Israeli Design. Shual
In form 259 we explore the design in a country that is mainly present in the media because of its political conflicts: Israel. At the same time it has to offer a vibrant and multifaceted design scene, at whose protagonists we took a closer look. You can find more portraits of Israeli designers and studios both in form 259 and form Dossiers.
Guy Saggee and Mushon Zer-Aviv founded the studio Shual in 2002 and since then successfully create visual identities, books and interaction design mainly for clients in the cultural domain. Even though they express a certain political commitment through their work, they believe this should remain a personal decision rather than the fulfilment of an external expectation.
Year of foundation: 2002
Fields of work: identities, book design, interaction design
Clients: The Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
In your opinion, what is special about design in Israel?
There is a great emphasis on typographic design in Israel today. The modern and post-modern revival of the Hebrew alphabet is probably one of the prettier sides of the Zionist project. It also makes Israeli design stand out as the (Hebrew) typography is most identifiable and of strong characteristics – we are the only country that uses Hebrew and this immediately sets us apart. Not always in the best way as I feel that sometimes we are being looked at through the orientalist glasses.
What characterises your work respectively your design and style?
National identity and the definition of borders are central to the “Israeli experience”, yet these borders are ever changing and are hard to follow – this creates many border conflicts, both on a security and diplomatic level, but also on a social, personal and psychological level. The subject comes up a lot in our work both because of our personal interest and through our work for the Israeli Center for Digital Art, one of our major clients, which has a strong political focus.
How do you handle the different writing systems operated in Israel?
At first the two writing systems can be of a nuisance, something to solve. It raises questions of formalistic nature – how to embrace both of them into the same format. And than there is also the Arabic, so the combination is further complicated. But it’s also rewarding as a lot of substance emerges from the questions and solutions applied to the triple typographic hierarchy.
Which writing system do you prefer to work with and why?
It seems that it is easier to solve designs with the Latin alphabet. The shapes of the Latin letters are in a greater harmony with one another, than in the Hebrew alphabet. The individual letters of Latin are based on simple graphic shapes compared to Hebrew and so a greater bond with the overall design is established. Hebrew letters also have less variation and fonts, but again all this sets a design task that when solved is of greater contentment and of greater singularity. The double or triple typographic system is a given thing in Israel, it is essential for our design.
How did you decide to specialise on clients from a mainly cultural domain?
Well, we work a lot for the art and culture sectors and we’re surrounded and influenced by people for whom aesthetics are interpreted through the filters and vocabulary of art. This is also a field or a territory of design where a greater conversation between design and content can be made, where the market variable is of importance only after this conversion produced a design solution that is ideal.
Did this cultural domain shape your style?
Coming from and working within Israeli culture we are constantly surrounded by conflict. Conflicts are obviously not so great if you’re trying to lead a normal life but for better or worse they can get you very passionate. Our work is informed both by the conflicts of today and those of the past. We try to embrace conflict in our work and make it confront those exposed to it.
We are very politically engaged, and it is apparent in our professional work, but we hope this would be made a genuine choice of the designer, rather than an external expectation. Moreover, we do think as designers we should work from within our culture rather than be expected to criticise it from a radical and often marginalised perspective.