Joumana Dagher: For Love of the Craft

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As far back as she can re­mem­ber, Joumana Dagher has al­ways been drawn to artis­tic ex­pres­sion. Es­cap­ing the Le­banese Civil War, she and her fam­ily trav­eled ex­ten­sively and re­turned home right af­ter the dust had set­tled, which was also when she en­rolled in the graphic de­sign pro­gramme at the Le­banese Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity. She went on to work for var­i­ous advertising agen­cies and web­site de­vel­op­ment com­pa­nies. She takes spe­cial care in hon­ing her il­lus­tra­tion skills by at­tend­ing pro­fes­sional train­ings and work­shops when­ever she can. Years later, she started her own pro­duc­tion of bean­bags and pil­lows bas­ing her first col­lec­tion on comic char­ac­ters, which grew to in­clude her own draw­ings, doorstops, pouches and fash­ion wear such as purses and beach bags. What fol­lows are some of the most in­ter­est­ing in­sights she took the time to share with Arabad.

I have a short at­ten­tion span, so my tastes are fluid.

What other dis­ci­plines are you pas­sion­ate about?

Travel im­pacts my work the most. I live off new dis­cov­er­ies in cul­ture, colour and form. Though I like na­ture, it is hu­man con­tact that tick­les my imag­i­na­tion and car­ries my work from con­cept to prod­uct. I also col­lect rit­ual paint, old boxes, tick­ets and masks as well as play the pi­ano.

What kind of de­sign style do you fol­low?

Style can change in many ways. I am not tied to a par­tic­u­lar school when it comes to artis­tic cre­ation. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of feel­ings, nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion, and my en­vi­ron­ment. Hav­ing said that, I have al­ways loved vin­tage (and still do), even though I am in­creas­ingly dawn to­ward ty­pog­ra­phy and min­i­mal­ism. Nev­er­the­less, my work is bold and quite colour­ful as it needs to make a state­ment. My lines are geo­met­ric and lin­ear, sim­i­lar to the way mu­sic is struc­tured. They can grow thick when in crescendo and will not need much de­tail in shad­ing or colour when fad­ing over time.

Could you tell us about your de­sign process and the tools you use on a daily ba­sis?

My sketch­book and pen are my port of call. I ex­am­ine the na­ture of each project in per­sonal and con­tex­tual terms to crys­tallise the idea I want to de­velop. I start with a draft that, as it is re­fined, ac­quires a spe­cific iden­tity. I use Pho­to­shop and Adobe Il­lus­tra­tor at this stage. How­ever, I very much en­joy the ex­e­cu­tion when print­ing as the fi­nal prod­uct be­gins to take shape.

How has Lebanon in­flu­enced your work?

I cre­ated a col­lec­tion called “Beirut graf­fiti” a cou­ple of years ago in­flu­enced by the street art across the city at that time.

Do you have a favourite piece in your port­fo­lio?

Ide­ally, ev­ery piece in a port­fo­lio should pos­sess a strong con­cept and a solid de­sign. I don’t have a favourite be­cause I al­ways look to my first bean­bag col­lec­tion “Arabesque” as one that will never go out of style. The art of Thai Bud­dhist man­dala – sa­cred paint­ing -was the spark be­hind this con­cept.

Which project or pe­riod of your ca­reer have you en­joyed the most so far?

The “Vasarely fly away” col­lec­tion. For some rea­son, I had re­dis­cov­ered the clean ge­o­met­ri­cal ab­stract lines of this early twen­ti­eth cen­tury artist while on a trip to West Africa and I thor­oughly en­joyed bridg­ing and con­trast­ing these two seem­ingly dis­parate in­flu­ences.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

I just love what I do. It is grat­i­fy­ing to cre­ate a new prod­uct or de­sign that is then ac­quired and worn by some­one or placed in their gar­den or home. It is like an in­vi­ta­tion into some­one’s life, a shared con­nec­tion.

What are you cur­rently fas­ci­nated by and how is it feed­ing into your work?

I am in­ter­ested in ty­pog­ra­phy and the evo­lu­tion of the print­ing in­dus­try. The online revo­lu­tion has not changed the way I work.

What are some of your favourite new trends in de­sign?

I have a short at­ten­tion span, so my tastes are fluid.

What would you say is your strong­est skill?

I have a fair grasp when us­ing Pho­to­shop and Il­lus­tra­tor. I was also told that my print­ing skills are pretty good.

Who or what has been the big­gest sin­gle in­flu­ence on your way of think­ing?

“Less is more.”

Are you work­ing on any­thing exciting at the mo­ment?

Things just seem to flow nat­u­rally. I don’t con­sciously make art though I do try to keep things fresh.

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