What is Plan KAF?
KAFLAB is a foundation dedicated to experiment with Arab identity through design. Starting from the initial question of ‘What Arab is’, Kaflab looks to analyze the elements, symbols and icons that truly define this rich culture and open up discourse to instigate change through art and design. Kaflab is inspired by its initial project, al-Kafiye, which we believe is the strongest symbol to come out of the Arab world. Because Arab identity is muddled from the outside by Western influence, stereotypes and projection; and from the inside by Islam and national differences, it is vital for us to act now. The most prominent voices on the subject of Arab identity are usually the most extreme. It's time we told our side of the story. By applying design thinking (deconstructing then reconstructing) to Arab identity, we hope to open up creative minds and provide them with a platform for expression free from religion, hopefully to match if not change eminent negative stereotypes. It’s time for change. It’s time for plan Kaf.
Prequel to Kaflab: With most Arab countries undergoing large social, economic, and political changes, there is a strong urge to define contemporary Arab identity. A rebranding boom has swept the Arab world over the last decade. Every brief for a new visual identity asks for the same thing: Develop a “very Arab” image. But no one seems to be able to decide what that means. Arab identity is so hard to define, and so often misconstrued, that finding unifying visual elements to represent it is virtually impossible. It doesn’t exist yet. Take the symbol for Arabic on the Mac, which is a hilal, or crescent moon. The crescent is a symbol associated to Muslims and not to Arabs. This was the starting point of our work at Kaflab, a foundation dedicated to redefining Arab identity through a creative lens by examining design, iconography, symbolism, and identity. Our task was to try to find a strong Arab icon as a starting point, leading us to the Kafiye. By throwing Arab identity under the microscope, we hope to open up a new array of possibilities and experiment with the elements of what makes us who we are. The outcome? Pushing boundaries, exploring trials and social change.
Meet the co-founders of Kaflab:
Hala A.Malak is a design critic, writer, curator, branding consultant and Middle East expert who has her own particular view of the world. She heads her own consulting firm, The Design Critic - www.thedesigncritic.com and currently resides between Beirut and New York.
Tarek Atrissi runs a leading Netherlands-based design studio, Tarek Atrissi Design, specializing in Arabic design, branding and typography - www.atrissi.com. He has received the Adobe Design Achievement Award and the Type Directors Club's award for typographic excellence. He is also the founder of www.arabictypography.com.