Designer Rana Salam has always had a strong connection to her Lebanese roots. Living in London for over two decades did not sever any ties, rather it evoked a new art movement inspired by her home country’s street culture
Graphic designer, artist, author, entrepreneur and mother are just a few of the labels you can give Rana Salam. She’s often dubbed a modern day “Renaissance woman,” but considering the diverse fields she has worked within and mastered you might say this is a gross understatement. As one of the most well-known and celebrated designers in the Middle East, her work has defined a generation and decorated it with bright and vibrant colors. A graduate of Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art in London, her degree in Middle Eastern pop culture led to her first job of creating window displays for the renowned UK department store, Harvey Nichols. Other signature Rana Salam projects include the interior design and branding of Lebanese restaurant, Fakhreldine, London; Smallville Hotel in Beirut and Comptoir Libanais – a London based restaurant and cookbook of the same name; and she authored the cult classic, “The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie.”
How does your Lebanese heritage inspire you?
Heritage is a source of inspiration to a past that many choose to forget. When I used it in my work, mainly in a nostalgic way, people loved it and I awoke all their senses to images that were long forgotten to them. I realize how people wanted to celebrate and hold on to those images. We have been so brainwashed by the media to hate our country and ourselves. I remind people how brilliant we are through our heritage.
What is your design process?
My design process is very much like a good cook, [I start with] great ingredients (ideas) and mix them up to create an amazing dish (result). I go about this by doing ground research – never from behind my computer – and then I go back to the studio, brainstorm with my team and we develop ideas together. It’s not always easy and we want to make sure we are creating something new and delicious.
How and why did you get into design?
My father was an architect and he always inspired me. I used to love going to his office, it always felt ‘cool’ and impressive. I was always creative at home and both my parents encouraged me to develop this skill. I never thought I would be making a business out of it. So I consider myself very lucky to be doing what I love.
How is Lebanon’s design scene evolving?
The design scene in Lebanon is growing with a handful of design entrepreneurs. It’s very important to have design leaders in this country to keep the standard [high] and to inspire the next level of design graduates. We must keep quality and innovation as a priority, as there is a tendency to breed mediocrity in this field.
What’s the best advice you can give to new designers?
I always say to new designers that it’s very important to constantly be curious, observe and play. Brush up not only on your design skills but also your business skills; otherwise you will be eaten alive!
Rana Salam Design
Bohlock Bldg, 3rd Floor
Abdel Wahab el Englizi Str, Beirut