Fabio Moon, the renowned contemporary artist, said: “The more we wait, the more everything and everyone looks like a grain of sand escaping between our fingers, before vanishing into the wind.”
This quote resonated with me when the pandemic ended one of the best ideas I have ever had. This was when the world was normal; people were on the streets, watching movies in the cinemas, exploring holiday destinations and enjoying weekends with friends and family without the dark cloud of Covid-19 hovering over their heads. Dubai was gearing up for Expo 2020 and everyone in technology and the arts had begun to fight tooth and nail for a chance to present their work there.
The gears started turning in my favour when I was approached by a well-known personality in the arts to work on a project for Expo 2020. I set up a meeting with them to test if this was something I wanted to undertake... and voila! Here was a project I had been waiting to design. It involved creating an interactive experience for the Pakistan Pavilion. I had to design interactive apps to represent different aspects of Pakistan that people from around the world could interact with.
The magnitude and potential impact of this project gave me goose bumps! Expo 2020 had almost 190 countries coming together at one of the biggest global gatherings in the history of creativity, collaboration and innovation.
I had many ideas... The Pakistan Pavilion would be welcoming millions of people from around the world who would interact with the space, virtually travelling to Pakistan to learn about our culture, our traditions, our social dilemmas and discover an architecture that contains a rich history of the region… and more. One of the ideas was to design a kiosk-based interactive interface where people would be able to use hand gestures to control the app’s functions and explore the virtual content. The other idea was augmented reality filters - people would use social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat to share their experiences of Expo 2020’s Pakistan Pavilion.
My and the team’s ideas resonated with the client and we were ready to close the deal... but fate had a different plan. Covid-19 struck and the world went into lockdown. Isn’t it devastating when you are this close to getting such a project off the ground and then things turn upside down? It was a testing time but it was also a time where I took a leap of faith for a better future.
I have always believed that good things happen when your faith is strong, and my belief was reaffirmed when my company was acquired by a larger technology firm last December. This gave me the opportunity to work on bigger projects with various new technologies with no financial or creative restraints, and now every project I get is as good as the one from Expo 2020.
Umair Ali Khatri is the Head of User Experience and Design at 10Pearls. He founded TwoDots Design Studio, which was acquired by his current firm.