Interview with Joumana Ibrahim: Design as an Agent for Change
Lecture: Design as an Agent for Change
Joumana is a Lebanese design educator based in Dubai, U.A.E. She graduated with an MA from the London College of Communications (LCC) after obtaining her BA in Graphic Design and a minor in Fine Arts from the Lebanese American University (LAU).
She has taught at LAU in the past few years with students at every level, from foundation to MA courses. Before teaching, Joumana was a Senior Art Director with Leo Burnett in Beirut, where she won several regional and international awards.
As part of her academic work, Joumana has conducted workshops in Lebanon and abroad on data visualization, graphic design, and advertising for participants from different professional backgrounds.
She is currently enrolled in the MFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. The focus of her MFA is on deepening her research on graphic vernaculars in post-conflict cities, improving her writing skills, and enjoying each stage of the design process.
Art Gallery: You are a graphic designer but also an educator. Would you tell us something about your practice; what do you think is the mission of graphic design today?
Joumana Ibrahim: A mission is a very personal perspective. I don’t think there is one general mission that applies to everyone. My mission since I was an undergrad was to teach design. It is still the same twenty years later; however, the goals within that mission shifted slightly. If, at first, I was more focused on the aesthetic outcomes of my students’ projects, I now help them focus on research methodologies and concept creation.
AG: Do you consider image or typography primary in your work, or is it a combination of both? Please tell us more about your graphic design approach.
JI: It is definitely a combination of both. Although I was initially more interested in visuals, mainly photography, I learned to appreciate and enjoy experimenting with type. At the moment, I enjoy mixing analog and digital techniques in my projects and going back to the roots of graphic design and our foundation years when we had to work in an analog way.
AG: Who were your role models?
JI: My teachers. To this day, I have the biggest respect for design academics, especially my female colleagues and teachers who try to defy the status quo in their teachings, projects, and writings. They taught me to believe that design can be an agent of change.
AG: What do you think about using AI in graphic design? Is it a progress? Can it be justified?
JI: That’s a tricky question that I was asked by one of the IUS students after my presentation. I believe that designers have to learn to master new tools and technologies. AI is one of these new tools. However, designers must learn to work with AI and not have the system do the work for them. AI should not replace human skills but complement them.
AG: You have lectured at the International University of Sarajevo for Visual Arts and Visual Communications Design students; what would you advise them?
JI: We don’t always design what we want. We earn a living by creating for others, which can sometimes be frustrating. However, I would tell students to keep working on their crafts and always initiate personal projects that fulfill them. Those projects don’t have to be design-related but can touch upon other subjects such as photography, research, writing… Most importantly, designers should keep learning and pushing their boundaries. They should never get too comfortable with what they do and always try something new.