The development of Encounter was a collaboration between Outburst Arts, al-Jumhuriya, and the British Council, developed and launched as part of Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2019. Intended primarily as a printed book, the aim of Encounter was to bring together contemporary Arabic writing reflecting on issues pertaining to the lives and experiences of LGBTQI individuals from across the Arab-speaking world. Upon consulting Outburst’s Artistic Director and the book’s editor, our design team carried out substantial research into the book’s context, themes and the diverse provenance of its content. The continuing discussion between all parties led to our eventual arrival at a design concept deeply rooted in the content. The use of colour, floral iconography, and editorial illustration from UsFolk’s director Mel Carroll and designer Jamie Baird – both illustrators in their own right – was all aimed at highlighting the content in a culturally respectful, visually striking way.
The use of Arabic in the book posed an unprecedented challenge for our design team, who had only previously worked with Latin script. We trod this ground carefully, doing the necessary research to not only ensure competent typesetting of the content, but also establish a structure which would allow each English language translation to sit next to its Arabic counterpart. Overcoming this design obstacle resulted in a finished piece which could be read from the front or back. We were thrilled to see acclaimed at its launch and beyond by a diverse audience of English-speaking and Arabic-speaking readers alike.