As a graphic design house, Al Mohtaraf’s areas of expertise do not include a good share for press advertising. But maybe it’s here that Al Mohtaraf had its greatest impact on widespread design practices or rather where its impact is most evident and measurable.
In the Saudi Kingdom, and the gulf region in general, the most recurring form of press advertising appears on occasions of special national or social bearing. Those ads in relative abundance as congratulations on national days, on the feast of Ramadan and Hajj, on royal appointments in state positions, on royal visits and inaugurations of major projects or ventures, alternatively those ads appear as expressions of condolences on the passing away of a royalty or prominent businessman.
Though appearing in the hundreds in various newspapers over the span of a year, those ads were never considered a subject of design. The widespread common practice was to have a row of heavy type spread over the newspaper page, with nearly total absence of design intervention or concept of any kind.
Additionally and nearly without exception they strictly abided by official and traditional forms of expression that made them all the more dull and unattractive. In nearly all cases they looked like a mere formality, void of any emotional expression.
The first instance dates back 15 years ago, when Al Mohtaraf was asked to develop such an ad for a national day occasion, and decided to take a totally different approach. In all honesty, Al Mohtaraf took this approach not only as a design house, but it was a kind of protest, and even resentment, of the existing widespread practice. Strangely enough leading companies and prominent businessmen who had at their service renowned advertising agencies, never commissioned the agency to design such advertisements, but would usually send their requests directly to newspapers who would just repeat sort of a ready «template» page advertisement and replace logos or names at the end or in the beginning. It might be worth pointing out here, that in terms of classification those ads could be placed in the same category as general announcements for events, or recruitment ads that could be considered predominantly typographic. Al Mohtaraf worked on such ads, using modern graphic design techniques, which gave them a more refined look, which itself is a major step. The process didn’t end here but went far beyond by utilizing various visual tools of calligraphy, illustration, graphics and photography. Al Mohtaraf nearly single-handedly turned this type of ad, usually overlooked by newspaper readers into an interesting design item that can capture the readers’ attention and convey a strong and moving messages. The originality of our ads, which occasionally enjoyed a little more attention than before, not only improved the aesthetics of the newspaper full-page ad. It was so far removed from routine traditional practices and norms, which it actually set itself far from those practices in a way revolutionizing and shaking set rules touching on sensitive aspects that are usually handled with extreme carefulness. It required this unique Mohtaraf «originality mix» to be able to disregard official and traditional forms of expression, and come out safe with not one case of criticism or rebuke.