Jad Hussein’s tropical catalogue design for Paris exhibition Jamaica, Jamaica

Jad Hussein lives in Paris where he works as a designer, an editor, and a teacher of typography and editorial design. “I also used to run a publishing house for five years (19/80 Éditions, 2012–2017) focused on contemporary photography, energy of youth, skateboarding and more,” he tells us. These days, Jad’s main concern is his graphic design studio named Look Specific.

“At the office, we develop design solutions for visual communications such as books, identities, magazines, posters, for institutional, corporate and extreme sports clients,” he says. “We like our work clever, precise and joyful. We sometimes receive accolades for it!” This year, Jad won a magazine art director of the year award with A Skateboarding Annual (Club des directeurs artistiques), while 2016 saw a nomination for Acid magazine as Art Director of the Year at the Stack magazine Awards and, during the 2015 Arles Book Awards, Jad was nominated alongside photographer Cyrille Weiner.

Among the wealth of graphic design gold Jad sent over is an exhibition catalogue for Jamaica, Jamaica, on this summer in Paris until 13 August at Philharmonie de Paris. Published by La découverte/Philharmonie de Paris, the hardcover catalogue runs to 288 pages and considers the island’s political and musical history through contributions from Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds, Evadney Cruickshank, Sidney McLaren and Karl Parboosingh and paintings and mural art from Kingston, album covers, flyers, music, graphic design, fashion and art. Jamaica’s distinctive red, green and yellow flag is heavily referenced, while the tropical island vibe is encapsulated in palm trees.

“We had a load of pictures coming from everywhere with various content and quality (some really really bad!)” Jad laughs. "Facing this content of 10 to 12 main texts, some notes and some developed captions and this bunch of pict, I wanted to translate the joyful density of the project—big type, various layout typology, the inclusion of pictures in texts—and wink at the curator, a good friend of mine called Seb Carayol’s chaotic and long term investigation to set up this exhibition. I used various ‘happy’ colours to figurate chapters and used them inside to create some inserts that randomly come wherever it was on some picts or texts. It made some cool accidents!

“It also created some aggressive cut that fitted well with this reggae rhythm—a bit jumpy,” Jad continues. “The Kabel font perfectly found its place. I added the condensed version of the serif for a more playful feeling. I like to make it not complicated but generous I would say: I like to create books with many layers in terms of reading and to add this particular energy that type can give. For fun, we made two different covers. It made sense—and it’s the same price!—so we went for it.”

“It might seem a fun project but as ever it was really painful at every stage fighting for ideas and composition (and I’m a pragmatic designer!),” Jad warns. “To make a perfect book from the beginning to the end is a hell of an adventure. I think it happens not so often and I can observe that on my day-to-day library promenade. Maybe that why it makes this practice exciting in a way.”


Words by Bryony Stone, June 2017 [article link here]