At A Point In Time: I Wanted To Document Made In Egypt Products

I graduated from Industrial Design school two years ago, ready to take the world by storm and become a successful Product Designer. Little did I know, now I am not even sure if Product Design is what I really want to do. Design was always bigger to me; bigger than objects, bigger than symbols. I’ve always been involved in a project, a workshop, volunteered or became part of something big. I like to keep myself busy and I happily jump at the next opportunity that presents itself. But more than often the things I’ve done had little to do with Design, so I am starting this series of posts sharing what I’ve been doing in the last few years; what I've learned and how I screwed up. Hopefully, it will all add up in the end and show me a direction.

Why should you read this? A. See if you can relate to it B. Learn something new C. Maybe it’ll encourage you to dive into an unusual opportunity and D. Learn from my F*cking mistakes bec. am not gonna publicly embarrass myself for nothing!

At a point in time, I wanted to document Made In Egypt products!

Few would recall the short-lived 'Buy Egyptian' or 'Eshtery ElMasry' campaign that happened in February 2011, an attempt to help save the economy after the ''revolution''. I don't know how a campaign like such would fail, but it did in Egypt. The media started dissing it, and a 'concern' started to appear, the campaign had a hidden agenda; instead of buying locally made products, the campaign was about supporting big businessmen with big industries who do not pay taxes- as if we had no one making anything happen in this country but big businessmen. On social media this message continued spreading saying that you should buy vegetables and tissues from street sellers and beggars instead of supporting, again, big businessmen.

I was pulling my hair during this week, I couldn't believe that people did not think that we produced anything in Egypt. Prior to the campaign's miserable failure, lists of food 'made in Egypt' flooded my news feed! Cheese, cigarettes and water! That was people's idea of a Made In Egypt product. Being a product designer, that cheese list was a bullet to my heart!

I decided to do something about it and thought how cool would it be to document what people are going to buy on that day and turn it into a blog or a directory where people can see the many made in Egypt products we have in this country and read other people's experiences with the product or the people behind it, and I wasn't thinking of big well-known brands, but small industries, design studios and artists trying to achieve something. I knew that people in Egypt are not very syched about following blogs or sending emails, instead facebook was their thing!

So I started a facebook page named 'Son3 Baladi' or literally translated 'made by my country'. I wanted to play on the word 'Baladi' which means 'my country' but in another context it can mean 'kitschy'. I quickly designed a logo and launched the page in half an hour calling people to buy Locally made products and post pictures on the page for documentation.

9صنع بلدى.jpg

People actually liked the idea and started liking the page, I didn't even publicly share the page and no one knew I was behind it and I only shared it with a few friends or group whom I knew would be big supporters, and they screamed it out loud. In a few hours the page had 90 likes 95% were people I didn't know, I had friends sending me support messages, sharing it or telling me that they got to know the page from their 'non-designer' friend. I even had a friend enthusiastically send me to support and she actually became the page admin.

However, the whole thing lasted a day! After what has been said about the campaign, the majority decided not to buy anything that would support ''big businessmen''. I was too burnt out about what was being said to continue any activity in that direction, I didn't see any use to it. And the page remained inactive since 2011. Maybe if I was in Egypt back then -I was studying in Malaysia- I would have approached it differently, I think I would have hit the streets bought and hunted for products and kickstarted the thing. I still would like to do this one day one way or another.

son3 baladi like graph

The most interesting thing is that each year I get a surge of likes during January or February, the page hasn't been active since 2011 but during these two months the likes graph spikes! This February it jumped from 208 likes to 283 likes and it is increasing as I am writing this. Of course these numbers are not even close to being impressive but for a page that was only active in 2011 for 3 days to gain these likes after four years of inactivity and after the changed reach policies of facebook, taking note that the description of the page wasn't changed, it doesn't even have a cover photo because there were no cover photos back then. Something must be going on!

I got curious about it last year and asked one of the likers, it was very obvious there was a pattern there; most of the likers had the yellow 'rab3a sign' as a profile picture, and in that year it started in February but spiked in June and July. I found out that someone stumbled on the page and in attempt to show positive support during the period of protests against Morsi, he actually invited all his friends to like the page, they did not read the description or even open it, they just saw the name of the page and liked it.

That's when I realised how powerful Names and Titles can be! And how compelling copywriting can be.