Digital design is ever-evolving, fuelled by the society’s transformation to becoming digitally native. Designers must be careful not to lose themselves in the midst of globalization and trends, so it’s especially wonderful when young, emerging artists like Maha Akl put a focus on middle eastern heritage.
Maha is a freelance graphic designer based in Cairo, Egypt, specialized in Arabic type design and illustration. She earned her BFA in graphic design from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016.
Through her work, she tries to bridge her two interests, explore how both fields can enrich one another, and respond to today’s needs. Guided as well as inspired by the vast, diverse Arab and Islamic visual heritage and the natural world.
This process is best displayed in her debut typeface Hudhud, which is originally made to respond to the need of a friendly Arabic typeface to work in harmony with organic hand-drawn illustrations, with respect to the script grammar and structure.
Hudhud was published by TPTQ Arabic and was awarded the certificate of excellence in type design from Type Directors Club in 2020.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Thriving nature, birds, beautiful typography, people who are passionate about what they do.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
As a kid in school, my friends would always tease me about my slow pace at writing, saying: “Maha, you’re not writing, you’re drawing letters.”
I would try to follow the letterforms from the beautiful Qur’an naskh while doing my homework, something that no one ever asked me to do but I truly enjoyed. I didn’t look at it as a sign until I started learning type design and was asked to do what I did for fun as a kid.
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
Being around people who care about the same things and share the same passion is always an inspiration boost for me.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
My font, Hudhud.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
Definitely also Hudhud.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EGYPTIAN CREATIVITY IS
BEST STATEMENT OF EGYPTIAN HUMOR
I believe that humor has always been the most popular coping mechanism for Egyptians.
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO EGYPTIAN CREATIVES
I imagine it’s the same for every other nationality.
BEST PLACE IN CAIRO
A kayak on the Nile.
BEST PLACE IN EGYPT
There’s still a lot of places I would like to discover in Egypt but so far for me it’s Aswan.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT EGYPT, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
Desert, Camels and the pyramids.
EGYPT SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
Its rich diverse history, the beautiful yet overwhelming chaos in the city, and its natural heritage, which is sadly deteriorating.
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
Vital for my sanity and peace of mind. It frees me from worrying about trivial things that inevitably come to an end, no matter how long they stay or how powerful they seem to be. It also helps me shift my focus on what truly matters and what will remain after I leave this world.
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
Keep only what you need. It is never worth becoming your ultimate target.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
Observing the natural world.
AN EGYPT BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Lamis Al Sayed, an Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and Art Doll Maker. Her work is inspired by dark Egyptian folk tales.
Check out more of Maha’s work on her Instagram, here.