Sass Brown on Disrupting Education in Dubai

A place without the inheritance of outmoded systems, and out of date structures, the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) is the result of vision, commitment and investment from people that dare to dream. Founding Dean, Sass Brown, shares her journey from New York to Dubai, and tells us what disruption in design and education means to her

Design at its best is problem solving, is forward thinking, it challenges the status quo, it’s sustainable, it’s cross disciplinary, it’s technological and it’s slow and considered, but much of the time that is not how it is taught. The systems of fashion and product design, of business, and education are behind the curve of innovation. They are not forward thinking on the whole, or challenging the status quo, they are supporting it, and change makers and disruptors like myself have grown tired of nibbling around the edges, and finding work around’s. It’s time for disruption on another scale, and I have been afforded the rare opportunity to affect much greater change in the form of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), so I moved continents to take on that challenge.

The move to Dubai for me was a chance to see what could be built by visionary people in a place without the inheritance of outmoded systems and out of date structures. DIDI is the epitome of blue sky thinking; it is a design school built from scratch with no restrictions. It takes its foundation from two ground-breaking institutions that don’t fit into the usual mold of design education; MIT and Parsons the New School, both of whom partnered with DIDI to build the curricular base, and with whom we continue to collaborate. DIDI is the result of vision, commitment and investment from people that dare to dream, and who want to lead the region and the world in design and innovation, and why not? Dubai is one of the few places in the world able to commit to the long-term strategic planning necessary to deliver on such a vision.

The mission of DIDI is to anchor an entire design community, one that spans aspirational designers, makers and emerging designers, all the way through to luxury brands, and across disciplines. Supporting, collaborating, sharing, and building bridges between stakeholders, DIDI want to ensure success at every level of the design community. DIDI’s vision is to support creative talent in the region and further afield, to expose them to the best education possible, and produce a generation of world changers.

The past few years for me in New York, and prior to that in Italy, were spent writing, teaching, sharing, speaking, connecting and curating ethical fashion content. The outcome of which, was two books, a website, newsletter, a host of articles in the commercial and the academic space, workshops, an annual conference, panels and speaking engagements, all to share the stories of conscious designers from DUMBO makers to South Korean upcyclers. I was a part of a supportive, sharing community of change makers that grew up at the same pace as my writing, engagement and activism. Rarely have I felt part of such a community that collectively pushed boundaries and challenged assumptions. It was that experience that led me to believe in the power to design a better future, and the ability to design change. My writing has always been global in scope.

I believe that the future of design is diverse, a collaboration and collection of change makers, a community of creators, artisans and designers around the world that connect remotely, share stories and support each others work. The change makers of today are small and nimble, they are scattered around the globe, and they are impacting how we do business, how and what we buy, and how we define success. They are designing a better a future with more considered solutions and conscious designs. DIDI is an opportunity to support that vision on a grander scale, and in an educational setting. It is the opportunity I have been looking for that allows me to connect my two worlds; the world of education, and the world of sustainable design solutions. And what better place to do that in than Dubai, and at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation? Watch this space…