Connecting Minds, Cultures and Creating the Future through Design

AUD’s educational initiatives growing ahead of world events: Expo 2020 & Tokyo Olympics


Keeping in line with the initiatives of Dubai and particularly those of the upcoming Expo 2020, the department of Visual Communication at the American University in Dubai has devised Graphic Design and Printmaking – a new special topics course which was launched this summer semester in order to link together two major international events, both occurring in 2020 – Dubai Expo and the Tokyo Olympics, from a visual perspective – arts and culture being one of the strongest connecters of minds and emotions in the face of other social barriers.


This design initiative is the first project undertaken by the Graphic Design program within the Department of Visual Communication at AUD, and the first contribution of its kind from a higher educational institution towards design thinking and product design for both prestigious world events. As both events will take place in 2020, this was an ideal opportunity to visually connect them. Taking cue from the Expo 2020 motto, it is a way to connect minds between the UAE and Japan, while also creating a future that connects these disparate parts of Asia.


In the culmination of the course, an exhibition took place which saw the students present their final projects in the presence of Mr. Masataka Sugimoto – Japanese Vice-Consul, Economics, Political Affairs and Cultural Section, special guests and the AUD Community.


The course was the brainchild of Mr. Takeshi Iwata, a Japanese Fashion Designer based in Kyoto, who designs both Japanese kimonos and Middle Eastern abayas – exploring their design synergy since 2011 and Luis Castañeda, Professor of Graphic Design at AUD, who led the students throughout the project.


“This project has been about taking inspiration from the UAE vision and making connections. Connecting or rather re-connecting through craft and design two countries, two regions, and two cultures. The results are amazing and we hope that this project inspires others to communicate through the international language of design,” commented Prof. Castañeda.


For their final projects students were asked to design several 2D patterns that visually connect both events and apply them to two basic types of traditional dress; a Japanese Yukata/Kimono and a scarf. This traditional dress and accessory have been selected for three main reasons: both are directly associated with and make up traditional dress; both are made out of fabric which connects at a material level with a long and shared tradition in trade in textiles between both cultures. These two cultures share a long history contributing, sharing and being influenced by each other; and, given the nature of the course, a connection was made between graphics, textiles and fashion.


The technology chosen and explored for this course, was stencil design because it connects with Japan’s ancient form of textile-dyeing for the Kimono and Katagami. This also was a platform for exploring and innovating technology, which is a main theme of the World Expo. Our main purpose has been to use technology to connect Japan with the UAE in a visual way.


“I am overwhelmed by not only the textile designs created by Visual Communication students that combine design elements from EXPO 2020 with those created for the 2020 OLYMPICS, but that this initiative also aims to build bridges between the UAE and Japan. As part of this process, we look forward to continuing to grow our creative design exchanges between Dubai and Japan,” said Dr. Woodman Taylor, Chair – Department of Visual Communications at AUD.


Speaking on the special topics course, student Maryam Al Falasi commented: “this course gave us the opportunity to merge the practices of printmaking and graphic design. Following the theme of the upcoming events of both Expo 2020 and Olympics 2020, we were able to create graphical patterns by using different techniques of printmaking, this course emphasizes the vital role that graphic design plays in the identity behind these forthcoming world events. The course allowed me to have a better understanding of how graphic design, a universal language, is implemented in large-scale events.


It is a privilege as an individual to be part of these universal events. By bringing these future events together, I was able to unchain the cultural borders between Dubai and Tokyo and merge these incredibly diverse cultures together.”


In a bid to prepare for the increasingly globalized market and in the shadow of such great world events, AUD is committed to creating and leading education initiatives that prepare students to enter the workplace while taking advantage of the opportunities that will be available for students who graduate in the build up to these events, and to be develop active, creative and analytical members of the community who can take part and be positive contributors in the wake of social progress and innovation.