Designing Dissent: Arab Creativity and Resistance

5 February '24 - 22 April '24

This course will be offered online via Zoom, every Monday over 12 weeks starting 5 February and ending on 22 April 2024, from 5:00-7:00pm UK time. All sessions will be recorded.

Eligibility: The course is open to anyone interested in the history of Arab resistance with a background in any design field, political science, cultural studies, history of the Arab world, as well as curators and artists. Understanding of Arabic is a plus.

Course Description: This brand new course created by artist and author Bahia Shehab explores the intersection of design and resistance within the context of the Arab world. It investigates the rich history, cultural nuances, and socio-political landscapes that have influenced design practices and resistance movements in the region. The course will be structured around engaging speakers, thought-provoking discussions, and hands-on assignments to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic relationship between design and resistance. By the end of the course, students will have gained a comprehensive understanding of the role of design in expressing resistance, challenging norms, and contributing to social and political change in the Arab world.

Bursaries: We have a very limited number of discounted places available for people on low or no incomes. Please reach out on to enquire.

Time: 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Dates: 5 February '24 | 12 February '24 | 19 February '24 | 26 February '24 | 4 March '24 | 11 March '24 | 18 March '24 | 25 March '24 | 1 April '24 | 8 April '24 | 15 January '24 | 22 January '24

Key Topics:

  1. Historical Perspectives: Trace the evolution of design and resistance in the Arab world, examining key historical events and movements that have shaped creative expression and resistance strategies.
  2. Cultural Influences: Explore how cultural identity, language, and heritage impact design choices and contribute to the unique visual language of resistance in the Arab world.
  3. Contemporary Design Movements: Investigate current design trends and movements in the Arab world, with a focus on how they reflect or challenge prevailing socio-political norms.
  4. Case Studies: Analyse specific case studies of design projects and resistance movements, drawing connections between visual communication, activism, and social change.
  5. Guest Speakers: Invite prominent designers, artists, and activists from the Arab world to share their experiences and insights, providing students with real-world perspectives and inspiration.

Course dates: February 5-12-19-26, March 4-11-18-25, April 01-8-15-22 2024

Course Outline:

February 5, 2024

Session 1: General Course Introduction: We will introduce the course and discuss key ideas and outcomes. Understanding the historical context of design as a form of resistance in the Arab world and briefly exploring key movements and figures in Arab design history.

February 12, 2024

Session 2: Cultural Foundations: In this session, we will look at how Islamic art inspired Arab Graphic Design. We will discuss the impact of patterns, calligraphy, and symbolism on Arab designers.

February 19, 2024

Session 3: Arabic Letters: How have calligraphers, designers, and type designers used Arabic letters to scribe identity and resistance? We will look at the work of Arab calligraphers and type designers and their reactions to historical events.

February 26, 2024

Session 4: Flags and Anthems: In this session, we will explore the independence process of the different Arab states through the formation of their visual and public identities.

March 4, 2024

Session 5: Publishing Boom + Underground / Independent Publishing: This session will highlight briefly the emergence of new publishing houses and communities in Egypt and Southwest Asia from al-Ahram to Dar al-Fata al-Arabi between the late 1880’s till today. It will also feature key feminist figures in publishing like Rosa el Youssif and Dorria Shafik. We will look at examples from history where publishers and designers navigated censorship.

March 11, 2024

Session 6: Design for Social Change: Case studies of Arab artists and designers using design to convey socio-political messages.

March 18, 2024

Session 7: Satire Scares: How has caricature been used historically to mock authority and how have regimes silenced artists who oppose? From the satirical Abu Naddarah magazine founded in 1877 in Egypt to Naji al-Ali in Palestine and the generations of caricature artists who have suffered the backlash of censorship, jail, physical harm, exile, and in some instances assassination.

March 25, 2024

Session 8: Storytelling and Resistance: How can storytelling serve a cause? in this session, we will look at how artists and designers use storytelling to visualize ideas of resistance and identity.

April 1, 2024

Session 9: Urban Art and Street Murals:  Assila’s cultural season started in 1978 and was one of the earliest street art festivals in the Arab world. This session will explore street art in the Arab world as a tool for social change highlighting the work of key artists who have contributed to revolutions and visualized ideas on the streets of their cities.

April 8, 2024

Session 10: Archiving Resistance: After the event, who is responsible for collecting the learning? In this session, we will explore the Palestinian poster archive as an essential tool in studying and understanding resistance design history.

April 15, 2024

Session 11: Revolution online: Exploration of digital platforms as spaces for resistance. With the advent of social media mobilizing for revolution has become more accessible to the masses. What is the role of designers and digital content creators and how has their role played out in the past two decades? Discussion on the role of social media, digital art, and virtual spaces in expressing dissent.

April 22, 2024

Session 12: Collective Resistance: Concluding session: What are the tools for mobilization in the face of aggressive regimes? We will look at lessons from history and map out tools that are within the reach of everyone.

About Bahia Shehab:

Bahia Shehab is an artist and author based in Cairo. She is a Professor of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo. Her work has been exhibited internationally and has received several international awards including the BBC’s 100 Women’s list, a TED Senior Fellowship, a Prince Claus Award, and the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. She is the founding director of TypeLab@AUC. Her latest publications include You Can Crush the Flowers: A Visual Memoir of the Egyptian Revolution and the award-winning co-authored book A History of Arab Graphic Design


How many students will be in each class? There will be a maximum of 30 students. This course is taught exclusively online, via Zoom.

Do I need to be able to read and write Arabic? Knowledge of Arabic is a plus but not a pre-requisite

Can I book a place and pay later? No, your place on the course will only be confirmed on receipt of the course fee in full.

How can I sign up to a course? What methods of payment do you accept? Please book for courses on our website above or call the Arab British Centre to pay by card over the phone.

What is your refund policy? Our courses rely on meeting minimum numbers to run, and are often over-subscribed, so the sooner you let us know you’ve changed your mind the better. We can then open your place up to someone else. Our rules on refunds are:

  • 100% refund if you let us know up to 2 weeks before the start date of the course
  • 50% refund if you let us know 8-13 days before the start date of the course
  • no refund if you let us know 1 week or less before the start of the course

What happens if you cancel the course? We will endeavour to ensure courses are not cancelled but if this does happen we will contact you as quickly as we can to let you know and to arrange a full refund.

Please contact us if you have any further questions on 020 78321310 or


Online Via Zoom


The Arab British Centre

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