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Students of the American University in Cairo discuss the history of the design of Egyptian newspapers and magazines in the final project for the history of graphic design

The Evolution of Egyptian Newspaper and Magazine Design is the subject of the Fall Final Project for AUC students in the History of Graphic Design program taught by Dr. Bahia Shehab, Professor of Design Practitioner and Founder of the Program. To carry out the project, the students used the library of rare books and special collections of the university.

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where each student used physical and digital archives For current and previous Egyptian magazines and newspapers to examine the history of a particular publication of his choice and to analyze the development that occurred in its design. The magazines and newspapers that the students researched included Bint Al-Nil, Hawa, Al-Hilal, Al-Kashkool, Akher Sa’a, Al-Musawwar, Egyptian Radio, Al-Ta’if Al-Masawrah, Al-Ahram and Al-Gomhouria newspapers. Shehab says: “Since we are at the American University in Cairo and the program is taught at the American University in Cairo, we found it important and useful for students to interact directly with the library of rare books and special collections, so we assigned the students to resort to archives and analyze visual history for a magazine or newspaper of their choice as part of the programme.” Shehab adds that during the research, “her students learned about the signs of the development of the newspaper or magazine, such as how the logo changed, how the design changed, who were the founders, and how the design was affected by historical events at the time of publication.”

In addition to Shehab, Iman Marjan, Assistant Director of Special Projects for the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, guided the students inside the library and displayed many different designs and publications from the archives. The library is on them from the late nineteenth century to the present. Marjan explained that the research helped students develop their analytical skills and enabled them to compare designs and fonts before and after using computers and advanced design software. The students expressed their enjoyment of researching the library of rare books and special collections. For example, Hussein Mustafa, a third-year student in the graphic design program, believes that Bent El-Nile magazine has given him a window on the Egyptian feminist society in the mid-nineteenth century and on the life of the magazine’s foundation Doria Shafik, one of the pioneers of the feminist movement in the twentieth century. Mustafa says that he was very impressed by Doria Shafik’s failure to publish the magazine in times of crisis, when many publications stopped in light of wars and epidemics. Mostafa described the project as being so good and unique that it made him feel like he was doing research in the 80’s or 90’s. He says: “We are used to searching for information on the Internet through Wikipedia or the website of the university library at the present time. Hence, this search differs from any other research.” As for Rana Al Shaer, a graphic design student in the final year, she examined the history of design for Al Kawakeb magazine and expressed her happiness for examining and analyzing an ancient archive that “continues to grow.” The poet expressed her astonishment when she learned that Al-Kawakib magazine was publishing horoscope predictions, a concept that I thought had gained popularity recently rather than old. Nada El-Khadem analyzed the design history of Al-Ahram newspaper, one of the largest and most widely spread Egyptian newspapers. Although the server did not actually go to the library of rare books and special collections to do her research, she turned to the library’s electronic archive to examine the thousands of issues. Al-Khadem said: “I had to dig deeper, so it was good to have all the numbers of Al-Ahram on the Internet.” She explained that while working on the project, she was acquainted with the history of Al-Ahram and how the newspaper developed into an important newspaper in Egypt. “For me, my research into the design history of Egyptian prints has been very inspiring.”

Arba Shehab , expressed their optimism that this project will encourage students and faculty at AUC to benefit from the library of rare books and electronic special collections, and they hope that the university community and researchers from all over the world will benefit from the library, which is available to everyone via the Internet. “The Library of Rare Books and Electronic Special Collections houses rich and versatile collections – not only books, magazines, maps, and photographs but also artifacts and paintings by eminent artists and architects such as Margot Fillon, Van Liu, Hassan Fathi and others.”