This year marks our 20th anniversary. Since 1996 we have brought the best of Arab Cinema to California and beyond, and for the last 13 years Sharif Ezzat has designed our logo and festival’s key art.

To celebrate this year’s anniversary, Sharif embarked on a complete redesign of our logo, along with this year’s festival art. I invited him to share his approach in designing the new Arab Film Festival brand.

Aurora Meneghello: You have been the Design Director at AFF for over a decade. How did you approach the rebranding project?
Sharif Ezzat: The Arab Film Festival has grown in so many ways over that time, from a local San Francisco event rooted in political activism to a state-wide and internationally-recognized ambassador of our culture. I tried to reflect that growth in the rebranding project. In the past it felt more important to assert our identity; now it seems what is needed is articulating our relationship with a changing world.

Arab Film Festival New Logo

AM: Can you talk about the different elements of our new logo?
Sharif Ezzat: I’ve always been drawn to the tradition of geometric design, in that it can communicate complex relationships in a simple way. The core geometric motif in the new logo represents a stable, open center defined by the interwoven lines around it. The woven and radiating lines are meant to evoke expansion, movement, and interdependence. There’s also a play on symmetry and asymmetry between the center and outer elements, which is inspired by ideas of the perfect or immaterial and imperfect or corporeal domains. To me, film is a union of these two concepts, using timeless story structures to share the imperfect intimacy of human lives.

AM: You have been designing AFF’s key art for the past 13 years. What are some of the major design trends you employed over the years? Any favorites?
Sharif Ezzat: The first design I did in 2003 was a very personal one, in which I used family photos from Egypt in the 50s and 60s combined with the dymaxion world map created by Buckminster Fuller to reflect on my roots within a global perspective. The 10th anniversary art is another favorite, where I also played with symmetry and asymmetry using geometric patterns and characters from the films. Over the years I’ve moved from more concrete imagery and photo montage to more abstract, simple designs, which reflects my development as a designer as well as evolving visual tastes.

AFF Poster 2005

AFF Poster 2006

AM: This year is not only our 20th anniversary, but we also unveiled a new logo. What was your inspiration for this year’s key art?
Sharif Ezzat: The concept of illumination inspired the design of the key art, with the logo as a source of light and twenty film strips representing the twenty years of the festival surrounding it. The color scheme and typography reinforce the contemporary aesthetic of the logo, reflecting a mature organization that is comfortable with its identity, open to the world, and looking to the future.

AFF 2016 Poster

Love Sharif’s work? Check out all his projects here.

And we have a big surprise in store for you, to be unveiled on Opening Night…so make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know when tickets go on sale for #AFF2016.

See you in October!