Wafaa Abu Saadah, a Palestinian native residing in Saudi Arabia, first recognised her artistic talent in middle school and began developing her skills ever since. As her vision began to grow, her voice became stronger, which in turn shaped her identity that was further strengthened by the work she did. By then, she began to see the effect she’d been creating in the people within her reach. At that moment, her purpose in life became clear.
The Early Years
I was never aware of what graphic design meant until my last year in high school. It was during my senior year that I decided to enroll in that programme at Dar Al-Hekma University where I got to develop my creative, critical, and intellectual thinking further.
Though I currently work as a graphic designer, I also am the co-founder and web designer at Futuristic Needs, a technology solutions and digital design agency that my sisters, Fatmah, Noor, and I started together. In addition, I am the co-founder and visual designer at Fulcrum Design Tribe, a multidisciplinary multicultural design studio that my friend, Yusra Abudawood and I founded.
I’ve always found myself not only interested in human suffering around the world, but rather concerned about it. The fact that I have not had a strong identity as a Palestinian refugee who is residing outside her homeland opened my eyes to different cultures and the way they interact with each other. For those reasons, I was trying to find a way to have a voice about all those cases that concern me globally.
I’m extremely passionate, rather obsessed with reading, which resulted in my fierce passion for writing as well. Books are my virtual passport that I have replaced with my travel documents that all Palestinian refugees are forced to carry. My horizon is extended daily by a book journey. Therefore, I always find my work enriched by what I read, which also inspires my thinking both intellectually and creatively.
Books take me the extra mile in order to create an effective design, from concept, to content, to visual communication. Since my college days, I’ve noticed my ability to communicate meanings in written words in ways that I never was aware of. That didn’t only deepen the meaning of my work, but also opened new doors for exploration and invite my audience to explore as well.
They are edgy and bold. Yet, I’m also a lover of diversity, which applies in design styles as well, and I always keep an open mind about different tastes and project needs.
My design process doesn’t usually start by sketching, but rather by conceptualising. I mostly handle projects from concept development, to content development, till I reach the actual digital design phase. In the early stages of a project, I’m usually cooking a concept, making some cocktails of relative topics that I find in my head, gathering relative information and ideas like a magnetic mind, and thinking oppositely about the design brief. I, then start examining my scattered ideas to fit them into a feasible design solution. After refining the concept and content, I start developing ideas on paper by pencil or collage. Following that, I start digitising my ideas, swinging from one Adobe app to another, depending on the project’s scope and requirements.
Though Palestine is my homeland, I only know it from TV and in books, as I only got to visit it once in my life, which was my visit to Gaza three years ago. Despite that, it was only a one-month-visit that radically changed my work, which in the last two years of college had become ever richer. The identity of my executions became more refined as my concern about the human cause became my personal signature.
As a humanist, I realise that though Palestine’s historical tragedy is over a century-long, almost all countries also share such a history. For instance: Algeria, the country of the million martyrs, Lebanon, Iraq, and recently Syria. All these shaped the projects that followed until my graduation project. It was then that I designed a product that's called Hayat, which acts as a life-kit for the Syrian refugees, which I got to produce after a long study and research about their living conditions in the shelters.
All Time Best
My all-time favourite work is my project “Bnaeed Nafsna”, which translates into “we repeat ourselves” in English. I initially started this project in a typography course I attended by the great designer, Tareq Atrissi. The idea came to my mind when I was randomly skimming through a pile of Arabic magazines that my father kept from the last century. I was stunned, rather shocked, when I read the titles about the Syrian war, the Egyptian revolution, the Lebanese struggle, the long Palestinian suffering, which all dated back to the last century, yet sounded identical to the present news I hear on a daily basis. The following day, Tareq Atrissi asked us to come up with an idea for our typography project, which was when “Bnaeed Nafsna” just happened to find its way out of my thoughts.
The project basically spots identical overlapping news titles in our vicious history cycle, where I stamped the sentence “Bnaeed Nafsna” on the opposite page, making a bold statement about our unchanging history.
I’ve been freelancing since my second year in college and learned to protect my passion for freelancing in parallel to my studies and later my full-time job as well. It taught me so much about time, project, and client management. I’d say the latest is a major perk in my career, which resulted in my ability to become my own one-woman-show.
Working directly with different clients developed my communication skills. This evolved my understanding of the client’s needs and rights. It taught me how to balance between what the client wants to achieve from a market point of view and what is right from the design point of view. Time and project management are big perks too, which helped me to juggle between several projects, while staying on top of it and shaped my multitasking-career.
The Best Part
The thing I love most is seeing the results of my efforts grown before my bare eyes. The freedom to create, speak, change, and be my own investment is also a daily blessing I cherish.
What I Love
Generally, I thrive on challenging projects. I’m endlessly passionate about social projects; projects that are from the people and for the people. I’m also passionately-crazy about branding, especially when I’m involved in the project from naming it, up to branding it, which is when the brand becomes a living person to who I gave my heart.
I’m very interested in product design and am currently working on fulfilling my dream of producing a couple of products I’ve designed.
I appreciate and consider the rise of flat design not merely a trend, but a revolution in our visual world, by which our eyes became more used to see less and became sensitive to visual clutter.
Technical skills are relatively easier to learn. However, I would say my strongest skill is cognitive, which encompasses a broad spectrum of creative, critical, intellectual, analytical, and metacognitive abilities.
I haven’t had a single influence on my way of thinking, rather many, which I can’t really list at the moment. My mind thinks is like a mixer and the way it perceives inspiration is pretty much the same way. So, I would say my way of thinking is rather a raging ocean of thousand things that I may or may not be aware. This includes instructors, colleagues, relatives, living and dead writers, famous figures, and strangers.
The Road Ahead
I’m currently writing my first Arabic book, which I’m planning to publish this year. I am also working on exciting projects at Futuristic Needs and Fulcrum Design Tribe, while focusing on their growth. In addition, I am producing my product designs, while keeping an eye on the chance to get a MA in Social Design as soon as things fall into place.