Stamps of Somalia: Illuminating a Nation

May 24, 2017

How do you define a country’s design aesthetic? For recent graphic design graduate Kaamil Haider, it starts with a postage stamp.

On display at the 2017 Graphic Design Senior Showcase, Haider’s senior exhibit “Stamps of Somalia: Illuminating a Nation” explored Somalia’s design style through the creation of original postage stamps.

How did you come up with the idea for your exhibit?

Ever since I first started studying graphic design, I have been intrigued by how many design and art movements certain countries have undergone. My interest made me question the absence of Somali design aesthetics in the design history books and the absence of it in my study. It was this void that led me to create Stamps of Somalia. The exhibit is my attempt at finding a project with which I could channel my thoughts about Somali design aesthetics.

Why did you decide to design stamps and what imagery did you use?

A stamp, irrespective of its time and space, communicates with the viewer and user a specific history, geography, people, and culture. It is a miniature motif that illuminates a certain ethos and character of an assured group and place. Though small, stamps are primary ingredients in building a state and unifying a group of people.

Therefore, I knew all images for the stamps had to be cultural and national so that all Somalis in the world could recognize and be proud of them. To capture those characteristics of what connects Somalis globally, I designed five stamp categories:

  1. Historical and national monuments
  2. Regional/state maps
  3. The alphabet of the Somali language
  4. Religious and cultural “artifacts”
  5. Common animals found in Somalia

What message do you hope people will take away from your project?

“As Somalia assumes leadership in its political affairs and efficacy, we need to remember that every one of us is responsible for imagining ways we can help rebuild Somalia. How a letter gets to and from Somalia is as fundamental as creating security. It is a sign of stability, peace, and pride that will move people to do great things in their country.”

Where can people see your designs?

For now, it lives under an Instagram account (@SomaliStamps) and soon I will publish my website that will host the stamp designs.

Stamp photos courtesy of Kaamil Haider.

Every year the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library select an artist to receive the Minnesota Book Artist Award in recognition for an outstanding piece of work in the book arts field. This year’s award was given to Professor Steven McCarthy (Graphic Design) for his Wee Go Library.

For the second year in a row, an alumnus from the College of Design will receive the University of Minnesota Alumni Association’s U40 Award.

Graphic design seniors graduating this summer are hosting a virtual exhibition to showcase their final projects on Friday, August 14. Titled “Fill in the Blank,” the exhibition theme is based around the idea of uncertainty.