Beirut Design Week 2015, DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, MENA PROJECTS

Design Weeks are flourishing in the Middle East & North Africa

When the MENA Design Research Center was launched in 2011, the goal of its founders was to create social impact the MENA region and develop awareness about the role and value of Design. Now four years later, we begin to be able to quantify the growth and impact that the center has partially set in track. One of the most well-known activities of MENA DRC is the Beirut Design Week, which was the first design week to be established in the region in 2012. Now, fast-forward four years later, there are already four design weeks that are right on track, and another two just on the doorstep.mena-design-weekEach Design Week is unique in its goals, features, participants and events. For Beirut Design Week, which is founded and organized by the MENA Design Research Center – a non-profit organization, the goal is to develop local entrepreneurship, provide cultural exchange for skills and experiences, enhance design education, and create awareness about design for social impact. The neighboring design weeks have some similar aspects but to varying proportions.

Soon to follow Beirut Design Week a year later in 2013 was the Bahrain International Design Week which took place in one venue, the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre. The goals of the event are commercial, promising market share and exposure for all exhibitors.

In 2014 followed Saudi Design Week organized by Oasis Magazine in Partnership with the King Faisal Foundation for Research and Islamic Studies. Closer to the BDW model, the program is divided into curated exhibitions, workshops, and a design forum, showing a more versatile approach that is both commercial and educational.

chronology-mena-design-weekThis month marked the beginning of Dubai Design Week, which took place in various locations and focused mostly around Dubai’s latest large scale real estate project, the Dubai Design District – which is set to be finalized in the next couple of years. DDW is owned and managed by the Art Dubai Group, a joint venture company between the Dubai International Financial Centre and Middle East Fairs Ltd. Bringing in high-end talent as well as established educational institutions from all corners of the world, the Emiratis prove again that high investment pays off.

Next month we will witness the launch of Cairo Design Week, who are already developing a partnership with Beirut Design Week and their near future seems promising. Moreover, talks with Amman Design Week have also been initiated, the event is set to take place in 2016. Can you guess who will be next? I have a pretty good idea…

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Beirut Design Week 2015, DESIGN RESEARCH, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Social & Environmental projects win Disrupt!/ Design!/ Funding

_DSF5001 Three minutes may be longer than an elevator pitch, but it isn’t much time to explain the innovation, impact and feasibility of a social design project that’s been months in the making. But that was the challenge design teams faced at the Disrupt!/ Design!/ ideathon this weekend as they sought to convince a panel of experts their projects deserve a $1,000 grant, an advertising budget and mentorship from the MENA Design Research Center. The teams that won funding Sunday proposed projects to tackle a host of environmental and social problem in Lebanon.

_DSF4760Khalik Mitl Sami is a platform for fostering open dialogue on race in Lebanon. Starting with a pop-up stand highlighting the food and cultural of Sudan, the team hopes it can facilitate interactions between groups who wouldn’t normally engage each other. The genesis of the project and its name are rooted in team member Asil Sidahmed’s own experience in which a Beirut service driver upbraided a passenger for racial insensitivity.

“When we look at the Beirut River, what we see is two walls and a sewer,” said Adib Dada, whose team has a master plan for rehabilitating the Beirut River. By creating two parks on either side of the river and building a footbridge connecting Badawi and Bourj Hammoud, the team hopes it can tap into memories of a time when the natural river was a bigger part of daily life. “If we can bring back that emotional relationship, they will fight for it to be cleaner, to be rehabilitated,” Dada said.

Setting out to demystify the Bomb shelter, this team is turning the bomb shelter into an interactive space as it compiles a fresh oral history of the civil war. Tamara Qiblawi said the team hopes the stories of human survival it gathers will fill in the blanks left by war stories that all too often end with “ba3dein zilna 3lmelja.”

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With its plan to make a gray city greener one square meter at a time, the Square Meter team plans to distribute hydroponic kits to bring much-needed plant life to rooftops and unused lots throughout Beirut.

Most important for the organizers behind the Disrupt!/ Design!/ campaign is long-term follow-up, which gives them hope the projects will be self-sustaining. “Great ideas happen all the time, but sometimes they go nowhere,” MENA RDC Director Doreen Toutikian said. Mideast Creatives Project Manager Arthur Steiner said the Disrupt!/ model, which has already succeeded in Cairo and Amman, is proof that fields like design, typography, video gaming and music can be engines of social change and economic development. Although designers had in the past been relegated to the role of facilitators for the stories and ideas of others, ideathon lecturer Richard van der Laken said designers are now claiming new agency to pursue their own projects.

“We have, suddenly, a very different role,” van der Laken said._DSF4954

The ideathon teams not selected for the funding campaign are not walking away from the workshop empty-handed, as all the teams have the option of joining a crowdfunding campaign to take their ideas directly to funders through Zoomaal. The campaign will launch June 1 at the opening of Beirut Design Week, where funders will be able to view the projects and meet the designers.

Over three days at Dawawine, the Design!/ Disrupt!/ ideathon teams also worked with a slate of international mentors specializing in fields as diverse as design interaction, monetization and crowdfunding. The teams have spent months, and in at least one case years, developing their ideas, and feedback from other teams and the mentors helped them hone these ideas.

Paul Hughes kicked off day No. 1 of the ideathon with a lecture on design thinking, and Stephanie Hughes coached the teams through the value proposition. On day No. 2 Richard van der Laken shared his experiences about brand identity and positioning, while Lilian Abou Zeki walked the teams through nontraditional business models to sustain their projects.

On day No. 3 the designers worked with Zoomaal’s Aisha Habli to up their crowdfunding IQ, and they learned from Paul Hughes how to nail the pitch. Ideathon participant Ghinwa Chlouk admitted the workshop’s schedule was grinding, but “throughout this whole process we’re having a lot of fun,” she said.

The ideathon closed with the teams pitching their projects to a five-person jury consisting of:

  •  Hani Asfour (architect and creative strategist, president of the Beirut Creative Cluster)
  • Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes (lead architect at AKKA)
  • Ricardo Karam (talk show host and philanthropist with TAKREEM Arab Achievement Awards)
  • Jimmy Ghazal (innovation director and Saatchi & Saatchi)
  • Carmen Geha (professor specializing in political reform and civil society at the American University of Beirut)

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Deliberations stretched from an allotted 10 minutes to half an hour as the jury struggled to agree on which three teams that would receive funding. In the end, the jury wasn’t forced to make its shortlist any shorter—a last-minute donation of $1,000 by Ricardo Karam on top of the $3,000 pledged by Hivos broke the deadlock and allowed the panel to select a fourth winning team.

More than 90 designers submitted proposals for the Disrupt!/ Design!/ ideathon, and although only 10 teams were selected for the workshop and four received direct funding, organizers found the strength of the ideas encouraging.

“At a certain point, we hope they all fly,” Steiner said._DSF5334

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Beirut Design Week 2015, Design Criticism, DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, MENA PROJECTS, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Design is here to Disrupt!

disrupt6 Promoting big ideas to disrupt the status quo, the Disrupt!/Design!/ campaign kicked off Friday with its first training session for ten Lebanese design teams looking to take their projects from the drawing board to the board room and beyond in search of funding.

The teams—which include veterans as well as plucky newcomers in fields as diverse as architecture, engineering and traditional handicraft—are all vying to be among the three teams selected for a crowdfunding campaign that will launch in June during Beirut Design Week.

A collaboration between Beirut Design Week and the Dutch development organization Hivos, in partnership with Mideast Creatives and the crowdfunding organization Zoomaal, Disrupt!/Design!/ will provide the teams mentorship from a panel of international experts. These mentors will push the teams to refine their proposals while addressing the specific needs each faces.

As they hone their pitches, the teams will also benefit from crowdfunding training by Zoomaal, which will include storyboarding, writing, video production and presentation.disrupt1

The teams are:

Ray Chawki Ghafary and Charbel Afif

Recognizing that traditional below-the-knee prosthetics have left many amputees ashamed, the team aims to make a prosthetic that users could wear proudly. With more attractive covers and an emphasis on aesthetics, the team wants to battle the stigma many amputees face. “We’re not reinventing the prosthetic,” Ghafary said, “we’re enhancing its usage.”

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Adib Dada, Yasmina Choueir, May Khalifeh, Raya Tueny, and Alia Fattouh

Though its project is still in the development phase, this team has a series of major interventions planned around the Beirut River. Among them, the team hopes to crowd-fund a project to build a footbridge linking Badawi and Bourj Hammoud, and to build parks on either side of the river.

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Dima Boulad, Pamela Haydamouth, and Celine Khairallah

Looking for a way to convert unused corners of urban sprawl into gardens and green space, the team hopes to partner with the municipality to identify city-owned plots that are currently lying fallow. Boulad said the key to success would be fostering a sense of stewardship among neighbors and allaying any mistrust within the community. “If you give people trust, they give it back,” Boulad said.

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Tamara Qiblawi and Mireille Raad

The KnoozRoom team hopes oral history and creative storytelling can prompt recognition of new memories of the Lebanese civil war. The team plans to screen its 27-minute documentary film in a Spears Street bomb shelter-turned-interactive space in order collect untold stories that upset existing narratives of the war. “The aim of the project is to solicit stories of human survival,” Qiblawi said.

* * *

Fadi Mansour, Karl Hitti and Candice Naim

Inspired by regional refugee crises and frequent power outages, this team is producing portable solar lamps. While tapping into a disappearing heritage of glassblowing within Lebanon, the team hopes to serve underprivileged communities with a safe and sustainable solution to the basic need for light.

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Angelique Sabounjian, Missak Hajiavedikian and Cynthia Raffoul

Perhaps more than any other corner of Beirut, Bourj Hammoud retains a bevy of local craftsmen and ateliers. This team is seeking to build bridges between generations of Bourj Hammoud’s craftsmen and artisans by creating links among the future makers, the established craftsmen, and the suppliers. “It’s creating this full circle in the production cycle,” Sabounjian said.

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Hassan Kanj and Rawad Hajj

Between coders and designers, there isn’t much common ground, which is why this team believes if coders knew the basics of design and designers knew the basics of coding, collaborations would be a breeze. “If they can understand, they can appreciate,” said Hassan Kanj. With a platform for collaboration between the two communities, the team hopes to make it easier for designers and coders to find each other.

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Dina Alwani, Ayman Moadad and Ali Ahmad

With its 2D animated web series drawn from the experiences of daily life in Lebanon, this team of animators hopes to entertain and educate Lebanese young and old about the issues affecting their nation. “It shows what everyone is suffering from,” said Alwani. The key to the series, Ahmad stressed, is that it will draw attention to the issues as well as the inaction that allows them to persist.

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Collette Hogg and Mazin Sidahmed

Seeking to draw a positive collaboration out of the conflict in Syria and influx of refugees within Lebanon, this team hopes to forge bonds around Syria and Lebanon’s shared history of crafting tile mosaics and glassblowing. While traditional methods of producing these tiles and glass have all but disappeared in Lebanon, the team hopes displaced Syrian craftsmen could work with artisans in Lebanon to reintroduce these time-honored techniques while fostering dialogue.

* * *

Cyril Kallab, Iva Kovic, Rana Taha and Laeticia Honeine

Feeling that designers and makers have been left out of the supply chain that leads from craftsmen to consumers, this team hopes to work with established craftsmen to fill in the missing links. By bringing designers into the fold, the team is seeking to influence the market for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Check back for more updates as the collaboration continues!

Special Thanks to our new team member Ian Larson, for interviewing the participants and writing this post.

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conference, DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, SOCIAL INNOVATION, Uncategorized

From Hong Kong to Eindhoven to Casablanca

Every year, the months after Beirut Design Week give us a chance to travel and meet like-minded people in order to develop international partnerships and collaborations.

Our journey starts in Honk Kong in collaboration with the International Gender Design Network, the Design Faculty of the Honk Kong Polytechnic University and Design Research Company from Cologne, Germany. Between October 10th and 12th, during the Social Innovation 10 Day Festival at the Jokey Club Innovation Tower, we participated in a conference and exhibition entitled: The Great Small, and gave a workshop on Cultural Perspectives on Gender Stereotypes, creating a comparison of gender inequality in mass media between Central Europe, Eastern Asia, and the Middle East.

Exhibition HK  HK1doreen HK Participants of the workshop were asked to observe examples of Gender stereotypes in German, Lebanese and Chinese media, and to discuss their impressions and share stories about the cultural values the imagery represents. This brought forth many critical reflections and also surprising results with regards to what some cultures define as ‘normal’ gender behavior, while others perceive it quite shocking.

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A week later we were invited to the Dutch Design Week, which takes place annually in Eindhoven, home to the famous Design Academy and the Philips factories now converted to design spaces. On October 20th, we took part in a co-design workshop entitled: When Co-Design Works in collaboration with PROUD Europe, which was later followed by a conference on social innovation as a main event of Dutch Design Week. In the workshop, participants were asked to share their experiences in their respective countries, focusing on challenges with co-design projects.

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The high profile conference included keynote speakers from the Design Council in the UK, including governmental representatives as well as speakers from IDEO.org and a handful of other multinational organizations known for their social impact work.

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The trip ended with a visit to the Design Academy final year exhibition where previous Desmeem participant Tamara Barrage had just graduated with a Master degree and was setting sail back to Lebanon.

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From The Netherlands we ventured south to North Africa to take part in a workshop developed by EUNIC in Casablanca, Morocco from the 5th – 12th November. This workshop was focused on training cultural entrepreneurs and operators to learn more about developing strategies for organizational growth as well as meeting other cultural managers from the MENA region in order to establish partnerships.

EUNIC1EUNIC4 EUNIC3 EUNIC2  Guest speakers from different cultural organizations from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Serbia, Belgium, France, Spain and the UK, provided valuable insight in order for all participants to develop a global perspectives on the challenges faced by Cultural managers in different fields.

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BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Nouvelle vague: the new french domestic landscape

“Les nouvelles forces du design français: une nouvelle fièvre entrepreneuriale”

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Cedric Morisset and Pauline Deltour came together yesterday at the Institut Français to talk to us about how the design scene across France has changed in the recent past. Even in the past ten to fifteen years, Morisset says, a growing number of young French editors has emerged, which means that a lot of French designers can now produce in France, rather than abroad. These editors include Moustache, Petite Friture, Superette, Specimen, Saint Luc, Goodbye Edison and many more besides.

This is a departure from old ways, when Roche Bobois and Ligne Roset were the only famous French editors. Indeed, this new phenomenon means that a new, younger generation of more international-minded designers are emerging, creating their own brands and developing them with the help of the previously listed editors. France is evolving, opening itself up in many ways to new possibilities, and design is one of the fields benefiting from these changes.

Morisset concludes by saying that these designers are being encouraged to take new initiatives, and he looks towards the future to see how the French design scene will incorporate itself more actively into the international community Beirut Design Week is helping to create.

Pauline Deltour, a designer herself then takes over to talk about her different sources of inspiration. These include “Legacy” in a big way, because she worked alongside Puiforcat for many years and a lot of her collection reflects their work. In particular, their collaboration on the “Argent de Poche” collection illustrates this relationship.

Next, Deltour moves on to talk about “Material Exploration”, for which she mainly used metal wire, bending it to her will to create anything from draining boards to umbrella stands. Next, she spoke of the “Manufacturing Process”, talking at length about the new innovative techniques she discovered, again using metal wire as a key material in her work. She explained that she wanted to use “existing anonymous objects”, which is to say everyday materials and objects that are barely noticed anymore, taking them and using them in new, innovative ways. An example of this would be a copper pot, of the type we’ve all seen at Grandma’s house, and using the material, flattening it and transforming it into a table top that was later used by an Italian restaurant as the dimensions of the table matched the dimensions of the pizza.

She therefore uses culture’s influence a lot, adapting her work following the people she collaborates with, be they Italian, Japanese, French or other, and uses layers, landscapes, valleys and stone gardens to develop her work along many different lines.

The talk was very successful and a brilliant insight into what the design scene of France looks like. We look forward to welcoming Pauline and Cedric back in the future!

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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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DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, RESEARCH METHOD, SOCIAL INNOVATION

A workshop on Design Education in Lebanon

On friday January 3rd, a group of people were called to a brainstorming session to discuss design education in Lebanon.  With the support of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, MENA Design Research Center, and Beirut Art Center, Master student Vrouyr Joubanian (ex-project coordinator of DESMEEM and MENA DRC) is now embarking on a new venture in researching the topic within the Master of Design for Social Impact of the University of Arts. The participants were selected according to three group categories: educators, students and professionals. The list includes: Diala Lteif, Doreen Toutikian, Marc Baroud, Rana Haddad, Pierre Hage-Boutros, Simon Mhanna, Hala Hassan, Danny Arakji, Micheline Nahra, Cyril Kallab, Elias Salamoun, Salim Batlouni, Ronald Abdala, Joumana Matar, Pascal Hachem, Mohamed Yassine, Karim Chaaya, and Rani Rajji.

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The workshop was conducted through a series of activities that encouraged the discussion of various issues regarding the current state of education, the major challenges that are faced, insights to opportunities, and potential solutions that can be developed. As design research methods, these co-creative activities serve as tools to ease the communication among participants and share ideas within an open-minded and encouraging atmosphere. Much of the themes revolved around universities, institutions, politics, culture and history. As stakeholders and design enthusiasts that yearn for change, insights were collected from various perspectives, and honest confrontations were made possible between the educators, the students and the professionals. Although more specific details will be provided by Vrouyr Joubanian in the course of further research and analysis. It was clear that much of the problem stems from the politics of institutions that act as handicaps to Lebanon in most social and professional realms. Words such as stagnation, lock-in systems, backwardness, corruption and lack of collaboration were common highlights that encompass the frustration of educators.

IMG_1903By the end of the workshop, 5 teams developed possible solutions to the challenges faced. Then a vote was cast to determine which were more feasible and promising. In the coming weeks, a more concrete strategy will be formulated and a collective of people is set to develop outside the institutions to provide a more solid and hopeful future for design education in Lebanon.

IMG_1604To read Vrouyr’s post on the subject with more detail, please follow this link: http://vrouyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/about-design-education-in-lebanon/

Photo credits: Rizkallah Chaaraoui

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