The MENA Design Research Center is a non-profit organization based in Beirut, Lebanon. Founded in 2011, it remains one the region's few institutions that focus on Design as a multidisciplinary tool for social development and research. In 2012, the center initiated and organized the first Beirut Design Week, which set off the beginning of design weeks in the Middle East & North Africa.
The goal of the organization is to use design research methodologies as tools for the creative and critical development of cultural projects, education and social entrepreneurship. Through multidisciplinary and participatory team work, strategies are built and refined in order to reach the most impactful and feasible results. The range of activities of the center include workshop design and facilitation, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, publications and festivals.
The creative process involved in problem finding & solving -whether in communications, products, systems or services- could be applied to a varied scale of disciplines and fields. The MENA Design Research Center promotes this diverse understanding of design through the implementation of design research and collaborative multidisciplinary projects in the region.
MENA DRC contributes to a variety of social issues by developing innovative tools through design thinking and co-creation. The center is also closely linked to design education in order to encourage and guide the participation of designers in the non-commercial, public, and non-profit domains.
Mission and Objectives
To develop awareness of the value of design research to any project or organization
To work in collaboration with universities and schools to develop this form of methodology and apply it in curricula
To link the MENA region to the global world of design research and depict an image of the region linked with innovation and progressive thinking through arts and culture
To support multidisciplinary cultural exchange between the MENA region and its neighbours
To use design research to develop cultural projects with social impact
To use design research to formulate critical thinking through cultural projects such as exhibitions, conferences, workshops..etc.
To encourage multidisciplinary teamwork through participatory workshops and events
To highlight social and environmental challenges of the MENA region as opportunities for creatives to tackle
To teach social entrepreneurship skills to creatives in order to develop ideas into sustainable businesses or organizations
To publish information relevant to design research and critical thinking from the MENA region
To be inclusive and non-elitist by reformulating the work of the organization to the public through accessible means such as entrance-free festivals and public interventions
Members of MENA DRC
Doreen Toutikian, President and Founding Director
Doreen Toutikian is an multidisciplinary designer and a cultural entrepreneur. She holds a Master’s degree from Koeln International School of Design in European Design Studies and a bachelor’s in Communication Design from Notre Dame University. Her book, 'Design Education in the Middle East' was awarded the Cologne Design Prize in 2010.
Her professional experience involves a range of projects that deal with strategic planning, service design, branding, and user experience. In 2008/9 she spent a year in the product & service design department of the Glasgow School of Art working on projects with Skills Development Scotland, Careers Scotland, and HooverCandy. In 2010, she returned to Beirut to focus her career on building a collective designer community and enhancing the understanding of design and research in the region. She became head of Research & Development for TAGBrands, a branding agency, while also establishing MENA Design Research Center.
She believes that the key to all successful design is collaboration. This belief has inspired her to initiate various projects in order to encourage multidisciplinary teamwork for social innovation. Such projects include Public Design Intervention: Beirut (2010), Desmeem: Rethinking Design though Cross-Cultural Collaboration (2012), Beirut Design Week (2012), and Disrupt!/Design!/ Beirut (2015).
She is currently co-founder, president of the board and director of MENA Design Research Center, and Director of Beirut Design Week. She is also an educator on design research methods in various Lebanese universities, often serving as a mentor or jury member for student projects and start-ups.
In addition to her work in Lebanon, Doreen has been a guest speaker at various conferences around the world. She is a board member of the International Gender Design Network, member of the International Advisory Board of 'Board of International Research in Design/BIRD,' fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, fellow and connector of the Royal Society of Arts , and a member of the Young Cultural Innovators of the British Council. Doreen is an avid traveler, speaks five languages, and once in a while tinkers with her first profession: graphic design.
Vrouyr Joubanian, Vice President and Head of Academic Programs
Vrouyr is a multidisciplinary designer whose sustainable design strategies and work in design education aim to create social and systems change. A former Fulbright scholar Vrouyr holds two master’s degrees in industrial design and product design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Beirut’s Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA) respectively. Vrouyr’s passion for human-centered design led him to become the co-founder of Beirut Design Week and the Program Manager at the MENA Design Research Center.
Vrouyr’s diverse work portfolio includes social systems consulting, product design, and design education. His work product engages with a variety of materials and forms. From tables inspired by Lebanese spices to glass films aimed at disrupting politico-religious images of authority figures, his design process reflects a consistent sensitivity to cultural norms.
Vrouyr’s co-creative methods aim to build trust, empathy, and engagement with stakeholders, facilitating collaborative design solutions to complex problems. During his tenure as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, Vrouyr brought together an independent collective of students, designers, professionals, and partner institutions to explore the value of human-centered design in Lebanon. Continuously in a process of community engagement and collaboration Vrouyr regularly hosts workshops that aim to spark organizational change and international public conversation.
He currently serves on the faculty of the Department of Design’s Global Design Program at ALBA, where he also serves on the curriculum committee and acts as the outreach coordinator. In addition to his work in higher education, Vrouyr serves on the advisory board for Waraq, a design collective and NGO. Fluent in four languages, when not doing innovative human-centered design, Vrouyr practices photography and goes on runs with his dog.
Dima Boulad, Board Member: Head of Entrepreneurial Programs
Dima Boulad is a Lebanese designer with a passion for positive social change. After graduating in Graphic Design and specialising in Motion, she now art directs motion graphics projects. Based in Beirut, she cultivates Dessine-moi un oeil as her artist side project. In 2011, she co- founded Beirut Green Project, a collective aiming to have more usable and well-maintained public green spaces in Beirut. Dima is a Salzburg Global Seminar fellow and a member of the MENA Design Research Center.
Abbas Sbeity, Member of MENA DRC & Project Manager of Beirut Design Week
Abbas Sbeity is a multipotentialite designer and a social entrepreneur. He is the founder of Architects for Change, a youth organization that focuses on the role of design in community building and sustainable development. The organization empowers young architects and designers to address communities’ most pressing problems.
He is a fellow at Groundwork in New Orleans, with the Community Solutions Program, where he is developing a youth and community engagement model in urban and environmental affairs. He is a member of the MENA Design Research Center, where he was the project coordinator for Beirut Design Week in 2015 and 2016.
With five years of professional experience in design, management, and youth education, Abbas focuses on community engagement, participatory design, and youth empowerment. He develops, leads, mentors, and facilitates a variety of youth programs and community building projects with local and international organizations, such as Loyac, Beyond Learning, TeensWhoCode, and Nahnoo.
Abbas’s leadership has been recognized by the European Commission in 2016, where he was selected as a Young Leader to speak at the European Development Days in Brussels. He also received the Hesselbein Medal for Leadership and Civic Engagement from the Hesselbein Global Academy at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA. He is a fellow at the Young Leaders program by the Swedish Institute, and a member of Ashoka’s Changemakerxchange and MitOst.
Joumana Ibrahim, Member of MENA DRC
Joumana Ibrahim graduated with an MA from the London College of Communications (LCC) after obtaining a BA in graphic design and a minor in fine arts from the Lebanese American University. Her focus at LCC was on information design, including her Master's thesis, focusing on a spatial analysis of Hamra and Geitawi streets in Beirut.
Upon returning to Lebanon in 2006, she worked as an art director at Leo Burnett Beirut, serving a vast array of leading Lebanese and international brands, and winning a number of regional and international awards. These awards made her realize the importance of constantly challenging herself creatively & the value of giving back by helping young aspiring designers hone their talent. She dedicates most of her time teaching courses and workshops at LAU (Lebanese American University), and ALBA (Académie Libanaise des Beaux Arts).
Joumana is currently working as a freelance graphic designer/art director for local and international brands, and is teaching in several universities across Lebanon.
Asil Sidahmed, Member of MENA DRC
Asil Sidahmed is Humanitarian Advisor for MSF in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Prior to joining MSF, Asil worked at a development consulting firm where she managed a team in Yemen. Since then, her consulting career has involved designing empirically driven programmes that address conflict and justice-related issues. As her consulting assignments shifted from a development to a humanitarian focus – most notably in early 2016 where she assisted a needs assessment of refugees and migrants along the migrant trail in the Balkans and Greece – she joined MSF as a humanitarian advisor.
Asil is a Sudanese North-Londoner, born in Prague and based in Beirut. She’s bilingual in Arabic and English. She holds an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Oxford, Wolfson College and a BA in Anthropology of Religion from Lancaster University, Furness College. Her publications have appeared in Muftah, Yemen Today, the Sana’a Center, Audio Kultur and the Arab Centre for Social Sciences.
Dr. Dima Saber, Member of MENA DRC
Dr. Dima Saber is a Senior Research Fellow at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (Birmingham City University). She holds a PhD in Media Studies, an MA in Social and Political Sciences and an MA in Semiotics from the University of Pantheon-Assas, Paris II. Her research is focussed on media depictions of conflict in the Arab region, and she is responsible for leading and delivering projects in citizen journalism, particularly exploring the relation between digital media literacy and social impact in post-revolution and in conflict settings such as Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Her latest publications include work on crowd-sourced Syrian archives as memories of the Syrian war (in Archives and Records, 2017), on Hezbollah and IS videogames productions (in Media, Culture and Society, 2016), and on Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the July 2006 war (in The Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research, 2016). She is currently writing a monograph titled ‘Archives of War: Narrating 60 Years of Conflict in the MENA’ which looks at the relation between media archives of conflict and processes of history making, since the rise of Pan-Arab radio in Egypt in the 1950ies, until new ICTs made possible the emergence of citizen narratives of conflict in contexts such as Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
She is also the founder of M&E Lab (firstname.lastname@example.org); based at BCMCR, the lab speaks to current concerns in co-design, co-creation and collaborative research and community projects, through developing quantitative and qualitative methods for the impact assessment of Media, Arts and Design projects. She has also been running, since 2014, the Check project, in partnership with Meedan and a network of Arab partners in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. As part of this project, she is currently working with 22 young journalism students from both branches of the Faculty of Information and Communication at the Lebanese University, training them on new media tools, digital literacy and multimedia journalism. Together they have formed a mobile student newsroom which aims at covering events in Lebanon and the Arab region, with a focus on conferences, seminars and workshops that look at the interplay between media, new ICTs and social change in post 2011-MENA.
Diala Lteif, Member of MENA DRC
Diala is currently a doctoral researcher at the Geography and Planning department at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on displacement due to conflict with a particular focus on Beirut, Lebanon. Prior to her research in the urban realm, Diala was an information and process designer with extensive experience in data visualization, community work, and field research. Her work explored design-led research, participatory methods, systems thinking, and storytelling, all tools she used to address pressing social issues and complex problems. She is a Trillium awardee, a Fulbright scholar and has an MFA in transdisciplinary Design from Parsons the New School for Design. She served for 3-years as full-time faculty and assistant director to the design department at ALBA (Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts), where she taught the global design studio to first year masters students.
She is a board member of the MENA Design Research Center and a design trainer/facilitator who introduces design thinking methodologies through interactive hands-on workshops. In the past few years, she has helped organize several design events such as the Beirut Service Jam (Lebanese edition of the Global Service Jam), Disrupt!/Design!/ an initiative in partnership with Hivos, and Design Toolbox with GAIA heritage. In her free time, she is a freelance information architect at Visualizing Palestine, a writer at the Outpost magazine and an avid podcast listener.
Tatiana Toutikian, Member of MENA DRC
Tatiana Toutikian is a multidisciplinary human-centered designer who focuses on interactions between humans and technology. She holds a Masters degree in Collaborative and Industrial Design (COid) from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland and a Bachelor of Interior Architecture and Product Design from ALBA (Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts) from Beirut, Lebanon.
Tatiana’s previous work experience includes positions in Finland, China and Japan. At the Shanghai office of Frog, the world renown global design consultancy, she worked with the interaction design team for clients such as GSMA for the mAgri project, developing socio-economic strategies for agriculture development through the use of mobile networks. Previously, she had been a design research and communications fellow at Hello Ruby in Helsinki, where she developed strategies that strenghthened the company’s mission to teach coding to kids using offline methods. To further pursue her interest in technology and design, she enrolled in a project developed by Chiba university in collaboration with Aalto, where participants were asked to design futuristic transport concepts for the Japanese Ministry of Transport.
Throughout her studies, Tatiana spent over two years in the Media Lab Helsinki designing tangible and auditory user interfaces, exploring different forms of embodied interaction, interactive prototyping, coding and programming. She has also volunteered for the education summit in the IXDA (Interaction Design Association) in Helsinki.
Lately, Tatiana is interested in the critical nature of design, and how to think about it beyond the role of design for business, technology and social impact. After many years abroad, Tatiana moved back to her hometown in Beirut, where she joined the MENA Design Research Center team. She is a strong influencer on the center’s programs and strategies. In the coming years, she would like to develop more educational programs for children. In her spare time Tatiana collects synths to make music and soundscapes; she is also unusually good at making up rap rhymes about almost anything.
Patil Tchilinguirian, Member of MENA DRC
Born in Lebanon of Armenian origins, Patil is a multidisciplinary design based in Montreal. Fusing her passion for art and design for social justice, her work uses data visualization, digital storytelling, and textile arts tackling a panoply of contextual socio-cultural subjects and political narratives. Patil’s work has appeared in various group exhibitions in Beirut, Barcelona, Istanbul and Venice.
She is currently a masters of Design student at Concordia University with a focus on data-driven wearables and smart fashion electronics. Previously, she received a bachelor of graphic design and a minor in fine arts from the Lebanese American University.
Tamara Barrage, Member of MENA DRC
Tamara Barrage is a Lebanese Artist and Product Designer based in Beirut. After earning a masters degree in Product Design from ALBA (Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts) in 2011, Tamara pursued a second master’s degree from Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands specializing in Contextual Design.
Upon her return to her hometown, Beirut, in 2014, Tamara engaged in exploring the tactile and sensorial characteristics of the various materials. Using an array of experimental techniques, Tamara aspires to better articulate how forms and textures provoke our senses, emotions and memories.
Tamara participated in several renowned international exhibitions including, Maison et Objet (Paris), House of Today (Beirut), Athr gallery (Jeddah), Design Days Dubai (Dubai), Biennale Internationale de Design (St Etienne), Salone el Mobile (Milan)…