BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, EVENT

Beirut Design Week 2014 is officially launched!

Last night, Monday 9th marked the official launch of Beirut Design Week 2014, with three key exhibitions starting us off. This year, we were delighted to welcome guests, both local and international to the Beirut Souks, where the Contemporary Danish Architecture Exhibition and the Dutch Design Exhibition both took place. Everybody gathered in the jewelry section for drinks, music and of course to discover the work of international designers including Rik Runge, Jasper Van Grootel, Mieke Meijer and Roy Letterlé, Dennis Meulenbroeks and Aike Heuvelink and Niels Bakkerus right here in the heart of the city.
As the sun set, we made our way over to the Newcomers Exhibition in Saifi, the third launching event of this week. One plus One, Moi et ma Puce, We Shape Hearts, Sacoche, Kera, Karma J, Nour Hage, Sana’ and Siwar Kraytem all came together in one space to show off their new designs and collections, to great success. The street was crowded with people excitedly talking about the numerous talented young artists participating in Beirut Design Week.
We have a lot of exhibition spaces in Saifi Village, so guests could walk around the streets, each shop displaying something different, from jewelry to fashion to graphic design. Plastik Magazine also had a huge success with their pop-up shop.
The crowd then moved on to Central for drinks and canapes, a perfect end to a great evening.
Join us throughout the week for more exhibitions all across the city. For more details, click here.

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BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014

Meet the 93 participants of BDW14

Come along to our Beirut Design Week events to meet the 93 Lebanese designers taking part this year. These artists range from fashion designers to graphic designers, including furniture design, service design, jewelry design and urban & landscape designers and architects.

For full details about what’s on where, click here.

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BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014

BDW14, behind the scenes…

NEW-LOGO-BDW2014Here at MENA Design Research Centre, the excitement is mounting as Beirut Design Week approaches. If you haven’t already, take a look at all the fantastic workshops, talks, exhibitions and other events we have scheduled for you from the 9th of June to the 15th.

What you don’t know is how hard the team is working to put on these events, and so here is a little insight into the preparation it takes to organize a festival on the scale of Beirut Design Week. Currently in its 3rd edition, it has grown immensely since 2012, and this means a lot more work for the team. From press releases to coordination of designers, both local and international to creating and sending hundreds of invitations, here is the story of how it is all done on time.

Since March, the whole team has been working towards creating Beirut Design Week 2014. As usual, Beirut Design Week is held across Beirut City, featuring exhibitions, conferences, workshops and open studios showcasing the work of local and international designers operating within Lebanon. All our events focus on creative economies, intercultural exchange, design education and design entrepreneurship. 

MENA Design Research Centre has been working to bring together designers from around the world and right here in Beirut to showcase their work in different areas of the city including the Beirut Souks, Saifi Village and Gemmayze. The events are designed so that participants can explore the city without missing out on any of the events.

The past few months have therefore been full of emails and calls to designers and artists worldwide to invite them to participate. Hilary Alexander. Rik Runge, Rowan Bain, Mona Hatoum and Jasper Van Grootel are only a few of the inspiring people that will be speaking during Beirut Design Week. These talks will vary from Fashion Design to Interior Design to Graphic Design as well as Design and Entrepreneurship and Contemporary Art. Be sure to come along to see any or all of these artistic innovators.

The week will not only feature well established figures of the Design community, however. The annual Newcomers Exhibition is back with young designers eager to display their work. See Karma J, Johanna Jonsson Abchée’s display of mirrors, Karen Kanaan and her brand Kera, Sanaa Ayoub’s fashion line Sana’ for today’s modern woman, Siwar Kraytem and her cycling guide to Beirut. Discover Nour Hage’s eponymous fashion line, We Shape Hearts, born out of a love/hate relationship with the city, Sacoche’ beautiful display of leather bags. Witness Moi et ma Puce exploring the bond between moms and daughters and finally, One plus One’s furniture concept.

Beirut Design Week will also feature the work of Crealev (Angela Jansen), Studio JSPR, Studio Mieke Meijer, Niels Bakkerus, Rik Runge (Philips Healthcare) and T+HUIS in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands and Dutch Design Week. Explore the latest in Dutch lighting design, furniture design, interaction design, product design, and design for social impact.

Another event of the week to look forward to is the Contemporary Dutch Architecture Exhibition. Socially sustainable projects that are programmed for interaction, environmentally sustainable projects that reduce emissions by converting sun, wind and water into energy, and economically sustainable projects, where abandoned buildings and even entire districts are be­ing put to different use – all are represented in this exhibition, which gives an overview of the talent and diversity of contemporary Danish Architects.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all the members of the MENA Design Research Centre and everybody else who has contributed to making Beirut Design Week possible for all your hard work.

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BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, DESIGN RESEARCH, DESMEEM, EVENT, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD

Design Strategy in Collaboration with AALTO University (Part III)

IMG_3973IMG_3962This is the last piece of a three part blog post concerning the collaboration between AALTO Master students of the Media Lab with the School of Business and MENA Design Research Center. In this post, we discuss the co-creation workshop that was developed over the course of 2 days in the Island of Suomenlinna in Finland. 

After weeks of research and skype meetings, the teams were set to meet their client and engage in a co-creation workshop to further design the services that MENA Design Research Center offers, as well as create new strategies for growth according to the current challenges the center faces (explained in part I).  The coordinators of the course rented out a conference room on the island of Suomenlinna, and accommodated all participants in a nearby hotel on the island for a full weekend. On saturday morning, after getting to know each other with team building exercises (which also included answering embarrassing questions publicly), each team set out to pinpoint 3 main challenges and the potential solutions that were suggested. Those were then further developed with concrete action plans and timelines.

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The system and services which were designed for MENA Design Research Center were based on the yearly cycle of the organization. One of its core projects, which defined the role of the center in the region, was DESMEEM. Therefore research into a newer version of this project is being conducted as a DESMEEM 2.0 with a variety of added features and modification based on feedback from the earlier version in 2012. Moreover, a list of Gatekeepers were deduced as main players in Business, Economy, Education, and Culture. These will be people who will be acting as ambassadors of the Center in the coming years. The entire process of this project will be documented and made public to our audience in Beirut Design Week 2014.

By sunday evening all the team members were exhausted of brainstorming and set out to the nearest cafe for a good old Finnish Kahvi and lighter conversations. The MENA Design Research Center would like to thank Nina Martin, Anna Asikainen, Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Teemu Leinonen,  Andreas Pattichis, Pirkka Aman, and Pouyan Mohseninia for all their efforts on making this project a great success.

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BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, DESMEEM, EVENT, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS

Design Strategy in Collaboration with AALTO University (Part I)

IMG_3977MENA Design Research Center in collaboration with AALTO university in Helsinki (The Media Lab and the School of Business) has been developing with its Master students new strategies for the challenges that MENA DRC has been facing as an organization in Lebanon. The course -New Media Concepts for the Third Sector- is made up of interdisciplinary teams of researchers, designers, and entrepreneurs that have been studying MENA DRC and developing service design strategies for growth and development as a co-creative consulting opportunity for both parties. In this first part of this blog post we will be introducing some of the challenges that MENA Design Research has been facing for the past year. 

MENA DRC was officially established in 2012; the first year was quite successful marking the beginning of the DESMEEM project and Beirut Design Week. Although dozens of proposals were written to continue DESMEEM initiatives in the following year, the region’s funding priorities were directed towards more urgent matters. In 2013, the only project that came to full realization was Beirut Design Week. Although it is very important and successful, it is not enough to develop and sustain a design research center. Coming to the end of 2013, some decisions need to be made according to the following challenges:

Growth & HR: The center currently has 2 active working members (Doreen Toutikian & Maya Karanouh). While Maya helps in providing contacts for business development through Lebanese SME’s, banks and organizations alongside managing her company TAGbrands, Doreen builds relationships with international organizations, embassies, and universities as well as handles the daily tasks. During projects, the center hires coordinators for the length of the project. Volunteers are welcome but rare. TAGbrands as an incubator provides office space and services to the center. These services include graphic design, social media, legal services, accounting and PR. We believe that having more full-time employees would be very beneficial to the center, but as it is not financially feasible, should we employ volunteers? How can we grow in our human resources while keeping the integrity and commitment of people that contribute? What kind of benefits can we provide instead for their dedication to developing the center?

Direction & Focus: As far as we know, there are no similar Design related NGOs or non-profit organizations in the region. Therefore, our responsibilities are quite broad. We have still not decided on a certain direction or focus and we are not sure if this is necessary yet. We are involved in all the following activities and initiatives: festivals, workshops, training, user-centered research, publications, conferences, social development, urban planning, urban mobility, community integration, youth& education…etc.  At some point, the center must diverge all its energy towards a pivotal point. Do we just focus on Beirut Design Week, and develop similar events throughout the year (conferences, workshops, talks, exhibitions…etc.)?  Do we focus more on social work? Do we do our own research and publications that concern design in the Arab world?

Community Building & Communication: We have a large network of followers on social media, but they all seem like one group (those who are design/ tech savvy). How do we involve other communities that are not necessarily the hip people of Beirut? How can we reach them? How can we make them interested in what we do and perhaps help them benefit from us? How do we communicate who we are to those who don’t speak our language? How can we make them see that Design is more than just luxury and fashion?

Financial Stability: Since the center is incubated by TAGbrands, we do not have to pay for rent or maintenance. When we realized that funding is scarce for Design in the MENA region, we created Beirut Design Week as a service to Lebanese designers that acts as an annual crowdfunding platform. Embassies and international organizations also help us to bring in professionals from all over the world during the week. This is the main source of income for the center. It is enough to keep it running, but not enough to initiate other projects. Are there other services we can provide that we haven’t thought of? What else can MENA DRC offer?

Space: Unlike many cultural organizations, we do not have a large space to host events, workshops, exhibitions… etc; which could be a way to sustain the center financially. Should we be looking at finding a space for ourselves? Are there possibilities for partnerships with the private or public sector where our presence in a certain space could be mutually beneficial?

Beyond Lebanon: Eventually, we would like to be a regional institution with unified goals and a mission to develop the understanding and awareness of Design in the Middle East and North Africa. We are still very young, and we need to prove ourselves and grow much more to be able to take on such a responsibility. What would be the best strategy to expand within our neighboring countries?

In the next blog post we will be discussing the workshop that took place in Finland as a co-creation session between Doreen Toutikian (Director of MENA DRC) and the AALTO students; where the students took on those challenges and turned them into opportunities for the center.

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