Safar Journal #7
The latest issue of Safar Journal sees the biannual design magazine position itself at the centre of an international network of stories and contributors.
Produced in Beirut, Safar has always focused on graphic design and visual culture from the southern hemisphere ahead of the traditional western canon. But the team is also always careful to link the two traditions of design—this is the heart of what makes the magazine so special. It does not take an either/or approach, rather it ties together the two traditions.
This is immediately evident in the bilingual presentation of every story. As I’ve written previously, the combination of Latin and Arabic type and their two different reading directions means neither dominates the other.
The contributors and their texts are similarly mixed together. Early in the issue we read a history of pre-civil war Lebanese film distribution (above); later we’re in Hong Kong hearing about the rise of a New Age approach to the new Chinese government’s legal restrictions and application of facial recognition technology. There’s a useful reliance on a diaspora of Lebanese contributors, such as Tala Safié, who has established herself as a rising star of intelligent, thoughtful editorial design in New York.
Then we’re off to London and New York to meet several print collectives. Madeleine Morley’s piece resonates strongly with our belief in print as more than merely a medium; as Heiba Lamara from Rabbits Road Press (publishers of OOMK among other zines, above) says, ‘Printing together, with the machines humming around you, it makes you feel you could make anything.’
That word ‘together’ recurs throughout the piece, as does the idea of ‘radical slowness’—an intriguing extension of the idea of slow journalism, hinting at the ability to bypass the data economy.
All these articles—and the many others in the issue—are well researched and written, as well as being well illustrated. This is always one of the joys of Safar; while the editors make their arguments strongly in words, they also relish the visuals.
Every issue contains multiple pieces of design from the Middle East, often meeting head on the challenges of cultural colonialism, as for instance with the film promotions featured in the aforementioned piece about the Lebanese movie industry.
All these stories fit the issue’s theme ‘Networks’, but there is also space for the more conceptual article. Amanny Asell Ahmad contributes a thought piece about the spiders web (above) and the way their simple structure has many, many uses beyond the obvious. It adds a nice tonal diversion from the rest of the issue.
It’s common for magazines to run a coda under their logo on the cover, but few are as on the money as Safar’s: ‘Flirt with, flee from, and fall for graphic design and visual culture’. This reflects precisely the love-hate conundrum suffered by most graphic designers about their profession. It also sums up Safar, and why it is our September Magazine of the Month.
Editors-in-chief and Creative directors Hatem Imam and Maya Moumne
Managing editor Sharon Grosso
Design and editorial Yasmin Ahram, Giorgia Labaki and Rana Tawil