Christopher Lord | September 3, 2012
It’s 40 days since Zena Adhami started creating daily responses to Dubai through a series of graphics, vectors and gifs. In that time, she has tackled everything from the hard lines and demarcations of Dubai Marina through to the moment of impact in a car crash she witnessed on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Adhami always approaches her subject from a skewed angle. Her work is never graphical illustrations of a place, but rather a sensitive representation via the use of symbol, shape and line. Subtle impressions feed into the final image; her graphical take on Khan Murjan in Wafi Mall, for instance, reflects the orderliness of this simulated “old souq” by using the Arabesque pattern of the floor tiles in their grey-black monotony.
Some of the images, admittedly, do require a bit of head-scratching to make sense of. The inspiration behind the piece can be so obscure that finding a parallel between the work and the reality often requires a lively imagination.
But then that’s the joy of a project such as this. Armed with her camera, Ahdami collects snaps of visual info and impressions from her day-to-day, ready to be turned into a shiny new graphic the next morning. Everyday Dubai is essentially about a designer’s personal response to the city but expressed in a style that is reminiscent of the factual form of the infographic.
How would you suggest that we “read” your images to better understand them?
Zena Adhami: Everyday Dubai is not only about my impression of the city, it has a lot to do with architecture and city expression. There is so much energy in this city, the work I create is only a reflection of that and what Dubai has to offer. Not everyone gets the work, and I don’t necessarily say that they should. But the beauty of graphic design is the process that comes with it. Some people think my work is random, but once I show them where the work is coming from, they realise that it is only a matter of paying attention to our surroundings.
What visual elements do you look for when you’re exploring the city?
ZA: Dubai is an incredible place, but we just need to be aware of it and enjoy its beauty. What attracts me the most about the city is its juxtaposition of the old and new, organic and geometric. In Reflections Marina, for example, I initially wanted to show the glass windows and how geometric they are, but once I started taking photographs of the location, I noticed that there is so much movement and energy, and that’s what makes this piece delightful.
Why did you start work on the project?
ZA: Everyday Dubai is a discourse on the meaning of place and how we articulate memory using form and shapes. There is a need to explore graphic design in the Middle East, where I think the discipline doesn’t enjoy the appreciation it receives in other parts of the world. One of the questions I remain interested in while working on my Everyday Dubai is: since we live in the age of social media, how do we, designers, use this platform to expose our work and message?
Has the project helped your professional work as a designer?
ZA: It helps me investigate the meaning of graphic design in a city such as Dubai. It also helps me learn the art of patience and of course experimentation. I love everything that comes with this experience, especially my interaction with people once I publish the work on my blog. I’ve realised that people are curious about Dubai as a city and are willing to take a minute to reflect on what surrounds them.
Here are a few of our highlights from the past 41 days:
All images courtesy of Zena Adhami.
To keep up with her project, go to everydaydubai.tumblr.com