Design talks by DESMEEM hosted by the Graphic Design Department give a new image of and function to the discipline.
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Budding designers and architects, students, professionals and faculty members flocked to LAU Beirut to attend “Design talks by DESMEEM,” a lecture hosted by the Graphic Design Department on March 1.
DESMEEM - a combination of the words ‘design’ and ‘tasmeem’ (design in Arabic) involves 27 ambitious European and Lebanese architects/designers and nine local NGOs working together to create innovative solutions to social and environmental challenges facing the country.
“We created DESMEEM to promote the awareness of design as a multidisciplinary problem¬-solving tool for social and environmental issues, and to show the benefits of multicultural collaboration for such projects,” said Doreen Toutikian, graphic-design instructor at LAU.
Toutikian heads the MENA Design Research Center, one of the regions most progressive design research institutions.
Started in April 2012, DESMEEM gave birth to ten teams focusing on different topics and areas. Five of them presented the audience with the methods they followed, the challenges they faced and the results they achieved.
Though the various presentations were significantly distinct, all employed design-research approaches to promote understanding of social issues like gender discrimination, personal finance, electricity consumption, sustainable consumerism and creative education.
“The aim of our project is to empower young people as they make daily financial choices,” said designer Dima Boulad from the Design and Personal Finance team.
“In the research phase, we noticed that most young people, regardless of their financial situation, felt that there was never enough money,” Boulad’s partner Rawad Hajj explained. “Most people did not even know where their money was going.”
To remedy the problem of overspending, the team designed a mobile application that closely tracks every penny that is spent and gives users a visual representation of where their money is going.
“It is so refreshing to see designers doing thorough research before they
make their designs,” says Ibrahim Muhanna, chairman of the Muhanna Foundation and mentor to Boulad and Hajj. “They usually merely follow instructions, but so much more can be done if they are given an opportunity to think outside-of-the-box.”
For designer Elena Habre and her team the focus was on gender discrimination. They specifically looked at the difficulties Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered people face in Lebanon. They worked with the NGO Helem to raise awareness about sexual health. “We discovered that over 76% of people in Beirut do not use condoms, and 80% of people have never gotten tested for a sexual transmitted disease,” Habre said.
The team created innovative condom packages that were distributed at nightclubs and bars and on which users could read information about sexual health and where to get testing.
“By this initiative we were able to raise awareness about Marsa, a sexual health center where one can get testing for free,” she explained.
AUB graphic design student Bilal Ghandour felt really inspired, “as a young designer and as an ordinary citizen. It’s exciting to see how innovative solutions to complex problems can be established if NGOs and designers work together.”