Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar announced its biennial international design conference – Tasmeem 2011 – ‘Synapse: Designer As Link’ which will be held at VCUQatar from 21 to 24 March, 2011- to members of the media at a press conference on Monday March 7 at VCUQatar.
VCUQatar Dean Allyson Vanstone took the media through previous Tasmeem conferences to highlight what the international design conference has achieved over the years and how they were linked together to address the challenges facing Qatar. From the first Tasmeem conference, held in 2004 until the last one in 2008, Tasmeem Doha has explored the role design plays whether it be in helping establish and maintain the cultural identity of a country, exploring design potential within a growing society or implementing sustainable design policies and practices. “What makes Tasmeem different is that we’re smaller than other conferences, so people attending Tasmeem, and our students have direct access to design professionals to develop student capacity, education and research here in Doha.” Dean Vanstone also mentioned previous speakers like Bruce Mau, Ruben and Isabel Toledo and Saki Mafundikwa among others who had participated in previous Tasmeem conferences.
Dean Vanstone was followed by Pornprapha Phatanateacha, assistant professor of Graphic Design at VCUQatar and co-chair of Tasmeem 2011, who explained the concept behind the theme ‘Synapse: Designer As Link’ to the media. Through the idea of ‘Synapse’, VCUQatar aims to forge dynamic links between students, creative problem solvers, local community members, community stakeholders and VCUQatar. “Like the synapse, we want to involve designers and expand design’s role in the region, especially in Qatar.” Students will drive design teams that will investigate the role of design as a problem solving activity in the community. Phatanateacha also spoke about the class related to Tasmeem, a two-semester course that was offered to students in February 2010, which resulted in the three Synapse workshops which will be part of the conference. They are: ‘Stratified Societies’, which will look into factors contributing to Qatar’s development while preserving the culture and heritage; ‘Health and Well-being’, which will explore the complexities of health and wellness through the lens of design; and ‘Managing life in a construction-zone’, through which designers will find ways to engage people to act as knowledge participants in the changes impacting their lives as Qatar develops and neighborhoods disappear, while also envisioning positive future scenarios. These three workshops are specifically linked to Qatar and are an exploration of design thinking and creative problem solving.
VCUQatar has invited a number of globally recognized designers, academics and thinkers to participate as conference speakers and is conducting undergraduate and graduate level workshops in preparation for the conference. Muneera Spence, chair of the Graphic Design department at VCUQatar and co-chair of Tasmeem 2011 elaborated on the process of choosing the speakers, renowned design professionals who were selected expressly for their contribution to design thinking and would bring their experience and expertise to Qatar. Tom Kelley is the keynote speaker for Tasmeem 2011 and Alice Twemlow, the conference moderator.
Tom Kelley’s work illustrates the marvelous potential of ubiquitous design to involve, inform, facilitate and develop consumer potential and community development, providing rich insight into how designers and collaborators can link together to create thoughtful, successful results. Within the field of innovation management, Kelley has altered radically the way designers see their own potential to innovate in a variety of sectors.
One of the goals of Qatar Foundation is to develop human capital by unlocking human potential. Kelley has a proven track record of unlocking human potential by applying design innovation and creativity to highly interdisciplinary groups of people and projects. “His work is compatible with Qatar’s 2030 vision of creating a thriving society of creative innovators that have the capacity to successfully co-construct and intelligently steer knowledge-based communities,” said Spence. Tom Kelley is the general manager of IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.
Alice Twemlow, the conference moderator, is a design writer who moves fluidly among diverse mediums of expression. A truly multi-modal writer, Twemlow is adept at skillfully articulating interesting links among disparate events and ideas. “The structure of the conference is complex, constructed out of many parts, and we believe Twemlow can help capture and synthesize some of the key underlying patterns and themes of the conference,” added Spence. Twemlow will deliver short presentations at different points throughout the conference that reflect on the different types of learning happening in different conference venues and forums. These shorter presentations will culminate in a comprehensive presentation delivered on the final day of the conference, bringing her observations and learning gained throughout the whole conference to a conclusion. Moreover, Twemlow will close the conference with a panel discussion that involves both the speakers and the audience.
Alice Twemlow is chair of the design criticism MFA Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York and an M-Phil/PhD candidate in the design history program at the V&A Museum and the Royal College of Art in London. Twemlow writes about design for publications including Eye, Design Issues, I.D., Print, New York Magazine and Architect’s Newspaper.
Meike Kaan, executive director of Communications at VCUQatar gave the media a run of the conference, the 14 workshops – 10 of which are open to the general public and four which are specially for high school students – all of which will take place in the mornings; main stage presentations which will be held in the afternoons, student presenters and TasmeemLab, a performance of Arab design creation and collaboration organized in conjunction with Pink Tank, UAE.
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/
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