Beirut Bombastic by Rana Salam Studio

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Rana Salam Design Studio
Old Java Coffee
2016 Istanbul Design Biennal. Istanbul, Turkey


Rana Salam is the founder and art director of Rana Salam Design Studio based in Beirut. Her signature style is inspired by the Middle East’s popular culture. She takes her visual cues from billboards, vintage filmposters and signs of consumerism and translates them into visually captivating solutions for her clients, delivering a contemporary reinterpretation that extends the global relevance of her designs across everything from interiors to products. 

The daughter of pioneering Lebanese architect Assem Salam, Rana grew up in Beirut. Her father’s gift of a scooter at the age of 15 inspired her to explore the city’s streets, unconsciously exposing her to the shaabi (popular) culture that later became her inspiration. Ironically it was not until later, during her design education in London, that Salam studied and fully discovered her own country’s creativity. With no facility for formal design education in Lebanon, she left in 1986 to pursue her BA at Central St. Martins, to follow this with an MA from the Royal College of Art. At the time, London was leading the global design-branding explosion and artistically expressing its days through the creation of iconic design. Inspired by London’s projected introspection, Salam turned to Lebanese popular art and culture, exploring it and merging it with the latest design technology she essentially commenced to export her own culture through expressions in her work, thereby creating her own distinctive style. 

Salam opened her firststudio in London in 2002, and eight years later she relocated to Beirut where, in 2011, she then opened the Rana Salam Design store. Her artistic intention is to project the Middle East in a fresh engagingly positive light. Despite – and perhaps even because of – Lebanon’s political drama, Beirut is brimming with talented designers, of whom Rana is one of the most acclaimed, and each of whom, in her words, are “passionate and proud of their country, and keen to display their creativity and resilience.” 

Rana Salam’s career took off when she designed the window display of upscale London store Harvey Nichols, translating hand-painted Beirut street billboards and popstars into glamorous European icons such as Bettie Page and Brigitte Bardot. Soon Liberty of London embraced the flair of Middle Easten street art and commissioned Rana to design their swimwear department. Her studio has since acquired broad experience and developed specialized knowledge in art direction, design and consultancy for retail, product, print, hospitality and exhibitions. Rana’s design repute is well-established within the GCC and globally. 

The studio has broad experience in developing identities for hospitality and retail. It has produced a series of 11 iconic windows for Harvey Nichols and developed the logo and interior graphics for the restaurants Comptoir Libanais and Fakhreldine in London. It developed the brand image for the design-duo at Bokja in Beirut and also for Sawani in Jeddah. The studio also designed the restaurant branding for Batchig (Beirut), Kalilah (Jeddah), Ayyame (Kuwait) and Filful (Dubai). Rana Salam Design worked closely with Lina Kanafani designing the logo for her contemporary London design shop Mint, and also worked with architect David Adjaye on his firstrestaurant design - SOBA in Soho, London. The studio also  collaborates on limited edition products, a recent example is with Bassam Fattouh for his Nostalgie d’Orient line. 

Rana was Art Director of Boutique 1’s in-store magazine in Dubai. Other clients include The Smallville Hotel in Beirut, and Lebanese global brands Bassam Fattouh and Nada Debs. Nada commissioned the studio to produce textile designs for a limited edition of her famous Floating Stools. The studio continues to be involved with local brands and talents, and is frequently engaged to support and boost their branding and image as they move in to regional and international markets. ‘Plastik Fantastik’ was the memorable and visually-remarkable concept created and executed by the studio for Lebanese anti-drug organization Skoun as the theme for their annual gala dinner held at Sursouk Palace Gardens in Beirut in 2010. 



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