Last week, the first Beirut Design Week took place, starting on Monday the 25th of June with the opening ceremony and an exhibition of the Desmeen projects... What is "Desmeen"? In a couple of words, Mena Design research Center, the initiator, explains it as a collaborative 3 months design for change project led by Arabs and Europeans (for more check the website here.)
Being Interested by design research, education, social change and design impact and a rather curious person, I went to see offline what I have been reading about and following online. I found the initiative straightforward ambitious and trying to achieve real change with interesting projects by people from different backgrounds and mixed knowledge. Something that is usually scarce if not missing in Lebanon: Collaborative work by artists and designers to make things better for them and the community. But, knowing what dealing with Lebanese bureaucracy is like, I will continue following on these projects to see what will actually become reality of these proposals, specially the Gemmayze MicroSystem Solution as it tackles public transport in the Gammayze area of Beirut and the group presented an out of the box solution where you don't stop the traffic, you just make it go slower and less attractive to cars, with more street life and electric microbuses... I Love it! (The designers presented their proposal at an event I was unable to attend, a fellow blogger blogged about it after a fellow tweeter asked asked about it, isn't the internet something!)
Another main event was Wednesday the 27th's conference at AUB, I attended the two afternoon talks: Transdisciplinary Design (since I do graphic, fashion, advertising, branding, interior, ... and do see this as a whole bundle of Design Solutions) and the Future of Design Education (Being a proud educator ;) ), which were interesting specially with the crowd being mostly critical about the way design is taught in Lebanon and I do understand that the programs need to be revised and updated to meet current trends but I would have liked to listen more to the key speakers and their way of seeing and thinking things, Uta Brandes and Jamer Hunt words were specially striking talking about design's impact on everything and how we have to let go of teaching skills and move into teaching ways of thinking and let every person discover their own way of doing things and not impose the educator's way or the university's way, and this of course, let the lebanese attendees, educators and students, wish for a big change in the Lebanese Educational systems, where students often arrive at the young age of 18 (whereas in Europe, at KISD for exemple, they start the program at 22 mostly) wishing to study Design, having a sense of taste maybe, but not really knowing what it is, so the dilemma between teaching basics and skills OR teaching how to learn/ unlearn/ think/ solve starts. I personally think the 3 years of the BA are not enough to grasp all what design can offer as solution for most students-- because in order for them to Unlearn, they need to Learn first, and even though the time at university is not for teaching the basics mostly, we have at least to get them interested into getting to know what was, exploring the possibilities, searching, researching and, hopefully, they will pick up the Keys of how to look at a problem and come up with a real 360 design solution.
All in all, the week was pretty condensed, I even took part in a workshop I might blog about later on, and they showcased an array of design practices in Lebanon and a vision for improvements... I will be looking forward to a 2nd edition.