#StayHomeWith: Nour Gohar & Nora Aly

Nour Gohar

Nour Gohar

 

Nora Aly

Nora Aly


As part of Middle East Art & Design’s #StayHomeWith series, we are featuring Egyptian graphic designers Nour Gohar and Nora Aly. While we interviewed both artists separately, we decided to combine their responses to create a graphic design edition that juxtaposes the experience of two Egyptian, female graphic designers.

 

Image by Nour Gohar via instagram

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Nour Gohar is a graphic designer and illustrator, who creates quirky pieces of art that are instantly identifiable as hers. Her signature, whimsical illustrations immediately invoke warm feelings and leave a sweet after taste. We have recently been following her experiments with illustrations on photographs and we are absolutely in love with the results.

Nour’s “Quarantined” editions brilliantly combine photographs of balconies with illustrations

of everyday characters attempting to cope with COVID-19 restrictions. We found her creative interpretation of current events to be a much needed breath of fresh air.

Image by Nora Aly via Behance

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In a country (and frankly region) that fetishizes western aesthetics and belittles its own cultural endowment, Nora Aly defies this normative understanding of beauty by uniquely blending Arabic typography and elements from Arabic lettering in her work. Nora has worked on a number of big branding projects, almost all of which incorporate her enthusiasm for Arabic lettering and the many ways the letters can be moulded and shaped. Her work goes a long way to represent the long neglected aesthetic potential of Arabic lettering. 

 

 

A Conversation with Nour Gohar

 

Middle East Art & Design: What do you do?

Nour Gohar: I'm a graphic designer and illustrator. I mainly do packaging and branding at the moment, but I've worked on a mix of things including board games and children's books.

MEAD: When and how did you start graphic design?

NG: I'd say I started during university. I studied graphic design, and that's what paved the way for all of this for me. I've always had a strong artistic background though, I was known for my paintings at school and a whole bunch of my family members are artistically gifted as well.

 

MEAD: How did you develop your skills?

NG: This is such a typical answer, but just a lot of practice, hard work and patience. Truth be told though, there are so many different sources all over the internet that definitely helped me out, a lot, like YouTube and Skillshare for example, especially when it comes to digital painting. When I first started out with that, I had no idea what on earth I was doing.

 

MEAD: What inspires your work?

NG: This is a tough one actually, I feel like I never really thought about it. It depends on what medium I'm using. If it's traditional painting, then landscapes or portraits are what inspire me most. I feel like there's a certain depth to both that inspires me to pick up my paint brush. In a way they both kind of tell a story, if it's a portrait you see it in the eyes and the subject's overall demeanor and expressions. If it's a landscape then there's a certain mood that comes through the piece for sure. It can evoke a whole array of emotions, and I really love that about painting these two things. 

With digital work I think, I'm still trying to discover what it is exactly that inspires me but I guess for now storytelling, or relatable content is what I've been working with. I illustrate my cat a lot, and so far it has been well received by my audience. 

 

MEAD: What is the state of your field in Egypt and more widely in the Middle East?

NG: This really depends on which field exactly, since I do art, illustration and design, I think it's a bit too broad for me to answer this specifically but I'll try to talk briefly about each one.

I think art is always appreciated wherever you are in the world, it's not bound to where I'm from or the Middle East. On the contrary, if a piece is powerful enough it will be equally appreciated by people all over the world, and that's what's so beautiful about it. It knows no language really, it speaks more to the heart. 

The same can easily be said about illustrations too. A lot of the illustrators I follow on instagram have followers from all around the world, and the work itself is somehow relatable to everyone. I think with globalization, and the wide use of social media, a lot of us started leading very similar lifestyles, making the content we share relatable to almost everyone. When it comes to design however, I can be a little more specific.

Image by Nour Gohar via Instagram

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In Cairo, I feel like there's been a huge improvement in the past few years. People are starting to really understand the impact of good design, and how it can elevate your brand or business, and make our everyday life more functional. We still have a long way to go, but it's definitely getting better! I would say the same for the Middle East as well, though there are countries that are further ahead than the rest, such as Lebanon and Jordan. The community there is huge, and the work they produce is nothing short of inspiring for the rest of us.

 

MEAD: How are you coping with social distancing and quarantining?

NG: I'm just trying to keep myself busy. I keep alternating between work, painting, reading, illustrating and sometimes just lying on my bedroom floor. The motivation to get up and do something just comes and goes so I'm riding the wave and doing what I feel like doing when I feel like it. I miss my friends and my family though, I think that's the hardest part for me, but other than that it actually feels good to just slow down for a bit.

 

MEAD: What do your days look like now, in light of everything going on in the world?

NG: All days kind of feel the same now. The only thing I've been doing consistently throughout is working out. It just keeps me sane. Otherwise I'd go crazy not having something to channel all this built up energy. 

MEAD: What advice would you give creatives, in light of everything going on in the world right now?

NG: Don't stress about using this time to "be productive", just do what you want to do, when you feel like it. There's a lot of pressure that comes with creativity that we tend to put on ourselves sometimes, and this "free time" is license for that pressure to come knocking on our door. Ironically though, when you relieve yourself of this pressure a lot more creativity comes flowing in. So, enjoy the nothingness and something will come out of it for sure.


MEAD: What advice would you give people who are hesitant in pursuing their creative talents?

NG: Don't be scared of creating. We all started out creating absolute shit in the beginning, trust me. The first step always feels so daunting, "What if it doesn't work out?" "What if I'm not good enough?" But it's all just a part of the process. Just dive into it, and you'll find your way eventually.


A Conversation with Nora Aly

 

Image by    Nora Aly    via Behance

Image by Nora Aly via Behance

Middle East Art & Design: What do you do?

Nora Aly: I’m an independent graphic designer. 


MEAD: What is your number one passion?

NA: I am really passionate about Arabic lettering and typography. Unfortunately, we live in an extremely Eurocentric communications era. It’s much more accepted to use western visuals over local ones, so latin typography over Arabic, as it’s viewed as superior in some sense or cooler and more "global". This overlooks the region’s extremely diverse visual culture, and views it as inferior. I disagree with this mindset, and I try through my work to show the full potential of our language’s aesthetics. 

 

MEAD: When and how did you start graphic design?

NA: I studied Graphic design at the German university and graduated in 2011. 

 

Image by Nora Aly via Behance

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MEAD: How did you develop your skills?

 

 

NA: Developing my skills came by practice and experimenting as well as learning new techniques and tools. 

MEAD: What inspires your work?

NA: I get inspired by traveling and being exposed to different cultures, experiences and unfamiliar visuals. I also get really inspired by the random visuals that we encounter in our daily lives from the overly decorated kitschy pick up trucks to the vintage signs of old shops. 


MEAD: What advice would you give creatives, in light of everything going on in the world right now?

NA: Don’t overwhelm yourself with negative thoughts and just do it!


 

#StayHomeWith is a series of videos and articles documenting the experience of artists across the Middle East, as they try to cope with the “new normal” and navigate the restrictions imposed by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this series, Middle East Art & Design hopes to create a virtual, unifying space for artists in the region and inspire a collective movement of creative expression.