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Marquette University graduate starts design business

Mariam Ali

Mariam Ali

Imagine your favorite logo. Chances are good the first ones that spring to mind are written in the Latin alphabet. Now imagine that same logo written in Arabic script. “South through East,” a clothing business started by Marquette University graduate student Mariam Ali, reimagines popular logos and translates them into Arabic.

As an undergraduate student studying advertising at Marquette, Ali also took classes to minor in Communication Design at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) through Marquette’s cross-registration program. “I enjoyed the experience of being a student at Marquette and MIAD,” she says. “It was two different communities. MIAD was very creative and as an artist I really liked it because I could get inspired and have people to talk to about art.”

Ali started “South through East” as a way to increase positive representation of Arabic, South Asian and Muslim culture through streetwear. “All my designs incorporate pop culture or popular logos,” she explains. “I just make them into Arabic so it can connect to an audience that’s not familiar with it.” Her best-selling work, the Marquette Golden Eagles logo, is the perfect example of the kind of bridge Ali wants to build between her English-speaking and Arabic-speaking classmates. “South through East” is supported by Marquette Student Made, a national program supporting entrepreneurial students.

Translating logos into another language—not to mention another alphabet—posed a unique design challenge for Ali. “I like challenging myself to get as close to what the original design is and how it would look if it was something else,” she says.

A poster advertising different popular logos in Arabic script.

South through East logo designs. Image courtesy of Mariam Ali.

Taking full advantage of MIAD’s offerings, Ali started exploring the Printmaking Lab outside of her normal classwork. She learned how to screen print shirts, from preparing the files to using MIAD’s screen printing equipment. Now, she uses heat press transfers to make her “South through East” apparel.

Ali has found countless ways to incorporate her Communication Design experience into her own projects. From creating boxing club merchandise to working in her current job as the marketing graduate assistant at Marquette’s Division of Student Affairs, Ali uses the skills she gained at MIAD to make a difference.

“I’m considering marketing for humanitarian organizations or stuff that has to do with refugees or the Middle East,” explains Ali on her plans after graduating with a master’s degree in Political Science. “Helping create designs for their social media, raising awareness for that. Political campaigns that relate to humanitarian organizations and causes for human rights in the Middle East—raising awareness for what’s going on.”

For Marquette students considering taking classes at MIAD, Ali says, “Go for it! It definitely helps a lot with everything. Especially if you’re a Marquette student pursuing advertising or communications in general, this is really useful. I learned a lot of important things from the classes I’ve taken.”

View Ali’s products, keep up with “South through East” on Instagram, read more about Ali and explore MIAD’s Communication Design major!

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