📍 Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01 creates a departure point for dialogue, research, and thinking within the discipline. Anchored in Sharjah, but extending to the wider region and beyond, the Biennial will offer a global platform to shed light on the role of graphic design in the 21st century. Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01: Ministry of Graphic Design draws inspiration from the unique governmental structures within the United Arab Emirates, such as the Ministry of State for Happiness and the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The fictional yet familiar format of a “Ministry of State” serves here to facilitate experimental thinking about the expanded field of graphic design and its impact on public opinion, entrepreneurship, culture, technology, and society-at-large.
by Prem Krishnamurthy, Emily Smith, Na Kim
Graphic design forms an integral part of contemporary life, shaping every message and communication we encounter in both overt and embedded ways. The exhibition “Ministry of Graphic Design” proposes an experimental approach to the field. The inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 2018 gathers over forty hybrid practitioners, independent initiatives, collective voices, enthusiastic newcomers, and others whose practice engages with design. Their projects are juxtaposed with historical work from both the region and the world.
Through independent or commissioned projects, the participants in this exhibition help build context and community. Spanning urgent narratives, participatory systems, research-based approaches, conceptual reflections, and historical re-framings, the Ministry’s broad scope suggests the unique value of the graphic designer’s interdisciplinary perspective.
The exhibition’s title refers to other innovation-focused administrative structures and positions in the UAE, such as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence or Minister of State for Happiness. Adopting such governmental naming, the Ministry of Graphic Design has developed discrete Departments focused on specific ideas, themes, or time periods. Distributed over five floors, the Department of Graphic Optimism, Department of Non-Binaries, Department of Flying Saucers, Department of Dematerializing Language, Department of Mapping Margins, and the Office of the Archive each present their programs through a diversity of display formats that mirror the complexity of the discipline. The Ministry’s open-ended approach sets the stage for considering graphic design beyond its fast-paced commercial definitions as a broader social and cultural field of action.