SND hosts first-ever Arabic layout workshop


An unprecedented Arabic Layout workshop is being organized by the Society for News Design, SND Region 20, Middle East and Africa. It will be held Oct. 23 and 24, 2015 at Dubai Knowledge Village. This workshop is open to all Arabic-language designers who want to learn from the experts who will share their experiences in news design and guide them through the process of presenting varied designs and different approaches. Register here.

For the first time in Dubai, a two-day workshop will be administered by Osama Aljawish, senior designer at Al Shabiba and Times of Oman. Al Shabiba newspaper is an award-winning publication in the region with design recognition by the the Society of Publication Design and SND (Best of Middle East News Design).

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Osama Ajawish is an SND award winner for his creative and innovative designs. He was recently appointed as the new SND20 Regional Director. His cutting-edge work and varied experience will guide designers, editors and visual journalists on how to make use of their full potential, talents and skills with available materials, innovative technologies and trends, to improve their designs and offer them various methodologies in design to be the best they can be.

Osama Ajawish talked about his work experiences and shared his creative thinking processes:

How did you become a publication designer?

I was born and raised in Syria. I received my BA degree from Damascus University in 2003 (Fine Arts Visual Communication).

I worked in several advertising agencies in Oman since 2004 as (Designer/Art Director) for six years before I joined the publication industry as a Senior Designer at Al Shabiba, the sister publication of Times of Oman in 2010. I was fortunate to be part of the team that launched the redesign of Al Shabiba and had the honour of working with Dr. Mario Garcia and Adonis Durado.

I have received several awards from the SND Creative Competition, including Gold and a JSR (Judge’s Special Recognition).

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What’s inspires you when you design a page or graphic project?

My main inspiration is the title of a story or article, I read the article and try to present it in a clear, simple and attractive way, because the reader’s attention needs to be grabbed quickly – if you dont catch the readers’ eye you will not stop him to read the page. Also the impossible inspires me. When I have a complicated and difficult story, the challenge pushes me to create my best work.

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These last years, there was an enormous transformation in Arabic news design with redesign of Al Shabiba, Al Bayan, Emarat Al Youm and even some newspaper in Saudi Arabia such as Al Youm, How you can define the status of news design in Arabic language?

There are more than 715 newspapers collectively in the Arab world but I think the news design culture is still struggling. An example of this is if you look at Egypt, there are over a hundred newspapers but a majority of them do not follow basic design principles and fundamentals in news design. This occurs throughout the Middle East with the exception of a handful of newspapers.

Do you think it is still difficult to find graphic designers that are specialized in publication design in the Arabic world?

There are a lot of Arab graphic designers out there but when you are talking about a visual journalist/news designer, there are only a few and not easy to find. The existing visual journalists need to cooperate and raise awareness of news design in the Middle East and to disseminate the culture of news design. 

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Does working in a country where there is some censorship in the press interfere with a designer’s creativity?

Censorship often hinders creativity but inspires me at other times. My opinion – creativity comes from the impossible. You are presented with a challenge – that ignites creativity.

How important is the Arabic calligraphy in your work?

Arabic calligraphy is in the Islamic tradition one of the most venerated art form, but its poor cousin ‘Arabic typography’ has been neglected for the longest time. It is perceived as the work of poorly skilled craftsmen, and of negligible aesthetic value or importance. The importance and role of typography and visual communication is still not fully understood in the Middle East.

Arabic typography is often confused with Arabic calligraphy, when there is a clear difference between the two: calligraphy’s beauty lies in the irregular mark made by a human hand and the emotions implied in the lines traced on the page, whereas typography is a mechanical process that focuses on creating exact repetition and order on a page or a screen. And there are Several Arabic calligraphic styles developed in various Arabian cities, with different writing techniques and writing tools. So I invite all designers to revive the Arabic calligraphy and enter it in the newspapers. We did it in our newspaper Times of Oman and won a Gold medal from The Society for News Design for our efforts.


Is there still a lack of variety and family fonts in Arabic language?

The Middle Eastern graphic design field has been fast developing. The nascent international design community has recognized the need for fonts that can support multi-scripts, and endorsement is growing for the further development of large, international font families.

And there are a number of young design pioneers working in the field. This emerging generation is striving to establish a modern type design trend that addresses on one hand current global design aesthetics and, on the other, provides design solutions appropriate for the needs of Middle Eastern modern communication media.

So the current trends in Arabic type design can show three diverging directions. The first addressing the pragmatic design needs of new media and modern communication channels, the second recreating the old calligraphic scripts by developing complex computer software and systems, and the third responding to the global youth culture and its specific aesthetics.

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 What was your most challenging work in Al Shabiba?

Illustration plays an important role in making the page look good. When the designer illustrates or art directs the page, he has more control in communicating and visualizing the story. So illustration and infographics were the most challenging work I have done.

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Is it easy or difficult to sell your idea to the editors?

Initially we had to lose the idea that design and editorial are two teams and we agreed that we should act as one unit where our skills would complement each other. When you involve an editor and make him a partner in the idea, it becomes easy to gain his confidence and the work flow becomes easier as you work towards a common goal. 

What is your advice for a new graphic design generation in the Arab world?

“The impossible is possible” – Tackle a problem and never give up, no matter how challenging.

See more of Osama’s pages

Arabic Layout Workshop

When: October 23-24

Where: Dubai (UAE)

Conference Website

Conference program




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