Member of the Month: Nour Kanafani

Nour Kanafani is a seasoned graphic designer hailing from Beirut. As a member of the TDC, we asked Kanafani to fill us in on his practice, his experience, and the state of design in Lebanon today.

Portrait: Nour Kanafani at work in Beirut at Communication Design.

Nour! I’m so glad we could connect. You’ve been a TDC member for a few years now. How long have you been a practicing designer?

I published my first professional project in 1996, I was still in design school then. I’m a graduate of the American University of Beirut (AUB), the leading academic institution in our region and one of the first universities to house a Graphic Design program in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture.

What led you to the field?

A smart placement officer in my senior school. I remember in 1993, she called me in to tell me about a new design school at AUB which had been launched a year earlier. During my elementary and senior years, I had shown a clear preference to art and design.

Cover details of Lead Innovate Serve, a visual history book designed for the sesquicentennial of the American University of Beirut.

Tell us about a favorite project that has used typography in a way you felt proud of, that was meaningful to you.

I think the most challenging use of type was in the AUB150 visual history book, Lead Innovate Serve (AUB Press, 2016). The sesquicentennial of the American University of Beirut was 2016. We were commissioned by the university to do the complete design exercise including a 300-page book visually narrating the chronological history of the university.

Unlike other books in my portfolio, this was a design-led book and not a content-led one. Instead of the authors giving me the content to design, I was asked to design and then all the authors will feed the content into my design. This paused quite a challenge. At its core, this was a modern interpretation of what a timeless history book should be. How does one design modern timeless history?

Page from AUB’s sesquicentennial visual history book, Lead Innovate Serve.

Beirut has always been a cultural crossroads between east and west and so has been the university. The founders, though American, were infused with the rich culture of the region. I believe it was important for the typography of the book to depict that. Arabic calligraphy details were mixed with Latin type and layered over the grid.

New printing techniques were used to highlight the modernity of the piece. This was the first book in the country to be printed with gold LED ink, which decreased the ink absorption of the cotton stock to a minimum, bringing out the grace of the content.

Inside the AUB’s sesquicentennial visual history book, Lead Innovate Serve.

What is the design landscape like in Beirut? Is there an active community?

The design landscape in Beirut is quite busy, albeit not very visually mature. More than ten universities in the city today house graphic design programs, the majority of them are less than 20 years old. Some are less than five years old. For the onlooker, having relatively young design schools is a good thing, but I believe that a young design school will only be led by a young faculty. Thankfully, maturity is an increment of time, so I truly believe that we only need time to mature visually and intellectually.

Communication Design created the AUB150 logo and all related branding applications.

Do you have a piece of advice for young Beirut designers entering the field today?

I believe that young designers should understand that they are “young at design”. Give time to hone your problem-solving methodologies. A design graduate is a long way from a design professional.

Close up of the AUB150 logo and branding.

Communication Design website:
Facebook page: @commdez

Are you interested in being featured as a TDC Member of the Month? Email for more details!

Read past Member of the Month features here:

June 2018: Roberto de Vicq and Douglas Riccardi
May 2018: Luisa Baeta
April 2018: Mark De Winne
March 2018: Synoptic Office
February 2018: Carrie Hamilton
January 2018: Liz DeLuna
December 2017: Pablo Medina
November 2017: Dave Bailey
October 2017: Naomi Abel
July 2017: Fernando Días
June 2017: Juan Villanueva
May 2017: Mark Simonson
April 2017: Mary Marnell
March 2017: David Adams
February 2017: John Clark
January 2017: Pamela Green
December 2016: Alexander Tochilovsky
November 2016: Jackson Alves
October 2016: Nina Stössinger
September 2016: Graham Weber
August 2016: Thomas Jockin
July 2016: Craig Ward
June 2016: Juan Carlos Pagan
May 2016: Wael Morcos
April 2016: Ilene Strizver
March 2016: Sascha Lobe
February 2016: Dawn Hancock
January 2016: Michael Bierut
December 2015: Yomar Augusto
November 2015: Debbie Millman
October 2015: Niral Parekh
September 2015: Marta Cerdà
August 2015: Kevin Cantrell
July 2015: Neil Patel
June 2015: Gail Anderson
May 2015: Ricardo Cordoba
April 2015: Cherise Conrick
March 2015: Paula Scher
February 2015: Ray Masaki
January 2015: Bruno Maag