Before coming to NYU Abu Dhabi, sophomore Arfa Rehman had no plans whatsoever to study visual arts. Now, she's a designer with burgeoning talent whose work is featured in Visual Arabia's First Design Yearbook among selections from artists, designers, and media professionals worldwide. Hers is the only undergraduate student work presented in the book.
Regularly following the design scene in the region, Rehman first discovered Visual Arabia, a design conference held in Dubai in late March, via Twitter. "I saw they had a yearbook, and they were calling for entries from around the region from professionals to students. I thought that was cool, so decided to submit something," she said.
Rehman submitted an assignment she completed for her Introduction to Visual Arts Practiceclass, which explores the use of patterns. A series of colorful diamonds overlap to create an illusion of depth. "That's something that's interesting to me — how we perceive a flat dimension in design and how it can be appear to be three dimensional," she explained.
The news of the selection brought joy not only to Rehman, but to her professors as well. While Rehman was unable to attend the conference, Goffredo Puccetti, NYUAD visiting assistant professor of Visual Arts, attended and brought back several copies of the yearbook. "He said that there weren't a lot of students who were published; it was mostly professional work, so it was exciting for the both of us," said Rehman.
Outside of the classroom, Rehman is actively involved in design within the NYUAD community. In 2012, she founded the University's Design Collective with several other students who were part of Puccetti's Designing Abu Dhabi January Term class. The Collective has undertaken various projects, ranging from the branding of University events and student-organized conferences to the design of the NYUAD mascot and the redesigning of the University's Center for Science and Engineering. Rehman also pursues a design internship on campus with the Office of Intercultural affairs, during which she organizes cultural events at NYUAD and designs their branding.
"I think just as effective as good design can be, bad design can be dangerous. I think it's not something that people think about a lot, but it is something important to pay attention to, which is why I think it's great that the design team is emerging at NYU Abu Dhabi and in the Gulf region in general," said Rehman.
Looking forward to taking more courses in visual arts and working on more projects as part of the Design Collective and her internship, Rehman hopes to continue contributing her works to expand the field of design. "For now, this is a field that I've come to really, really like and I hope to definitely continue working in it even if it's not something I pursue exclusively," she said. "I do think I'll always want it to be part of something I do."