by Sophia Dyer
  • 5 minute read
  • April 27, 2024
International Design Day 2024: d3’s Senior Vice President on designing with kindness in mind

If you didn’t know already, April 27 is a significant day in the global design community. It is International Design Day, an annual celebration that honours the establishment of the International Council of Design on this day back in 1963. Initially observed as World Design Day, the event was rebranded in 2020 to better reflect its international scope and significance.

Each year, International Design Day casts a spotlight on the profound impact that design has on societal progress and innovation. This year the theme is: is it kind? We spoke to Khadija Al Bastaki, the Senior Vice President of Dubai Design District (d3) to find out more about the theme and design in the Middle East.

Dubai Design District

How can you design with kindness in mind?

Design thinking requires that creatives place their end-user at the heart of their designs, from ideation to execution. In an increasingly digital world, experiences, services and products developed with an intimate understanding of the user, their preferences and challenges are empathic, relevant and meaningful – and ultimately add genuine value, improve quality of life and bring solutions that serve a lasting purpose.

It is also critical that design puts our natural world at the forefront and works to bring solutions that protect the environment and climate. 

Is kindness something you’re seeing frequently in terms of design?

Any true designer will tell you that empathy has always been an integral part of the design process, be it the invention of the wheel, the printing press or eyeglasses. Their commitment to their user has seen them stand the test of time. Brands now realise the benefits of financial gain and customer loyalty by prioritising empathic, user-focused design.  

Moreover, consumers today invest equally in a brand’s value and story as they do its products or services, which means companies increasingly embrace consumer demands for inclusivity and sustainability. 

Modern design applications require creatives to embrace empathetic design thinking, especially as we face challenges such as the climate crisis and food insecurity. 

Dubai Design District (d3) is home to the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), which is producing a new wave of design talent and professionals who design from an empathic, problem-solving point of view. It’s truly inspiring and makes you feel like you’re passing the world into immensely caring, mindful hands. 

As World Design Day encompasses many avenues of design, including interior, exterior and fashion, is it common to see trends that span areas of design?

At its core, design is the blueprint for the look, function or workings of a product or service. It’s a way of thinking with applications beyond the creative industries, especially as digital transformation becomes the new reality across economic sectors. Considering the looming risks of the climate crisis, it’s no surprise that sustainability is prominent across design, particularly as consumers become more conscious of their carbon footprint. It has been a central theme in several d3-based events, including the 2023 Dubai Design Week and the last d3 Architecture Exhibition in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). 

Another such example is minimalism, which is particularly popular in interior design, fashion, product design, and architecture. The world is becoming more complex and interconnected, so people seek simpler, more straightforward user experiences.

Dubai Design District

What are some ways in which design is crucial to our everyday life that we might not think about?

Design is embedded in most products or solutions we encounter. It determines the cities and homes in which we live and work, the way we furnish our homes, the way we dress and the products we use on a daily basis. Design is all around us and successful design is meaningful, inspirations, memorable and educational. d3’s global ecosystem captures the versatility of design. Businesses and professionals explore design across fashion, art, interior design, product and furniture design, and architecture every day, reinforcing Dubai’s title as a UNESCO Creative City of Design. 

How does d3 support local design in the Middle East?

As a member of TECOM Group PJSC, Dubai Design District has been at the forefront of local creative and design industries for over a decade. We provide world-class infrastructure to meet the needs of talent and businesses at different stages of growth, meaning we’ve nurtured a global creative community home to multinationals, regional companies, start-ups, upcoming talent and students alike. 

Our district hosts high-profile events and showcases, such as the official Dubai Fashion Week, Dubai Design Week, Downtown Design and Sole DXB, that enable local talent to connect with new markets, investors and partners. d3 is also home to in5 design, DIDI, which offers the region’s first multidisciplinary Bachelor of Design, the FAD Institute of Luxury Fashion and Style, and the first regional campus of L’ÉCOLE School of Jewelry Arts, where people can now learn about the art and history of jewellery design. d3 is truly a global creative ecosystem.  

Who are some of the most exciting designers in the UAE at the moment?

The UAE, particularly Dubai, has established itself as a global creative capital. We have so many outstanding designers doing incredible work across fashion, art, interior design, and architecture. There are really too many exciting names to mention.

Mrs. Keepa

A few d3 names though: Mrs Keepa is amplifying Dubai’s fashion landscape globally, especially with her focus on sustainability and the label’s co-founder and creative director, Mariam Yehia, even collaborated with Sotheby’s Dubai during Dubai Fashion Week to feature the brand’s first couture collection and a selection of fine jewellery and handbags; Desert INK is a d3-based landscape architecture consultancy that was involved in the award-winning Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and they have even worn the ME Architect’s Sustainability Award, underscoring their commitment to sustainable development and design.  

There are a lot of up-and-coming artists to keep an eye out for, too. For example, Hiba Jaber started in in5 and has now matured into a force of nature in the jewellery sector, even creating customised pieces for the royal family of Jordan.  

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