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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Dubai's newest higher education institute attracts students with designs on the future

"The elimination of mundane jobs is taking jobs away — but also replacing the opportunities to design with AI and robotics, apps and games," says dean Sass Brown

Sass Brown, founding dean of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, which opens in Dubai's D3 in September. Antonie Robertson / The National
Sass Brown, founding dean of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, which opens in Dubai's D3 in September. Antonie Robertson / The National

A new non-profit institute in Dubai has had applications for its design course from as far away as South Africa.

The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation is next month launching the country’s first bachelor’s degree of its kind, and has already enrolled students from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, India and South Africa.

The four-year course will cater for an increasing interest in design in the region, and covers fashion and products to multimedia programmes and apps.

“We want to develop local talent in UAE and we hope to play an important role in the design scene in the region,” said Sass Brown, the institute’s dean.

“I see more jobs worldwide. Businesses are understanding the importance of having design thinking. Design has a much more important role in business, and designers are becoming part of the research and development process.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 06 AUGUST 2018. The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation is opening in D3 in September. It's the first design school of its kind in the region. General image from the Institute, preparations pre opening are still ongoing. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Mena Design Education Outlook 2016 by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council said the region would need 30,000 graduates with technical design skills by next year.

In 2014, the design market in the country was valued at $27.6 billion (Dh101.38bn) and $21.7bn in Saudi Arabia.

The institute said the new degree would also teach students the skills to produce robots, mobile apps and games. Up to 75 students will begin studying for the degree next month.

The first year prepares students in design principles.

“Students will learn how they can come up with ideas, where they can seek inspiration, how to brainstorm ideas and how to test and prototype concepts,” Ms Brown said.

At the end of that year, students have to choose two topics from fashion design, product design, multimedia design and strategic design management, which they will then study for three years. They can also pick courses in other disciplines.

Tuition fees for the next academic year are Dh98,000 plus VAT. Scholarships are available. Students are considered based on their understanding of design, academic results, and English language skills.

One of the challenges the institute faces is explaining the difference between art and design, Ms Brown said.

“When people think of design they think of fashion design or photography,” she said. “Art is about self-expression, but design is about problem-solving.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 06 AUGUST 2018. The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation is opening in D3 in September. It's the first design school of its kind in the region. General image from the Institute, preparations pre opening are still ongoing. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 06 AUGUST 2018. The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation is opening in D3 in September. It's the first design school of its kind in the region. General image from the Institute, preparations pre opening are still ongoing. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

There is a vibrant design scene in the UAE, but parents are often reluctant for their children to study it.

“Parents I have talked to in New York and in Dubai are all looking to support their children in something that will allow them to be independent and have a career,” she said.

“People tend to go to the more obvious options like medicine, law or engineering. Design is rising up those ranks.”

Ms Brown said that many companies now had innovation officers and creative officers – positions that did not exist five years ago.

“Designers are being integrated in the ideation and research process, instead of being brought in to make something look pretty,” she said. “Earlier they were not part of the development process.

“The elimination of mundane jobs is taking jobs away, but also replacing them with opportunities to design with AI and robotics, apps and games. We know designers will be in more demand to design those robots.”

The institute is seeking industry collaboration and wants to become a hub to connect research and development with businesses and students.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - July 19th, 2018: Living on Mars workshop that is being held at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at Dubai Design Distrct, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - July 19th, 2018: Living on Mars workshop that is being held at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at Dubai Design Distrct, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Shyamala Elango, director of online education consultancy Inner Universe, said the number of students interested in design had markedly increased in recent years.

“Fashion design, games design, illustration and interior design are some of the popular options,” Ms Elango said.

“There is a demand for young designers because everything is going so visual these days. Designers are needed to prepare visual content.”

She said there would now be interest from people to stay in the UAE and study design.

“In all other subjects such as business and medicine, students have started considering the UAE as an option,” Ms Elango said.

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She said design elements would contribute to media, architecture and create jobs in these areas.

“This will contribute to UAE’s education offerings,” Ms Elango said.

“Creative elements will be a big requirement in the future. Creation of new kinds of cars or buildings and the digital landscape, as well as digital content, will all be changing.”

When it comes to special education needs, enhancing the visual content for them can be complemented by digital technology, she said.

In 2015, the Mena Design Outlook predicted that the design industry in the region would grow at a compound annual rate of at least 6 per cent to reach $55bn by next year.

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