The African Building Platform


Graphic Design & Architecture

AW S48 with Guenet Abraham
Summary: Nahom Atakilt
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This edition of Architects ወርሃዊ brought a special event that shifted its gear to explore
“GRAPHICS DESIGN and ARCHITECTURE”, a poster art exhibition on Modern and Iconic Original American & Swiss Posters with Guenet Abraham at Gebrekristos Desta Center. Guenet Abraham is a design professional and an associate professor in the visual arts department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She also organized and curated this exhibition of posters, which were collected over 30 years ranging from the 1940s to late 2022. Our session with her involved a guided tour of these poster designs, a presentation, and a Q&A session with the audience. Stay tuned as we unravel the experience!

If you’re unfamiliar with Guenet Abraham, you may have come across her remarkable contributions at the NALA (National Archive and Library Agency). In 2019, she initiated wall typography designs that breathed fresh vitality into previously overlooked corridors, infusing them with new life. Ironically, Guenet’s career did not start in graphic design. Even if she aimed to become a painter by studying at the Ale School of Fine Arts and Design, her family had to move to the USA and she ended up doing an undergraduate degree in business and computer programming. Surprisingly, she excelled in this field and showed unexpected talent. Programming back in the day used to involve lots of manual work which required attention to detail to maintain accuracy. This gave her a knack for looking at typography and details. Fast forward to the present, in concert with her philosophy as an educator, who teaches graphic design, Guenet maintains an active design book design practice.

Following her background presentation, it was now time for a guided tour of the many posters spread on the walls inside Gebrekristos Desta Center. As we toured the posters, Guenet illustrated the concept of graphic design. “The simplest form of communication is face to face, as you can see the visual cues and hear the tone of the other person. Secondary communication can be through the telephone where you can still identify the other person’s tone and voice. However, the most challenging medium of communication is through typography or 2D design as it lacks visual or auditory cues and relies solely on letters and symbols” Guenet Abraham. In line with this, we have tools such as the Gestalt theory, which helps us translate and understand how to structure these components to convey a certain message. The poster design needs to be simple and effective to convey its content while reflecting its time and leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

The tour included posters of well-renowned American and Swiss graphic designers such as Milton Glazer, Paul Davis, and Philippe Apeloig. Their posters introduced art into public spaces, forever changing communities and visual communication.

An almost 90-minute session was concluded with remarks from Guenet calling for a more outgoing approach in Ethiopia. “The advantage in the West is the culture and the exposure. Many designers have traveling exhibitions, coupled with the public’s outgoing culture, which makes for an excellent interaction. That is how they learn and discover many new things. We should encourage museum-going culture and explore the arts. The more exposure, the better we will be!” Guenet Abraham. We thank all who attended this exhibition and we look forward to seeing you on the next Architects ወርሃዊ installment.

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© July, 2024 Ketema Journal

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