\"When words fail, art becomes our primary language\" – Designer, Maha Al Sudairi

"When words fail, art becomes our primary language" – Designer, Maha Al Sudairi

Forging a design path

Text: Faizal Dahlawia

Image: Think Tank Co

From creating one-of-a-kind concept pieces to developing a platform for designers, Maha Al Sudairi continues her design revolution.

Dubai Design Week is officially underway and one of the must-see highlights is a unique installation by Saudi design firm Think Tank Co. titled, "Takki W Hakki". The latest project, a swing set, draws on memories of the past while infusing them with the present, creating a sensory experience that uniquely reflects the individual's life experiences. Buro 24/7 Middle East speaks with designer Maha Al Sudairi about the installation concept, Dubai Design Week and the future of the industry...

You're the CEO, Founder and Creative Director of Think Tank Co. in KSA. Why did you create the design firm? Was there a niche need that was not addressed?

Yes! It all started when I was studying aboard. I came across a class on how to create services that fill gaps. It was then, that my instructor looked at me and said: "You're lucky in Saudi, you have a hungry market, with gaps waiting to be filled". That ignited my passion and commitment to draft a business plan that would not only enable me, but a generation of like-minded passionate, driven and ignited individuals! I wanted to give them a platform of freedom of expression, experimentation and never ending exploration in art, design or marketing. 

Interview with designer Maha Al Sudairi

The design industry in KSA has certainly exploded. Yet, Dubai still leads the pack. How do you think events like Dubai Design Week help the regional arts scene?

They enable expression of creativity. When words fail, art becomes our primary language and creates a connection between creative souls. It enables a region to express itself.


You're here to showcase Think Tank Co.'s design project titled "Takki W Hakki". Tell us about this installation...

We are excited to be showcasing "Takki W Hakki" for the first time in Dubai at Rove Downtown Dubai in partnership with 1971 Design Space. The idea behind the installation was driven from team brainstorming, on finding the contemporary twist on a simple childhood memory. Recalling our most cherished memories, the playground swing was the highlight of our reminiscence. We decided to let the swaying movement invoke this feeling, while introducing a contemporary lift. The camel saddle-shaped seats feature Sadu-printed cushions and attached to each swing is a headset, which plays songs that mix old instruments with modern language. Then, neon lights visually reference the green lights on ice cream trucks, a common sight in the '80s in cities along the two main coasts of Saudi Arabia. Overall, "Takki W Hakki" layers various routes, temporalities and elements of nostalgia to create an overpowering sensory experience. Senses that trigger past memories, or give sight to the Saudi heritage in its present culture. 

Interview with designer Maha Al Sudairi

Speaking of heritage, and as the world gets smaller and ideas and disciplines come together, is there a place for authentic traditional Arabic art in the future?

Definitely! The beauty is the translation it goes through in every era. Vice versa, it is also beautiful to watch things unfold when international artists look at Islamic art from their perspective as a source of inspiration. The smaller the world, the more beautiful this multi-disciplinary translation falls into place.

What then, are the top three misconceptions about artists in Saudi?

That they are limited to Islamic and cultural art. The current art scene depicts the artist's individuality rather than cultural influences. A number of them are very connected and informed by the international art scenes and trends. Finally, that they do not have international exposure when in fact, a substantial number of Saudi artists are now exhibiting at international museums and art shows, whether as a collective or individual.

What's next for Think Tank Co.?

We would also like to create an organically-growing universal art installation! At the end of the day, our slogan is: "We are dreamers with two feet on the ground". You see, we are heavy dreamers, and when we dream, we dream big. But we are anchored to reality, with the core of bringing those dreams to life.

View the "Takki W Hakki" installation by Think Tank Co at Rove Downtown Dubai now. Also discover what to do, see and experience at the 2016 Dubai Design Week.