Raghad Al-Awaji is a Riyadh-born artist that had recently moved to Jeddah. Even from a young age, Raghad had taken a keen interest in the world of art and design. Now, she is a graphic design student at the Dar Al-Hekma School of Design and Architecture.
Can you please describe/classify the category under which your art lies? How do your pieces add and contribute to this field?
Graphic design – which is what I do in particular – is a field with endless artistic subcategories classified under it. Currently, however, I find myself very drawn to Typography – which is a class of art dedicated towards making written text aesthetically pleasing. To be more specific, I am interested in Expressive Typography, or as I like to call it: Visual Minimalism. This concept had initially been started by non-Arabs, hence why my earlier works involving it were in English. But, after time, I decided to integrate it with Arabic, because I wanted to introduce this concept to the Arab world. And although we might have professional calligraphers and artists skilled in writing the traditional Arabic fonts – ‘Deewani’, ‘Kofi’, etc. – it is very observable that we are lacking in what visual minimalism could offer to the world of Arabic typography. I have already started integrating this style with the Arabic language a long time ago, and thankfully, many have enjoyed such pieces.
Your style’s uniqueness lies in its simplicity. How would you describe the impact of word placement on the audience’s comprehension of a certain piece? And do you think that such a technique is so straight-forward to the point where delving deep into the work to understand it becomes unnecessary?
I am still trying to learn how audiences perceive visual works of art; where their eyes gaze at first, the words that attract them most, and even where they start reading, which begs the question: Is my art too complex? Too simple? I attempt to make it a blend of both in order to effectively deliver its message. Whenever someone tells me that they failed to understand an aspect of one of my pieces, I become ecstatic; because in these situations, I will be able to recognize how to select the piece’s shapes/order of words in the best possible manner. I never try to be straight-forward in my art, because it is, in fact, difficult to comprehend. And I intentionally create it to be like that in order to have viewers intently contemplate it instead of looking at it for two seconds, understanding it, and then forgetting about it.
Do you write the phrases incorporated in your works, or are they quotations? And on what basis do you write/select the phrases?
I obtain the phrases I use in my works from books and social media platforms, such as Twitter. I primarily select quotes/phrases that I find to be appealing and suitable, which means that it should possess a profound meaning, in addition to being visually presentable. Because in the end, it cannot just be a ‘beautiful quotation’; there are plenty of those, but most are difficult to work with when it comes to presenting them visually and make them aesthetically pleasing. It has to, for instance, be short, and contain a deep meaning that is far from being superficial. That’s the primary basis on which I choose the phrases I work with.
Can you tell us more about one of your works, “The Alphabet Book”? Is there any particular reason that made you choose to work on it in English?
The Alphabet Book was my final project for a subject I was taking called Formulating Latin Letters, and it took me two months to finish. I was required to design an entirely new font, which entailed not using any existing fonts as a basis/starting point for the project. Other than being unprecedented, the font had to include not only the A-Z letters, but also numbers and punctuation marks, in addition to adopting its own style; all while being legible.
And it was, without a doubt, one of my favorite projects by far. So much so, that many have actually inquired about the possibility of using this font, which is why I have been considering sharing and selling it.
Excerpts from The Alphabet Book
Your art has been used without your permission countless of times. In your opinion, how important is it that we protect the intellectual and creative properties of artists? And do you think that there is sufficient awareness regarding this issue?
Protection of intellectual and creative properties is one of the most important things for artists and designers. Individuals who infringe upon such rights rob me of my effort and time and strip me of my intellectual creativity and declare it to be theirs. And since I have had lots of experience with this issue, I do have a slight comment, and it is that I have met two types of individuals that steal intellectual property. The first are people that copy-paste an entire piece, remove my name, and proceed to share it without giving me any credit. Those types of individuals are often unaware of the nature of what they have done, and almost immediately apologize/delete what they have posted when I confront them. The second type of intellectual property robbers recognize what they are doing and do it intentionally. Unfortunately, we immensely lack in educating people about intellectual property, and I am hoping that that will change soon with the huge influx of new designers and artists.
What lead you to become more interested in digital arts than traditional arts? What are the pros/cons of each?
When it comes to digital/traditional arts, I don’t have any preference for either; in actuality, I believe that they complement each other. For instance, in the process of developing a new piece, the majority of people prefer doing brief sketches by hand to brainstorm and get a sense of what the work will comprise. After that, digital art paves the way towards transforming this initial idea into a high-quality piece.
In terms of pros and cons, I like the fact that traditional art broadens your thought process by being devoid of limitations and restrictions. However, not all artists are capable of dealing with traditional arts; that’s the only ‘con’ that I could think of for it. As for digital arts, they stand out in that they allow you to polish and properly present art that you have created, but the programs involved – such as Adobe – might be difficult to master/properly utilize for some.
You consider your mother to be your biggest supporter. How has that proven to be important in your journey as an artist? And is there anything you would like to tell the friends and family of artists?
My mother – Haya Al-Awaji – may Allah prolong His blessings on her, has and will always be my first and biggest supporter. Her support was not just ‘important’, it was necessary; because if it were not for Allah first, and then my mother, I would not have been able to reach this point. Because she was the one that not only discovered my talent and passion for art, but also helped me cultivate it and to grow into it as a profession.
As for the word dedicated towards the family & friends of artists, I would like to be a little more specific and address it to those associated it with graphic designers, because I believe that many express dislike towards the profession. Graphic design is a new field of study, which is why some might not know what it deals with and its importance. Personally, I have seen many graphic designers whose friends and family don’t recognize it as an actual profession, which I think is very dejecting because it’s an important field of art. For instance, visual communication and effective graphic design are going to be paramount in the upcoming years. And for that, I want to urge you, friends and families of graphic designers, to support these individuals and encourage them as much as possible to bring out their creative geniuses, and to not kill their hopes and aspirations simply because you don’t understand the complexities and importance of the profession.