Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Which makes me a person who speaks and thinks in French, sings in English, and curses in Arabic. (The most humorous curse words are actually in Arabic.)
Q: How did you get into design? Was it for you an opportunity for self-expression, and making a difference?
There were so many things I wanted to become when I grew up. I wanted to be a stage director, a playwright, a filmmaker, a photographer, a musician, a dancer, an architect and even an engineer (to be an imagineer). I also was in love with mathematics. I figured out all I wanted was to be feeding my curiosity and touching a bit of everything to express myself, to communicate. I went to film school first for a semester, and it felt very narrow to me. Design was liberating. It encompassed everything. It gave me just enough of everything I wanted to become.
Q: Why did you choose to study at Art Center College of Design?
The quality of the work blew me away when I visited Art Center. Although the model shop machines scared me. I was like, I’m never ever going in there! Which of course is a fear I conquered.
Q: What was the most important challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?
Definitely working on my craftsmanship. I was very bad at building things myself. It was watching Miles Mazzie, my mediatecture teacher, cut, fold and bend paper and materials with such calm that taught me that I just needed to breathe, and go at it slowly, and it’ll turn out fine. And it did. I built an 8-foot prototype for his class, out of foam board. It was also Miles believing that I could do it, that made me believe that I could. Same thing in Brad Bartlett’s class. I wanted to code an algorithm for a typeface that grew on the screen like a plant, based on a Brownian tree. It was never done before so I had very few resources to help me. Brad was right there the whole time, encouraging me to keep trying, keep going, believing I could, until I solved it eventually.
Q: An important ritual at the end of each term is the final presentation for each class. Sometimes, these presentations can be exhilarating. Any project that stands out?
Definitely my AGS with Brad. Every step of that process I enjoyed so much. It was so structured, yet intense. It was structured enough that I could go crazy, and try and code my own generative typeface, and watch my “slow letters” grow on my screen like plants for hours. Then capture those letters, and add them to every chapter of the 278-page book I also made.
Q: Is there a school project you felt so passionate about that you pushed yourself the most?
What I did while studying abroad in Berlin [through the Berlin program of the Graphic Design department]. It was a very open-ended project. So I had to choose what I wanted to do, direct it myself and plan it through. Rob Clayton and Aaron Smith were also amazing guiding me through this. I ended up shooting 12 documentaries on the maker culture in the city. In under 10 weeks. I remember it was me, my camera, my tripod and my bike, drifting under the snow, and meeting all those amazing people. Going from one open design workshop to the next, building contacts, visiting community gardens and 3D printing workshops—without 3G or wifi at home! I even ended up at the “Rainbow Factory” in Kreuzberg, which used to be a squat, and is now a hostel with metal, wood and silkscreen printing workshops. Then I came back to Pasadena, edited them with my film friend Andy Cao, designed the identity, staged how I wanted to presented, and mapped the films on the wall of the school entrance.
Q: The Department of Graphic Design is a leader in transmedia education. Transmedia is important for us because we believe that, in order to master the present, we must explore the future. How did transmedia help you in your professional life?
Not to sound pretentious, but having gone through the Graphic Design program, I can do almost everything. I can shoot and edit films, I can animate them. I can design books, posters, brochures. I can design for web, mobile, and I can code. I can design identities and brands, and I can understand materials and environmental structures. Transmedia means I am not limited to any medium. I can express myself in any way I think of. Cheers to the kid in me who wanted to become everything when she grew up.
Q: Pushing this idea further, how does transmedia thinking influence your creative process? Do you have an example?
There are absolutely no limitations. I think of every project as a pure communication challenge, and then I think of which form(s) it can take.
Q: Do you think that the structure of the curriculum has helped you learn and master the skills needed for the real world?
For sure it has. When it comes to design and production, I was all set coming out of Art Center. The only challenge I faced was that the outer world didn’t operate as quickly and as efficiently as I had, on the 14 -week calendar they put us through. I had to pace myself and learn to be patient when working in the real world, dealing with clients, the market, etc.
Q: On a personal level, what was for you the most important thing you learned at Art Center?
Well, as cheesy as it sounds, that I can turn anything I imagine into a reality. And if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen. Also, as Simon Johnston says: there are no such things as mistakes, only learning. This takes so much of the pressure away. Also, how important it is to be surrounded by like-minded people and to be pushed out of my comfort zone.
Q: What advice would you have for a student considering applying for admission? What should they know to get the best out of the Art Center experience?
Do not be scared! Go at it with excitement, not stress! I can reveal my secret now that it’s over: I went through four years of Art Center without pulling one single all-nighter. My eye vein popped from coding my AGS typeface for too long, but it was by choice, and it did not feel so bad compared to how good it felt when I pulled it off.
Q: What are you doing now? After you graduated, what happened in your work life?
I have my own social enterprise now, called Live Love. It started being a side project that my friend and I started on the Internet while I was at Art Center. We made a bracelet and started a hashtag for my hometown, because no one understood where I came from when I said Beirut. At least, they could not visualize it. So locals shared their city with the world on #livelovebeirut, and it went viral online, because it defied how the media portrayed it and showed instead how beautiful and awesome Lebanon was. Brands asked to work with us because of our growing follower base. We made campaigns for American Eagle, Redbull, Renault, Volvo and even Coca Cola added us to their TVC. All in under two years. The Ministry of Tourism then adopted our movement and turned our brand into the national tourism campaign for 2014. We’re about to start it in other cities around the world. Live Love Dubai is on, so is Live Love Egypt, and Live Love London. More soon, if it all goes well. It’s a challenge, running your own enterprise. And very demanding. But there is nothing else I’d rather do. Especially seeing the social impact Live Love has on developing cities, and the community it builds. The Internet is my favorite medium of all. Being one click away from hundreds of thousands of people is fascinating to me.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
To make Live Love better every day, to build communities around beautiful and meaningful content. To make a film, a play, an exhibition, a book, a web TV show. Make more music, and a worldwide conference. Yeeha! Let’s talk again in 10 years. See where I’m at, or if I just end up making babies instead.
Q: Anything else you want to add about your experience at Art Center College of Design?
Looking back, it was amazing, exhausting, thrilling, rewarding, life-shaping and, most importantly, fun. I think, more than the technical skills and all that, it’s all about the people to me, what I learned from being around my peers and my instructors. I’m very grateful to having been part of that family for eight terms.