International Design Forum: Arabia’s design Big Bang?

International Design Forum

I was barely able to catch my breath after attending the 3 day TYPO conference in Berlin and yet here I am at yet another design conference. I am blogging from Dubai, where I will be attending, and speaking at the International Design Forum (IDF)
Of course I cannot but see the contrasts: I mean, the Germans held this year’s TYPO in the austere Berlin Congress Center, a newly renovated modernist structure surrounded by asphalt streets and the socialist scenery of the Alexanderplatz. The IDF is being held in the luxurious Madinat Jumeirah, a complex containing luxury hotels/resorts, spas, villas and a souk that were designed to resemble an imagined old Arabia (complete with Venice like water canals and ponds) with a view of Burj al Arab. The Germans gave participants a bowl of soup for lunch (i am not kidding you). I am sure the Arabs will feed all too well with all kinds of delicacies! :)

Mina Al Salam at Madinat Jumeirah

Burj al Arab

What remains to be seen is how the IDF measures up as far as content and discussion is concerned.

When Dubai hosts something you immediately expect it to be earth shattering. I mean: where else can you find people like Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Karim and Hani Rashid Oliviero Toscani and host of international design critics/journalists in one place. Not to forget regional stars like Bernard Khoury, Rasem Badran and others.

The Jordanian delegation consists of Omar Maani, the Mayor of Amman, Architect Rasem Badran, Samer Asfour of Design Jordan, Shadia Touqan (of the Old City of Jerusalem Revitalization Program) and myself (representing both Toot/ and SYNTAX).

IDF registration desk

So is this the Arab world’s design Big Bang?

In a region that is extremely poor when it comes to contemporary design and innovation, is this Forum the beginning of a design awaking in Arabia or more of a PR oriented declaration of intent? I am keeping my fingers crossed. Just the fact that Dubai is trying to put the word ‘design’ on the table is something I view as a positive development. So far, it was the marketers and their hype that have dominated the Arab world’s creative industries (if such an industries exist in the first place). With the IDF, maybe the thoughtful voice of real design and innovation can finally be heard.

The IDF has set itself an ambitious mission:

With a particular focus on the Arab world, the International Design Forum will also champion the inclusive nature of design. The mix of nationalities and disciplines involved means we are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the ability of design to transcend all boundaries.
Its program is equally ambitious, tackling everything from product design to the design of cities and from technology to sustainability. One session is provocatively titled “Redesigning Dubai”. Hot stuff.

In the coming three days I will be involved in two session: “Bed, Bus and Bathroom: Where and When Does My Next Great Idea Come From?” I already have an answer: “Bathroom” :)

The other session is “Product design made in the Arab world”. This, I am sure, will be a challenging session to pull of. I mean, does the Arab world actually ‘produce’ something that needs to be designed. It is precisely this lack of ‘production’ that scares the hell out of me when thinking about design in Arabia.

I hope that I will get the chance about my experiences with Toot, Ikbis and various other digital products that I helped design and conceive.

I will try to blog from the conference when I can. And yes I gave into the system: I am using the hotel’s overpriced internet connection. And before I forget, the IDF has a blog too.
And by the way, I would welcome any input from designers out there that could help the discussion.

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3 Responses to “International Design Forum: Arabia’s design Big Bang?”

  1. Macthomson Says:

    Enjoying your posts more and more frequently and concluding that we share many interests. Check out for notes on Media 2.0, plus architecture and design occasionally. And views of a basically optimistic expat who has called ABu Dhabi home for five years.

  2. bilkis mayet Says:

    would like to see some photos of idf may 2007 forum,thanks

  3. richard mehanna Says:

    would like to know if the international design forum will be held in 2008 in dubai? if not where?

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