On March the 31st we kicked off DESMEEM. All the designers -Lebanese and European- as well as all the NGOs gathered at the Nasawiya Space in Mar Mikhael Beirut to meet each other and decide on the themes and teams. DESMEEM director, Doreen Toutikian, hosted the event and then explained about the detailed three-month program, the requirements, rules, and upcoming major events. By the end of the day, all the teams were formed and enthusiastic discussions filled the space. With a definitely positive outlook to the project, the DESMEEMERS then moved on to Chaplin, a bar just next door to enjoy a relaxed evening with their new teammates. The teams will meet with Doreen every Saturday for group discussions and feedback . There will also be weekly workshops to enhance the work of the designers given by various designers, researchers and educators from the Middle East and beyond.
On Sunday the 11th of March, DESMEEM introduced its first event, D-Factor Day. All applicants that made it through the first selection phase were asked to come down to Babel Theater in Beirut and present a speech on stage. Thirty six designers and architects of various disciplines and universities, including students and working graduates, gave a speech 20 years in the future about an award they received because of DESMEEM. By choosing one of the 10 themes of the project, each awardee used his or her style of presentation and creative skills to accept this honorable prize. Some thanked their teammates and mums, others referred to intergalactic aliens, some beat-boxed, and some danced. With a few nervous pauses and a lot of laughter, they all got to know each other a bit better. During the event, all participants had to vote for one another, this vote counts as 25% of their score. At the end of the event, they watched all the videos of the European designers who also gave the same speech. The final participants of DESMEEM will be announced today!
On February the 29th, Doreen Toutikian gave a talk at the 13th Pecha Kucha session in Beirut about DESMEEM. To view the talk on YouTube click here.
Since all our organizational design is based on the design thinking process, we believe that iteration is a very crucial step towards the most optimum outcomes. Last week we had posted the 10 themes that the designers will be tackling throughout DESMEEM. We then asked our audience, partners, and potential designers about their opinions and suggestions. So we came up with a new and improved list of 10 themes.
Brain drain was added to the list and the Arabic Language removed. We figured that there is a lot being done in terms of Arabic typography in the region and there might be other issues that designers are not tackling at all. We changed social integration to migrant, as our aim is to figure out better way to involve migrant workers in our society and not to handle Lebanese sectarianism. We altered ‘finance’ into ‘personal finance’ because this initiative deals with creating a personal awareness and understanding of finance to the average person. We changed ‘politics’ to ‘democracy, because this cause is not about specific political parties as many assumed, but more about understand human rights and the roles of the people and the government. We added experience to healthcare, so that it is clear that we are not dealing with the design of surgical or hospital equipment as much as we are dealing with the entire patient’s experience in a hospital. Waste control is now sustainable consumerism, because it englobes an issue more holistically. Energy and water were added due to requirements from NGOs who voted on it’s importance and priority for MENA ecology and environment. And finally, noise pollution and urban space were joined together as it came to our attention that the solutions resulting from this team should take both aspects into account.
Lastly, we are now recruiting NGOs, institutions and companies that would like to take on one of the initiatives. They will be providing the design team with support in terms of resources, research data, PR, and general consulting.
DESMEEM is a three-month collaborative project between 40 Arab and European designers aimed at creating solutions to social and environmental issues in the Middle East and North Africa. The project, which will start in April 2012, will be conducted by 10 teams of designers, each dealing with a certain theme. The themes include public space, noise pollution, public transport, financial awareness in Middle eastern culture, waste control, education, healthcare, politics, social integration and issues surrounding the Arabic language.
While some themes are general crucial issues within Middle Eastern societies, others are systems which present design issues on a smaller scale. The grounds for selecting these ten themes are based on a wide scope of observation and demands from the public. Moreover, the versatility of the list encourages the direct interaction of design with other disciplines that entail very concrete parts of people’s lives. Furthermore as an example, this means that the designers in the healthcare team will have to work with organizations such as hospitals, private clinics, or insurance companies in order to understand their systems and create perhaps more efficient patient-doctor experiences.
Once the DESMEEM designers are selected, presentations of each theme will follow in order for them to learn about the issues that surround it and form the necessary teams.
Application deadline for DESMEEM is the last day of February 2012.