Turbo is an independent design studio/space based in Amman, Jordan. Graphic designers Saeed Abu-Jaber and Mothanna Hussein co-founded Turbo in 2015, and are the sole team behind its creations.They set up Turbo for two reasons, firstly to push boundaries in design or to offer something different, and secondly because they fell in love with a space that used to be abandoned but could make a difference after renovation. Turbo is a space that combines work and play.


This interview was conducted in 2019 by email. Saki Ho IGVmet Turbo TBin Sharjah, UAE during FIKRA Graphic Design Biennial, and the conversation began. The interview follows.

Introducing the cultural context

IGV What it an inspiring place for you in Jordan? What makes this place special to you? Let me also enlarge the geographic scale. What about Amman in general? Why do you like to live here? Is a good place for graphic design?

TB We both grew up here in Amman, so it is home to us in a sense. Aside from that though, we feel that Amman has a nice slow-ish pace to it which is both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation. It is a good place for graphic design because the scene is still young, so there is no specific or expected visual language that is standard. But sometimes, living in a bigger busier city like New York or London, where one would be exposed to new, well thought-out design on a daily basis, is also quite beneficial to getting you fueled to produce and make more. In other words, strong competition is good.

IGV My impressions of Amman were “liberal”, “westernized”, “heritage” and “one of the hub of middle-east”. Cliché or truth? Are these or any Amman characters influences on your design practice too?

TB These descriptions are quite true, but as with any such descriptions, they are all relative. We will not go so far as to say that these impressions play a major part in our design practice, although they probably do in a subconscious manner.

IGV What characteristics do you think of when speaking of Amman mentality? What are the problems, that Amman society is struggling with?

TB The current geopolitical situation and economy, as you probably know, are not at their best. Being surrounded by warzones and instability does seep through to the general public and result in a general gloom over people’s ambitions and drive.Where it comes to the specifics of design, we think there is a kind of slight identity crisis when it comes to culture, seeing as Jordan is a fairly young country. This, although it is a positive in the sense of not having a specific visual heritage to be locked into, also leads to seeing a lot of work that we would call ’’Pinterest-y’’, and thus lacks a certain touch of originality, but that may be down to the general effect of the internet.

IGV Besides Amman, what cultural influences were important in your career?

TB Our own pop-art from the region.

IGV How about Amman’s pride?

TB Every city has its own pride, and so we are not sure if there is a specific pride that is specifically Ammani. We are not sure we understand the question.

Introducing the person

IGV Does beauty play an important role in your work? What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

TB The aim is first and foremost to communicate. Beauty is the cherry on top.

IGV How do you stay alert to the little miracles of everyday life?

TB We think it really depends on the mood you are in when you wake up that day, as with any of us, but to get to a point where we can pick up on such miracles every day would require a lot of mental training. That said, we think not being glued to the screen working would definitely increase the chances of that happening.

IGV What themes or ideas do you find particularly interesting/ fascinating at the moment?

TB (Saeed) I have been very interested lately in getting into dynamic/moving typographic posters/artwork.
TB (Mothanna) Everything that is new and beautiful.

IGV What do you expect from life? What does life in Amman expect from you?

TB Expectation is the root of all heartache.

IGV As a child, what was your dream career? or: What was the most significant experience of your youth, and did it influence your choice of profession?

TB (Saeed) Car Designer.
TB (Mothanna) I was generally interested in matters of sight and sound.

IGV Why did you become a designer?

TB (Saeed) I was fascinated by the idea of a logo, a small shape or symbol representing a whole.
TB (Mothanna) Again, a general interest in things of a visual nature

IGV Where were you educated as a graphic designer?

TB (Saeed) I never actually studied graphic design; I hold a Master’s degree in Cybernetic Engineering, But I did complete a short course at the SAE institute on the Adobe suite programmes.
TB (Mothanna) Faculty of Fine Arts at Al Yarmouk University in Jordan.

IGV Are there other artistic or scientific disciplines that are important to you?Music and film, as well as a general fascination with outer space.

Working life

IGV Could you describe your typical routine on a working day?

TB Coffee. Design. Lunch. Coffee. Design. Home.

IGV What do you do on a holiday?

TB Travel. The location would dictate the activities that follow.

IGV Dream job: graphic designer?

TB (Saeed) A rich graphic designer.
TB (Mothanna) Washing dishes in a restaurant at night.

IGV Why do clients pick you out as a designer? What are the core aspects of your design expertise?

TB The design scene in Amman is small and smaller design studios are scarce, so that is one reason. With that said, at Turbo we try to constantly push beyond the general expectations of our clients and produce something that is both visually new and honest.

IGV In your eyes, what are the qualities of a good graphic designer?

TB Honesty and curiosity.

IGV Are there any rituals associated with your design processes?

TB Not specifically.

IGV How does your idea-finding process work? or: How do you decide whether an idea is good?

TB Trust and experience.

IGV Are compromises an integral component of graphic design?

TB Yes. Design’s main goal is to solve problems.

IGV A compromise is always a result of a struggle. What are the typical conflicts that you have to fight with clients? And how do you handle such a conflict? or: What was the biggest compromise that you have had to accept?

TB Too many chefs in the kitchen.

IGV What are the most enthusiasm-filled and most annoying moments in the process?

TB Enthusiastic: While working.
Annoying: When the client and ourselves are not on the same wavelength.

IGV Who do you get your feedback from?

TB Ourselves initially. Afterwards, people who are outside the field of design.

IGV Design process or product: what is more important to you?

TB Both.

IGV What about “stealing” from other designers?

TB It’s not easy not to get influenced by things that are seen or experienced in general, but one has to have enough knowledge and respect when getting “influenced”.

IGV Can you make a lot of money from graphic design in Amman?

TB It wont buy you a Ferrari, but it will pay your rent (depending on where you live).


IGV Who do you design for? For connoisseurs, or for everyone? or: Do I need to understand design, in order to feel the impact?

TB Everyone.

IGV In your eyes, what are the most important contemporary and historic movements in graphic design? or: What movement/designer has had the greatest influence on you?

TB Many. Minimalism, Swiss Design, Pop-art, and everything in between.

IGV How would you describe your individual graphic design attitude or style?

TB We would leave this answer to the public.

IGV Is there a specific Amman approach in graphic design?

TB No.

IGV Could you name meta-themes that most Amman graphic designers share?

TB Other than general Arabic calligraphy, not really.

IGV Do any of the following notions play a role in graphic design in Amman: craftsmanship, humbleness, identity, individuality, collectiveness?

TB This question is too big to answer here.

IGV What is the worst thing about contemporary Amman graphic design?

TB 1.Compliance
2.Identity Crisis

IGV What is the most hypocritical thing that graphic designers say? Why?

TB Overselling concepts with empty words.

IGV Big question: Is graphic design important? Why?

TB Yes, because subconsciously we all are in contact with design in general, graphic design included.

IGV Another big one: Can graphic design change society?

TB Yes, in certain mediums.

IGV Half-serious question: If you were the dictator of the world of graphic design, what measures would you implement?

TB Delete Arial from existence.

IGV Have you ever lost your religion/beliefs? or: Which illusion do you hold onto at all costs?

TB Beauty.

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