Desmeem Talks To Design Students Of The Lebanese American University

On FRiday March 1st 2013, the Desmeemers were invited to the Lebanese American University to talk about their design process during the three months of the Desmeem project. The teams informed the design students about the research methods they used, the challenges they faces along the way, and the outcomes they achieved through human-centered design. On behalf of the MENA DEsign Research Center, we would like to thank LAU and the Desmeemers for this truly informative and inspiring event!


Exhibition & Community Day with Migrant Workers

During December 2 workshops were held in AltCity concerning migrant workers in Lebanon. At the end of which an exhibition and a Community Day was established on December the 16th. The workshops were developed in collaboration with Migrant Workers Task Force, AltCity, Joumana Ibrahim, and a group of Graphic designers who dealt with infographics. The exhibition design and concept was developed and implemented with the help of Doreen Toutikian, Director of the MENA Design Research Center, since it is one of the center’s goals to contribute to design for social change in the Arab World. Moreover, having worked with migrant workers on a previous Desmeem project, Community Day with the aforementioned partners is a good way to follow up with the latest updates and concerns regarding this serious challenge that affects the country profoundly.

On Community Day migrant workers from many different communities plus Lebanese and other nationalities came together in AltCity to share food, stories, laughter and celebrate the end of the year’s classes.

The Two Exhibitions of the Workshops are:

1) Lens on Life: A series of photo essays created by migrant workers using their mobile phones under the guidance of Ann Megalla and Dima Saber

2) Visualizing Migrant Rights: A series of infographics depicting the lives and rights of migrant workers in Lebanon produced by graphic designers under the guidance of Joumana Ibrahim.

In addition to the 2 workshops, AltCity is also displaying a series of infographics by Visualizing Palestine depicting some of the human rights violations conducted in Palestine.

This whole exhibition has been made possible through the help and support of the MENA Design Research Center, the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon, the Migrant Workers Task Force, and numerous volunteers.

For more images click here, courtesy of AltCity.


Coaching the Beirut Social Innovation Camp

This past weekend, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Region in collaboration with AltCity, ArabNet, the MENA Design Research Center along with dozens of active partners in the Middle East, organized the first Beirut Social Innovation Camp. As a Design Coach, director of the MENA Design Research Center -Doreen Toutikian- was invited to spend one-on-one time with each team to guide them through the design process of their project.

The room was crawling with developers, designers, and entrepreuneurs who had come to team up with each other and turn their ideas to life. 14 teams were formed with project themes varying from community recycling plans, customer- product reviews, local talent archiving, braille apps, Garage sales, bio-lemonade, handcrafts, location-based job scouting, health planning, youth protection, housing for students, and gunshot detection.

On the third day, the judges who were representatives of ArabNet, Cedar Environmental, AUB, and Naharnet listened to the pitches and picked the winners. Instead of creativity, originality, research, or reasoning behind the project, they seemed to be entirely focused on business models and competitors. Personally, we would have preferred more diversity in the criteria, but nonetheless, it was a great effort from all parts; and surely the participants learnt some valuable lessons. The first prize went to Job Pinner, an app that determines the location of freelancers/ service providers from various fields.

Images Courtesy of Naharnet &


Design Without Borders Conference & Exhibition in Oslo

On November 1st 2012, Design Without Borders, a 10-year project in association with Norsk Form and DOGA organized an international conference with a curated exhibition of the collected works in Oslo, Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs being a partner of this project, invited over 50 designers, educators and professionals from 20 countries around the world. Two people from the Arab World (MENA) were invited as well: Doreen Toutikian, Director of the MENA Design Research Center from Lebanon and Younes Duret from Morrocco.

About Design Without Borders: ” In the field of both design and development aid, there is increasing awareness about the important contribution design makes towards solving the challenges facing developing countries. The last decade has shown us that designers, in their enthusiasm to act, often underestimate the complexity of the challenges they undertake and create practical but inappropriate solutions. Similarly, the developing communities are often so overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation that they are unable to innovate effectively. The conference Design without Borders – Creating Change focuses on the work and thoughts of designers, organizations and entrepreneurs that have managed to find a way of combining complexity and action, effectively using design to create change in real world situations.”

The Speakers: Leif Verdu-Isachsen (Norsk Form), Cynthia E. Smith( Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum), Tor Inge Garvik (Laerdal Global Health), Sille Askefrø Bjørn (INDEX: Design to Improve Life), Eve Blossom (Lulan Artisans), Elizabeth Palmer (Danish Refugee Council), Ole Chr. Kleppe (SuSan Design), Anna Kirah (Steria), and Nita Kapoor (FK Norway)

The conference was followed by a curated tour of the exhibition which was a collection of products, architecture, and services that have been designed and implemented through Design Without Borders for developing countries over the last decade.

For more info about Norsk Form and Design Without Borders click here. Photo credits: Norsk Form/Kjersti Gjems Vangberg





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.



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.


Presenting the 10 DESMEEM Themes

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.