Design is culture, and culture is what propels society—ergo design is an engine, a powerful one, too. In this data-heavy digital world where culture shifts with the speed of light, there is something comforting about being brought together in the world through cultural difference. Having read the five issues of Safar, the Beirut, Lebanon–based indie bilingual magazine, I feel closer to a variety of cultures that I may or may not have or will ever experience firsthand. Its continuously fluid design (featuring multiple cover images and formats per issue) suggests that the magazine is always on the move.
Safar is published by Studio Safar, founded by designers, writers and editors Maya Moumne and Hatem Imam. I spoke with Safar's managing editor, Sharon Grosso, to learn more about this unique reading and viewing experience. The chat is brief but the magazine is loaded with timely content. (Full disclosure: I am interviewed by Moumne in issue No. 5 about [my] imposter syndrome.)
The fifth issue of Safar is broadly devoted to "Migrations," (i.e., the realities, challenges and dangers faced by migrant domestic workers in Lebanon and their work to end an oppressive system and more). What is the editorial philosophy on which Safar is based?
Safar is an independent design and visual culture magazine, published from Beirut bilingually (in Arabic and English), whose primary goals are to recognize graphic design as an active player in cultural production and to shift the conversation on design and visual culture away from its fixation on the global North.
How many issues have been published, and since when?
Five issues in total. The first issue was published in April 2014. The next issue, Animals, was published in April 2016; the third issue, Obsessions, in April 2017; the fourth, Nostalgia, in July 2019; and this latest issue, Migrations, in May 2020. Our next issue, Power, is set to be released in December 2020.
What is the aim, goal, focus, intent—whatever you'd like to call it—of this new issue?
This latest issue is on the theme of Migrations. Safar wanted to engage with and share different voices and visual renderings of migrations (as opposed to those shared incessantly by traditional media—like the now-famous images of refugees arriving by boat to Lesvos, Greece)—to analyze and challenge the very singular preexisting discourse on migration and also to assert a more complicated, nuanced and humanizing one.
What does "Safar" mean?
“Safar” means travel in Arabic. It refers to the notions of communication across cultural, linguistic, disciplinal and geographic borders that the magazine seeks to engage and promote.