doubt or stop them no matter how tempting distractions can be. Work hard like there is no tomorrow, carry on with this pace so you can create the future, and don’t settle for mediocrity. The point is, if you could truly inspire one person by succeeding in changing a little bit their way of thinking or touching their hearts, at this moment it will just beat anything you have ever experienced. So work hard for that!

A word for our readers…

Ancient Egyptians were almost the innovators of visual communication in the history of the world. It is a pity that we have fallen into not only visual pollution, but visual illiteracy. My objective as a designer is to both learn and educate people through graphic design and leverage it as a tool for positive change. I want to create a visual revolution in my country. I wish that one day I could be responsible for implementing the role of graphic design in education, tourism, politics, social design and other fields, where design can contribute with a huge percentage in promoting, maximizing and reviving our country in all areas, as proven in all other countries in the world