Thursday, January 24, 2008

A conversation with graphic designer, Ida Woldemichael

Ida Woldemichael

Issayas Tesfamariam: Can you tell us about yourself?

Ida Woldemichael: I am a graphic designer, an Eritrean-American, a neat-freak, a color lover, a sister, and daughter.

Issayas: What is a graphic designer?

Ida: To me a graphic designer is an artist that communicates a message visually. He/she uses a combination of things to communicate: color, illustration/photography, paper/internet, concepts, writing, type, and more. Graphic designers are inspired by their culture and environment, almost unknowingly, and I think they use these things almost because they are such a part of who they are. I think my fascination with certain colors (turquoise and coral) relates to my true Eritrean roots.

Issayas: What do you think of Japanese graphics? A lot of graphic designers and filmmakers seem to be obsessed (I don't know if obsessed is the right word) with Japanese graphics and anime, respectively.

Ida: Japanese graphics are beautiful. I like them but don't necessarily use that aesthetic in my work. At least not yet! I purchased the movie Kill Bill mainly because of the animated scene. I was really fascinated by the movie's switch of mediums (film/animation).
I also like the artist Hokusai's work because it is so graphic.

Issayas: Japanese graphic designers use the Japanese alphabet as graphic design elements in their work. Eritrea has its own script for thousands of years. I have not seen many Ge'ez (Tigrigna, Tigre) alphabet being used as graphic design elements. What do you think?

Ida: I have tried to use it. Actually I initially began the Eri-tees logo using the Ge'ez alphabet. But this has been used. A very popular example is Bob Marley's Exodus album.

Issayas: In the book Che: Revolutionary Icon, the author mentioned that the death of Che, the demonstrations across the world in 1968 and the invention of silk print, easy accessibility and etc.) made Che to be popular. Eritrea, with it's long history of the struggle for independence has a history of producing posters as part of the struggle. Poster design has been part of the struggle. Now posters are being replaced by photographs. I think we need to continue and use our experience in poster design and use it for various purposes, including for films. What is your view on Eritrean poster design?

Ida: I have seen a few Eritrean posters lately. All of them are photographic with some type on it that says something generic like Eritrea or Tourism. Some of the photos are beautiful but they don't carry the same impact as posters. Poster design is one of the most exciting things to me in graphic design. Posters are about expression, a message, image, type, ink, etc! I prefer non photographic posters. Check out a few screen printed posters about Eritrea I made:

Music and posters seem to go hand in hand, here are some I really like, most look screen-printed:

Issayas: Are there Eritrean graphic designers?

Ida: Sure there are but I don't know any personally yet. I am working on it.

Issayas: What are the differences of the works of filmmakers, photographers and graphic designers?

Ida: There are definitely elements that overlap in each of these things. These things are concepts/conceptual work, Web/motion designers may use film to create something, print designers may use photography to create something. Overall, some elements exist because of the other and they also build on each other. The main difference to me are: Filmmakers deal with time, things in motion. Print designers deal with flat/paper things, Web designers deal with the screen. Photographers deal with a composition (framing what they want to be seen) and color/lack of color.

Issayas: Ancient parchments that were used and are still being used by the monasteries in Eritrea are bound by different designs. Did you have to learn about book binding design in your design school. If I am not mistaken they are called Coptic bookbinding design. I think we need to
explore this aspect in Eritrea. What do you think?

Ida: Yes, bookbinding is interesting to me, though I never got a chance to study it in depth.
I found a few links (below) that say a bit about the subject.

In general, the fine arts (painting, sculpture, drawing, etc) which involve a more hands on approach are a great foundation for design. It makes a designer more knowledgeable of various processes. A few examples: If a book designed on the computer was getting printed there are a variety of binding options. A designer with bookbinding/making knowledge can grasp a better solution for the book. Tools in the program Photoshop relate to functions of an actual camera.

Issayas: To check out Ida's creativity, please visit

Finally, Ida, thank you for your time. And keep up the good work.

Ida: You're welcome.