x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

My UAE: Isra Al Saabri and her graphic design

A profile of graphic designer Isra Al Saabri in Abu Dhabi who wants to bring together a creative community.

Isra al Saabri works as a graphic designer for Yas Marina Circuit. Sammy Dallal / The National
Isra al Saabri works as a graphic designer for Yas Marina Circuit. Sammy Dallal / The National

Isra Al Saabri, from Abu Dhabi, has lofty ambitions in her role as a graphic designer.

Despite having worked in the field for less than five years, the 26-year-old has already identified a significant gap in the industry.

"What I would really like to see here is a design society or network," she says. "I want one that stands out. Sometimes here you get scattered societies, but I want to have a hub for them where they can all meet and be members. A place where they feel they belong."

Al Saabri, who has three sisters, graduated from the American University in Sharjah with a degree in communications and advertising.

She landed her first job back home in Abu Dhabi, working at Yas Marina Circuit as a graphic designer specialising in branding. But even on her days off, her work is never far from her mind, and she spends a lot of her free time looking for inspiration.

"I'm always visiting exhibitions and galleries and I participate in anything that has to do with art. It's important to me to know what is on-trend and new. I always want to know what people are talking about."

The art scene in the UAE has flourished in recent years, bringing a new wave of Emirati talent into the workforce - Al Saabri included.

"In the last six years or decade there has been, Mashallah, a big increase in the number of graphic designers. There's more awareness about what the field is about."

Al Saabri's favourite designer is a fellow Emirati, Sarah Al Arif, who works as a freelancer in Dubai. "I really like her work, and she's local, which is great," says Al Saabri. "If we had a proper network we could all be meeting and engaging with each other. I'm very ambitious, so I'd like to think it can be done.

"It's challenging, but that's the good part of it. The fun part is to start something on your own and make it something established."


Favourite music?

It’s a real mixture of hardcore Emirati music, the very old stuff. There’s an artist called Mehad Hamad; I really like his old, old songs. I also like some modern stuff, some jazz and classical.

Favourite ad campaign?

The campaign that really inspires me is for Zain, the telecommunications company. It’s not so much about the telecommunications as much as the values.

Favourite place to eat?

I’m a foodie so this is hard! I say Jamie’s Italian in Dubai Festival City, or Sontaya (pictured) at The St Regis on Saadiyat. When I’m choosing a restaurant I look for something eclectic, eating something really new, or something traditional with a modern twist.

One thing you can’t live without?

My BMW X5 car! It means I can go anywhere, wherever I want. It gives me freedom.

Favourite place to travel?

I travel a lot, and I really like Germany, I just like the feel, the system, and the art and design. The way they design things is based on logic, I feel like it connects. Overall, I prefer Berlin (pictured) and Hamburg.

The place you like to relax?

The Monte Carlo Beach Club on Saadiyat Island. The scene is perfect: the sky, the sea, the atmosphere. I just like being there. It’s really relaxing and when I come back home I feel that I’ve just been away on a holiday.

Best place to see art?

I go to the Saadiyat Cultural District or the Pavilion in Downtown Dubai. Saadiyat is more for art exhibitions and the Pavilion is a sort of inspirational cafe-cum-exhibition space. I go there to inspire myself and see something new.


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