Since Abu Dhabi became the first city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to export oil, the region has witnessed an explosion of growth in most sectors. Graphic design in Dubai, the UAE’s most populated city, is no exception.
With more than three quarters of the population now made up from foreign workers and expatriates, the design industry has received a healthy dose of multicultural influence to compliment more traditional Arabic techniques. This mix of old and new styles has elevated graphic design in Dubai to a unique position as it moves boldly onto a global stage.
We spoke to ten of the best graphic designers Dubai has to offer to find out more about their work, their influences and what life is like for a graphic designer in the UAE.
1. Samy Selim
“Some people are trying so hard keeping it oriental at the core, but through the buzz going on around here I find it hard to identify what UAE Design identity is about, what characterises it?
“Eventually I have reached a conclusion that the exposure to different cultures living in the UAE has added a universal shell to whole design industry, while the oriental identity of the whole region is trying to peek out in style every now and then.”
Samy works across a variety of design disciplines including architecture, interior design, fine art, graphic design and calligraphy. In his graphic design work, such as the example below, the influence fine art has on his style is clear to see.
Mixing modern vibrancy with traditional elements is typical both of Samy’s work and of current trends in Dubaian graphic design.
You can see more of Samy’s work on his Behance page.
2. Uday Al Araji
“Because of the mix of cultures in the UAE, and Dubai in particular, the art of graphic design has been enriched. The East gives originality and the West gives the regeneration to produce a mixture of gorgeous harmonies.
“Arabic script remains important in the art of design, especially in logos. It is the ultimate in creativity, shorthand and abstraction and, for this reason, companies began to require the introduction of the Arabic script in their designs.”
Uday Al Araji is one of the finest calligraphers working in the Middle East today. He has successfully adapted his traditional skills to become the go-to man for logo design featuring Arabic script.
Old calligraphy skills combined with modern logo design is becoming a prominent feature of graphic design in Dubai.
You can see more of Uday’s work on his Behance page.
3. Dina Saadi
“What makes the art and design scene very colourful here in the UAE is diversity. Many different artists and designers come from all around the world to work and live here, bringing with them their cultural influence, unique stories, ideas and different styles. All of the rich input would define the art scene of the UAE.
“What I like about living in Dubai is the constant learning journey that I have been experiencing since I arrived. I have learned many new things, met very inspiring people and my personal style of illustration even began to develop along with my passion for Arabic calligraphy.
“I guess the design scene is more about the people that influence it than the place itself. After all, people are the major force of creating the style and the unique feeling of any city or country.
“But I won’t undervalue the significance of the beautiful lasting sunshine and the clear sea water here, which has always been something that made me more positive, energetic and fresh, and that is something I love to reflect in my illustrations!”
Dina Saadi was born in Moscow, raised in Syria and is currently working as and Art Director for a creative Agency in Dubai. She has over seven years experience in graphic design and is a rising star of the digital painting and illustration scene in Dubai, with her first solo exhibition featuring digital artwork to be held later in the year.
You can see more of Dina’s work on her website.
4. Rami Afifi
“The Dubai art scene is still young; it’s only just started picking up. With graphic art becoming more of an accepted discipline in the Middle East, every year shows more and more potential artists, more promise, more experimentation, more exposure and more collaboration with foreign artists.
“At the moment, artists are still discovering themselves, creating an identity for themselves, developing their styles to evolve from mimicry of work they’re inspired by, to work that is unique to them; that’s what makes it exciting.
“We are at the forefront of an art scene that is getting past its awkward “puberty” phase and blossoming into an independent young adult ready to explore the world!”
Rami has six years of experience in design, illustration and advertising and currently works as a Senior Art Director at Leo Burnett Jordan. He is very much a part of the new-wave of young graphic artists in Dubai and has been gathering a following through his fan art featuring famous musicians and quirky characters.
You can view more of Rami’s work on his blog.
5. Alfredo Marco Pradil
“The graphic design and illustration industry in the UAE is growing exponentially. A lot of talent from different parts of the globe are exposing their work here not only in the advertising/media/film but also in gaming, comics and art.
“Diversity in culture is constantly evolving, creating alternative forms, art and ideas.”
Alfredo is a professional digital artist working at design company, Creative Sauce, in Dubai. His work featured below, entitled Giant Growth, is a great example of his skills in digital painting.
You can see more of Alfredo’s work on his Behance page.
6. Shaima Al Malik
“I never applied for a job, I always wanted to be my own boss and work at home as a freelancer where I can be free to manage my time. I’m a mother of two and I enjoy illustrating whenever I’m free.
“At home I can think out of the box without being restricted to certain working hours. Illustration was my hobby, now it has become my career, my future.”
Shaima initially specialised in Graphic Design at Dubai Women’s College and now, typical of many artists in Dubai, works as a freelance illustrator with an impressive range of clients. She works across a range of media with all her designs heavily influenced by her love of illustration.
You can see more of Shaima’s work on her website.
7. Anas “Niami” Awad
“The UAE is an interesting place to be at the moment, it’s definitely making a name for itself as a cultural hub in the middle east. The creative crowd here is completely international so you end up with a wide variety of different styles and its inspiring to see the contrasts between all the different work.
“That isn’t to say the scene is particularly huge, we’re a handful in comparison to most countries, but that’s part of the charm. We all know, respect and even collaborate with each other. It’s cosy.”
Niami is an illustrator based between London and Dubai. He graduated with a BA in Illustration at Camberwell University of the Arts and likes to work with alternative realities, reworking subtle everyday scenes into bizarre situations.
You can see more from Niami on his Blog.
8. Maher A Housn
“In the past twenty years, UAE has changed greatly. As a graphic designer I can also see that my industry is no exception to this revolution.”
Maher has over 15 year’s of experience working as a graphic designer in the Middle East. He prides himself on keeping up-to-date with the latest design trends while balancing his work with a local, cultural influence. The work below is from his private collection and is typical of his traditional style with modern flare.
You can view more of Maher’s work on his website.
9. Bing Ratnapala
“I grew up in the UAE and I remember a time when it was next to impossible to find a comic book anywhere. Fast forward to the present day and Dubai has the largest bookstore in the world with an impressive section devoted solely to storytelling in a visual medium. Not to mention the keen interest in all things pop culture.
“Primarily I see myself as fan artist and it’s truly gratifying to see fan culture explode here. There’s a a lot of support and education now in place here in the UAE. I’ve seen the art scene evolve and this is a very exciting time to be living and working in the UAE, especially in the role of an educator/artist. Things can only get better.”
Bing is an emerging talent on the Dubai graphic design scene. His skills in digital painting, as evident in the work shown below, have helped him evolve into a popular online artist in the fan art genre, with his specialism in video game poster design.
You can see more of Bing’s work on his Facebook page.
10. Mohamed Samir
“Dubai has an outstanding advantage which is the great mixture between modern and traditional classic art.
“Whenever I start designing I put in my mind, “Quality of any artwork is a must.””
Mohamed Samir is a graphic designer working in Dubai with over five years experience. He works for a range of clients and uses a mixture of his graphic design, illustration and calligraphy skills to come up with innovative design solutions for his clients.
You can view more of his work on his Behance page.