The first International Design Conference 2017 was held between February 21 and 23 2017, in collaboration between the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) and Kennesaw State University, Georgia.
Sponsored by the US State Department of Higher Education Academic Exchange Partners Program, the conference’s primary objective was to demonstrate the power and potential of design in creating viable and sustainable solutions to social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges. The audience primarily included design students, and the Conference featured design professionals from around the world sharing their experiences and talking about the projects they had helped implement.
The keynote address was delivered by Professor Mehrdad Hadighi of the Pennsylvania State University, and focused on the link between philosophy and design. After that, Anthony Tranchina, Cultural Attaché, US Consulate General, Karachi, expressed how the conference could serve as a model for forthcoming ones in Karachi, a city that he likened to New York. Dr Jawaid Haider, Professor and Dean of Academics, IVS, spoke of the symbiotic relationship between design education and practice. These speeches were followed by workshops for IVS students on myriad subjects including videography, vitamin printmaking, illustrations, portraiture, and ceramics.
The second and third day of the Conference entailed design professionals from fields such as architecture, fine art, advertising and photography, reading out their published papers (these were followed by short Q & A sessions).
Perhaps the paper which was most locally relevant was Sustainability and Built Environment presented by architect Mahrukh Samad who proposed solutions on how alternate energy resources (such as natural wind and light) and design elements (such as minarets and courtyards) can be used together to create sustainable architectural solutions.
Design and Social Responsibility, presented by architect Danish Zuby highlighted the need for socially responsible design – whether it is in product packaging, designing bridges and buildings, or working on creative ad campaigns – and how “design has the power to heal or hurt.”
In the ‘Phantasm of Advertising’ session, photographer Naila Mahmood presented the case study of Junaid Jamshed’s ‘Soully East’ campaign – highlighting the trend of conservative or religion-based advertising and how it can prove to be very regressive if not done right.
Ali Rez, Creative Director at Impact BBDO talked about using advertising as a “protest device” and for bringing about social change. The session engendered active discussion among the audience who especially questioned the long-term sustainability of ‘NGO-funded projects’ and how they should be scaled on a greater commercial level.
Keeping in mind the significance of new media in communications and design, the session ‘Reversion: Spreading Stories through Instagram’ by Ammad Tahir (Lecturer at IVS) also provided valuable insight. Tahir spoke about how Instagram can serve to be a visual platform for budding and seasoned artists, connecting them all on a global platform, and opening new career/creative avenues for them.
Another session that stood out was ‘Research through Design: Using Fozia’s house as a case study’ by Zohaib Zuby of IVS, which emphasised the need to construct more affordable housing projects in Karachi – and why architects and urban planners need to take more interest in low-cost housing, and not just elaborate, expensive housing and construction schemes.
Despite the diversity of topics, which ranged from sustainable design to advertising to integrating culture in design, unfortunately, barring a couple of sessions, there wasn’t much interactivity between the audience and the speakers/panellists. However, on the whole, the conference was a holistic learning experience. Most speakers gave practical solutions to the problems, solutions which private practitioners and even students can implement, and not depend on the government. The take home message was clear – that design is powerful, needs to be understood, respected and celebrated.