Typic designs: national dialogue through symbols

BEIRUT: Tire burnings, sit-ins, road closures and protests, as well as a giant glowing mustache. Designer Hiba Abdul Rahman issued her own call for change in Lebanon through an 80-centimeter, mustache-shaped lamp.

“The mustache used to symbolize power and strong men. They used to have this custom that a man had to shave it if he didn’t keep his word – men swore on it,” Abdul Rahman said. “It’s a political statement about what’s happening in the region: We need change and we need strong men.”

Abdul Rahman runs a one-woman product design line called Typic. Her collections feature furniture creations like the lamp, titled “Shanab” after the traditional curly ’stache, as well as candelabra, throw pillows, bookends and poufs. Every item in her contemporary line draws inspiration from her Middle Eastern identity and longing for political and social progress in the region.

“It’s not just a product. It’s the artistic medium I use to reflect my personality and my taste,” Abdul Rahman said. “I need to send a message. I try my best for it to be a positive one.”

Typic brings together Abdul Rahman’s youthful activist spirit with contemporary concepts infused with Arabic and Lebanese influences.

The result: tables made from giant wooden alef letters, pillows designed from old Lebanese stamps and stools covered in graphic images of Lebanon’s iron sewer lids.

Typic’s “Hiwar” table line plays on the Arabic word for “dialogue,” Abdul Rahman said. Each end table, standing about a meter high in solid wood, comes in the shape of one of the four letters that make up the word in Arabic.

Together, her Hiwar tables call for national dialogue. Her message resounds with particular relevance these days, as politicians from the nation’s major factions meet to plan the future of the country.

“They meet and they talk, but they don’t come up with anything,” Abdul Rahman said. “The tables emphasize the meaning of ‘hiwar’: A real conversation,” she added.

Abdul Rahman also stays true to her roots by promoting local craftsman.

She produces every item for Typic in Lebanon, choosing locations based on their local specialties. She travels all over the small country searching for the best carpenters, weavers and welders, she said.

Abdul Rahman entered product design while studying graphic design in university. A curriculum heavy in typography classes shows in her use of calligraphy and Arabic letters throughout her collection.

While studying three years ago, Abdul Rahman debuted her first pieces, a candelabra made from the word “shamaa,” meaning candle in Arabic. The prongs of the letter “sha” create the three candle holders at the center of this very modern-looking home accessory.

An overwhelming reaction from friends and clients moved Abdul Rahman to create Typic, which launched two and a half years ago.

Still a budding entrepreneur, Abdul Rahman left her graphic design job several months ago to pursue product design full time. For now, her shop comprises boxes of merchandise at her Beirut home.

Without a shop of her own, Abdul Rahman is still busy at work.

Most of her business comes through clients met at the region’s various design exhibitions, such as the Afkart exhibit at Beirut Souks earlier this month. Typic will set up shop at an exhibit in Faraya later this summer, Abdul Rahman said.

She has plans to sell merchandise through stores in Dubai and a handful of buyers in Lebanon, the young entrepreneur said.

Her next line, a collection of pouf cushions and tables, is also on its way back from producers.

Abdul Rahman said she is optimistic about Typic, as she strives to move beyond pure functionality by making her products artistic and politically provocative.

“Other product designers look for basic designs or go Art Deco or something,” she said.

“What really interests me is people’s reaction to it,” Abdul Rahman said. “To me, it’s like painting; the artist always has a message behind it,” she added.

To buy items from Typic, please contact Hiba Abdul Rahman via email at

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 23, 2012, on page 2.




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