Destination Design Entrepreneurship: A column by Khalid Shafar
Mapping things out, following forums in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
Regionally, at the top of my hot list is design entrepreneurship. I have just returned from two business trips where I participated in design forums: Benchmark Design Forum in Kuwait last month and Saudi Design Week in Riyadh earlier this month. Interestingly, both participations were about design entrepreneurship.
I was thrilled with both the Kuwaiti and Saudi audiences, and very inspired by what I experienced. Lots of energy and enthusiasm from a very young crowd – both forums brought together a real representation of the creative industry in their respective countries.
The objective of both was to move creatives from passion to career; to emerge aspiring designers into the professional creative circle. This is very much needed across the Gulf region were many of our creatives were born by passion instead of education and grow their talent as a hobby (or a side practice) rather than a full time career. For different reasons, only a few make it to the professional circle.
So, what are those reasons? Listening to the thought-provoking discussions at both cities, by what was a fairly good representation of the region's creative audience, it is clear that young creatives are still facing a big struggle to be recognised and make it into the design league. Many have pursued different careers than what they really want. Many have been driven by financial comfort; some to conform to cultural expectations and others simply because they don't know how to make it (a career born by passion, not obligation) happen.
It's sad to see this diversion from our 'highway to design' – which has ultimately led to our delay, and absence, from the global design map.
Can design entrepreneurship be the new destination? Can it bring back together all these diversions to one road? I have to believe the answer is a resounding "Yes!"
From what I saw in both Kuwait and Saudi, it is clear that the next generation of designers have set their GPS towards this destination through creative initiatives, design projects, emerging online businesses, and more. These entrepreneurs have chosen design as career to trade with and to learn from. They have realised that despite the lack of formal education in some design fields at most regional higher education institutions, they can venture in to design by promoting and commercialising the work of their local designers and talents.
Some have also tested their disciplines and put them into action by creating commercial design work. All in all, design entrepreneurship has the possibility and immense potential to drive this emerging force of design in the region. It's here to work side by side with our local and regional designers to expose and export design beyond our geographical boundaries...