Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Qatar Foundation hosted the third day of its biennial design conference Tasmeem Doha 2011 on Wednesday, 23 March.
Tasmeem Doha 2011 – ‘Synapse: Designer as Link’ is open to the public and will take place at VCUQatar from 21 to 24 March, 2011.
On day two, the afternoon presentations continued with Qatari designer Amal Ameen Al-Mehain speaking about the role of designers in Qatar. She illustrated why team work was so important and also why it was necessary for designers to share their ideas, “specially since there is no right or wrong in design”. She took the audience through her 8 step program, modeled on her own experiences elaborating on what it took to be a good designer.
Al-Mehain is a design pioneer for Arab women in the region. Carving out a space for design within a larger corporate structure, Al-Mehain literally created a design culture from the inside out. She not only creates and makes for her own company, but she also reaches out and links with other companies to form fruitful design partnerships. She currently leads the Design Department at Barwa Media and is a true innovator, developing her own innovation practice appropriate to the modern and successful Qatari business-woman.
Fiona Raby’s presentation illustrated the role of design as a transformative process. She did this with a presentation of work done by design students from the Royal College of Art, London that focused on synthetic biology. “Designers bring a different point of view from the scientists as they take speculative ideas and transform them into concrete, tangible forms.” She spoke about the role of synthetic biology in a planet that would by 2050 be populated by 9 billion people and how the synthetic kingdom would become part of the natural kingdom, where tomatoes engineered to treat Alzheimer’s disease, or using genetically modified cops – bees – would be the norm as would foraging. “Do we change the world to suit us or change ourselves to suit the world?” she asked explaining the role designers have to play as catalysts with their broad imagination while helping scientists and physicists design the world we live in.
Raby is a partner in the design practice Dunne & Raby alongside Anthony Dunne. Dunne & Raby use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.
The third day of Tasmeem saw three more workshops introduced at the conference – Visualizing Tasmeem, Can I Know: Avatar Construction for Social Media and Co-dependency vs. Co-creation in Design Practice – to the other workshops already in progress. TasmeemLab with four designers from the Arab world – product designer Younes Duret from Morocco, interior designer Khalid Shafar from the UAE, and graphic designers Richard Kahwagi, from Lebanon and Manar Al Muftah from Qatar – continued with live demonstrations of how their work is made with student interactions after lunch.
The first speaker of the day Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti clinical psychologist and creator of THE 99, the first group of comic superheroes born of an Islamic archetype, spoke about the creation of the graphic comic and took the audience on the eight year journey in its making. He said while writers have always built their stories on older design, nobody has used the Quran for their story, which is why he wanted to do something, but with no political or religious message. Al-Mutawa took the audience through his process – the different steps in the journey – of building the hero and along the way gave examples of Steve Jobs, Superman, Spiderman and the Prophet (PBUH) as parallels. The audience also got to see clips from the first episode.
Dr. Al-Mutawa is the Clinical Director of The Soor Center for Psychological Counseling and Assessment, Kuwait’s leading professional source of a broad range of psychological services. He is the recipient of the Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children’s Media from Tufts University, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations “Marketplace of Ideas” Award, and The Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Award presented at the 2009 World Economic Forum.
In tune with the theme of graphics for the afternoon, Mark Heggen the next presenter spoke about social gaming giving examples of the different games he was involved in creating. The good news he said was games have been around since 3500 BCE and the next bit of good news he said was they have been connecting people globally and locally and will continue to do so for thousands of years. He also had interesting statics to reveal including that most social gamers averaged at age 43 and were female, and also as of 2010 that there were 600 million social gamers in the world. He explained the potential social gaming had for communities and people to help them connect and communicate always. Mark Heggen is a game designer at Zynga New York and also teaches game design at University of Detroit Mercy.
Heggen’s presentations were followed by presentations from Hoda Baroudi, Maria Hibri, the panel discussion moderated by Alice Twemlow and the day concluded with Michael Mauer’s presentation.
Tomorrow’s afternoon presentations will be given by Essa Al Mannai, Bowman Heiden and Pink Tank and Synapse workshop solutions will be presented by workshop leaders Ibrahim Jaidah, Anab Jain and Line Ulrika Christiansen in the morning. Dr. Abdulla Al-Thani, vice president, Education, at Qatar Foundation will make the closing remarks after the closing address from Alice Twemlow.
Tasmeem 2011 “Synapse: Designer as Link”, with 14 speakers and 14 workshops, is interdisciplinary and collaborative, aiming to forge dynamic links between students, creative problem solvers, local community members, community stakeholders and VCUQatar. Tasmeem 2011 is situated as a working conference, featuring student driven teams investigating the role of design as a problem solving activity that tackles community issues, our daily life-worlds and future concerns. Conference activities are designed to generate awareness, raise important questions and provide meaningful, realizable solutions. For more information about Tasmeem 2011, featured speakers, workshops and events, and to register please visit http://www.tasmeemdoha.com/