13 September 2021

15 Years of Supporting the Best Young Talents in Design

The impact of the AEB Awards initiated by Ibrahim Jaidah in 2007 for VCUarts Qatar’s budding designers, has grown to be truly global

Encouragement – be it in the form of timely moral support, advice, or generosity – can trigger levels of impact and inspiration that go beyond the expectations of the benefactor or the giver, to run into years, decades, and even lifetimes.

When Ibrahim Jaidah, GCEO of Arab Engineering Bureau (AEB), initiated the AEB Awards for Design Excellence for senior students on the interior design and graphic design pathways in 2007, and the AEB Award for Creative Achievement and Potential for junior students in 2014, at VCUarts Qatar, he possibly couldn’t have foreseen the different ways in which the Awards would go on to change the lives of the recipients.

As the Awards enter the 15th cycle this year, three alumni who received the honor during their time at VCUarts Qatar take a look back at what the Awards meant to them then. And now.

Zlatan Pejdah won AEB’s Design Excellence award, for Interior Design, in 2012. For the Bosnian, who currently works in Dubai as a Design Manager, the Award not only recognizes individual achievement and talent, it also acknowledges how a designer’s career is a “life of dedication”.

What did winning the AEB award mean to you?
Like a lot of prospective applicants, I dedicated a year of my life in preparation to apply to VCUarts Qatar. When I got accepted I was elated, and I see the AEB award as the final flourish in my university experience. More than the monetary elements involved, the award becomes a permanent record that boosts the receiver’s career prospects. The award itself is an amazing contribution that Mr. Ibrahim Jaidah provided young students like myself, and for that he has a very special place in my heart; in VCUarts Qatar’s heart.

The AEB awards are in their 15th year. Why are such awards important to young designers like yourself? 
A designer’s career is driven by the heart. You don’t become a designer because it is a 9 to 5 job; you become a designer because it’s a calling that is often borne out of one’s conviction that arts and design can make the world a better place. An award that recognizes and acknowledges such a life of dedication is priceless. For me, like any other designer, the competitive aspect is also important; wining an award is like crossing that finish line just a bit ahead and it is a fantastic feeling, opportunity, and ideal finish to a great experience.

In the context of where you are now, how did the award help you progress in your career?
Today I work as a Design Manager, in Dubai. My work involves communicating and managing expectations of clients, our site team and other parties involved, in addition to mentoring and reviewing of creative and technical proposals that need to go out of our office. Yet when I retrace my journey, I see how this award was a giant boost to my professional life, especially as it comes from such a well-known organization in the region, such as AEB. For designers like myself who wish to engage with a client, organization, or to put their name out there, an award like this helps to promote and uplift that person and his or her work.

A few years ago, Hazem Asif – currently a Science Illustrator in Pakistan and recipient of the AEB award for Creative Achievement and Potential, in Graphic Design, in 2015 – was a student “holding multiple on-campus jobs to support myself”. Asif used part of the prize money to buy a new laptop – which he uses to this day.

What did winning the AEB award mean to you?
I was super thrilled and honored to receive the prestigious award as recognition for my personal accomplishments and efforts. The award – and the generous mind behind it – helped me gain confidence in my abilities and skills as a professional illustrator and social design activist. Even now, the award continues to offer me the opportunity to be unique, passionate, open-minded and daring in my career.

The AEB awards are in their 15th year. Why are such awards important to young designers like yourself?
Such awards are crucial in highlighting unseen, raw or hidden talented individuals. Such support assists students like me to realize that we are respected and appreciated, to become the future change makers and designers in the country. Additionally, they expose students to real-world opportunities outside academia such as possible internships, collaboration with like-minded individuals on exciting projects and future job opportunities.

In the context of where you are now, how did the award help you progress in your career?
I currently work as a Science Illustrator at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) where I oversee the communication science stories as exciting visual graphics and narratives. One of my latest designs was featured on The Lancet HIV science journals, an ongoing commission project for the year 2021. But back in Doha, I was an international student living on a budget, holding multiple on-campus jobs to support myself, and using a laptop supplied by the University. When I received the award, I used a part of it to invest in a laptop of my own, as I knew that as a graphic designer, that would be an essential requirement for work after graduation. I still continue to use that laptop that I bought with the prize money I received, and it remains my biggest investment to date.

Reham Mohamed won the AEB award for Design Excellence in Graphic Design in 2019. The award helped her travel to Lebanon to attend one of the best Arabic Type Design workshops, adding value to her creative practice.

What did winning the AEB award mean to you?
I was extremely happy – thrilled to learn the news; to know that I was selected for this distinguished award was beyond my imagination. I was very proud of myself and thankful to my department and faculty for nominating me. Having been born, raised and received all my education in Qatar, it was a true honor!

The AEB awards are in their 15th year. Why are such awards important to young designers like yourself? 
It is definitely important to provide support and encouragement to young fresh graduates, it boosts their confidence and prepares them for what’s coming next. And I’m not referring only to the financial aspects; an award like AEB is a distinguished award that is known regionally and globally. It certainly is an outstanding achievement that highlights and celebrates excellence in applied design.

In the context of where you are now, how did the award help you progress in your career?
With the help of the award, I was able to travel to Lebanon to attend one of the best Arabic Type Design workshops, adding value to my creative practice. I currently work within a contemporary graphics art context, applying design, typography, computational art, and print media to the creation of printed ephemera and designed objects. 

I’ve always been an advocate for the support of education and learning, and Mr. Jaidah’s consistent support to the young designers at VCUarts Qatar is no exception. When I met him, he shared words of encouragement to excel, and give back. Recently, with a few of my classmates I started the ‘Studio 213@twothirteen.studio’, a collective of artists and designers, where we research, explore, create and support creatives in Qatar, by providing workshops, spaces to work, and access to resources. And, we hope that this initiative will expand enough to be able to offer creative residencies in the future.

 

Ibrahim Jaidah, GCEO of Arab Engineering Bureau

Lejla Nikšić with Ibrahim Jaida

Zlatan Pejdah

Hazem Asif

Reham Mohamed

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