AUS art and design students gain cross-cultural insights from Swiss designer Jiri Oplatek
Posted on 2023 Mar,09

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Award-winning Swiss graphic designer and educator Jiri Oplatek gave American University of Sharjah (AUS) students and faculty new insight into how traditional design principles intersect with contemporary techniques in a lecture and exhibition hosted by the university’s College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) on March 8. 

The event was part of the 2023 season of Riwaq Al Fikr–ADMAF talks, a series of online and in-person talks and lectures where world-renowned musicians, composers, conductors, choreographers, performers and designers of all kinds visit university campuses to have dynamic conversations with the youth of the nation.

Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, said:“We are pleased to partner with the American University of Sharjah (AUS) to provide students with the opportunity to learn first-hand from award-winning Swiss graphic designer Jiri Oplatek how classic design concepts can be incorporated into modern approaches.”

“Working together since 2014, ADMAF and AUS have engaged thousands of young audience members in meaningful dialogue with leading industry experts as part of our shared commitment to fostering the development of the nation's future leaders. The dynamic Riwaq Al Fikr-ADMAF talk series provides a forum for insightful conversation and debate among Emirati youth, instilling within them an appreciation for the arts and culture while empowering them to create impact and bring about progressive change,” she said.

Oplatek is a graduate of the renowned Basel School of Design, where he now teaches visual communication, and is the founder of the Claudiabasel Design Studio. His contemporary style is informed by traditional Swiss design.

As Switzerland celebrates 50 years of diplomatic relations with the UAE, Consul General of Switzerland Frank Eggman said the presence of Claudiabasel at American University of Sharjah highlights the rich and dense cultural exchanges between the two countries.

“We are proud to showcase the Swiss know-how in terms of design and innovation, as per a core value in our relationship with the UAE. Our cultural and academic research collaborations throughout the years have increased, and we are glad to celebrate this jubilee with the youth,” said Eggman.

Dr. Varkki Pallathucheril, Dean of CAAD, noted that Oplatek’s design philosophy is particularly relevant to art and design students and faculty at CAAD, considering the recent expansion in CAAD’s design curriculum to include a course in Arabic type design.

“While Jiri’s work is specific to the Swiss context, his design philosophy aligns remarkably well with our own approach to design education. It is incredibly important that designers are grounded in their context,  and that is what we strive for at CAAD,” he noted.

Dr. Pallathucheril added, “The introduction of a course in Arabic typography allows students to better understand the Arab histories that have shaped the field of graphic design, helping them to see how we got to where we are today and also shape where design might go in the future.”

"This event is a great example of the department's commitment to promoting design discourse in both regional and international frameworks. While we continuously examine how design is informed by relevant cultural or social issues, fostering international collaborations and engaging with leading international designers is essential to expose our students to a global perspective and relevant contemporary issues in design. I am grateful for support from the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and the Swiss Embassy,” he added.

The exhibition will be followed by two days of hands-on workshops exclusively for CAAD art and design students, providing them with an opportunity to apply Oplatek’s techniques in their own creative work.