An important component of the 2014-2015 academic year was the Tasmeem Doha biennial international conference (held from March 8-12). The 2015 edition focused on the theme of “playfulness” as expressed by the Arabizi word 3ajeeb! (ahh-jhee-b) meaning “strange in a strange way, cool in a cool way, and slightly weird in a slightly weird way.” The conference featured several distinct programs that coalesced into five days of exhibitions, events, and happenings. The 3ajeeb! studios were lead by international artists, designers, musicians, writers, tinkerers, and playful thinkers.

With Levi Hammett and Michael Hersrud serving as co-directors for the conference, there was a strong incentive from the entire Graphic Design Department to support the conference. Through a range of innovative activities, many faculty members integrated 3ajeeb! projects into their courses, and also found ways to collaborate with other disciplines and designers across the region. For instance, Basma Hamdy and I collaborated with Mahatat to build wonderboxes with Junior Graphic Design students, along with 3ajeeb! studio participants.

We also paired with Matthew Dallimore and Liam Colquhoun (IDES) on an interdisciplinary project to synthesize a brand for a hypothetical Tasmeem 3ajeeb! Retail store. Students from Graphic Design were paired with students from Interior Design to conceptualize and develop the outcomes collaboratively. This project highlights interdisciplinary collaboration between departments at VCUQ and trains students for collaborative experiences in design practice.

I also worked with designer Stefan Messam to bring the “Nomadic Dolls” project to the Graphic Design Department as a playful activity in Fall 2014 before the 3ajeeb! workshop during the conference.

As part of Tasmeem 2015 activities, I served as the faculty liaison for the Nomadic Doll workshop. Led by designer and illustrator Stefan Messam, the 3-day workshop engaged participants in the creation and customization of Nomadic Dolls. Participants explored a range of techniques and themes, eventually creating a unique and personal figure. The final result incorporated character interaction and narrative.

The resulting group exhibition was displayed in Saffron Hall, from March 12–13, 2015.