MIT to help Dubai launch a new undergraduate institution focused on design

School of Architecture and Planning will develop curriculum, courses for Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation.

MIT and the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) announced today a strategic collaboration in which faculty from the School of Architecture and Planning will help launch the new undergraduate educational institution in Dubai focused on design.

DIDI will offer the region’s first undergraduate degree in design, featuring concentrations in products, arts, media, strategies and management, and fashion. The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York has also entered into an agreement to assist with the DIDI curriculum.

“Dubai’s commitment to design education affirms the growing importance of design as a means to improve the relationship between human beings and their environment,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “We could not be more enthusiastic about working with Dubai to foster design talent and to promote design and design thinking as powerful tools for building a better world.”

DIDI will be a private, non-profit educational institution that will be accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. It was formally announced at an event hosted in the Dubai Design District (d3), which was established in 2013 to promote the country as a hub for design and fashion by creating a sustainable design ecosystem, stimulating trade and tourism through design and fashion activities, and — with DIDI at its heart — developing and attracting local and regional design talent.

"We’ve witnessed the immense potential of design-oriented disciplines to contribute to and transform culture and society," said J. Meejin Yoon, professor and head of the Department of Architecture. “Our faculty are excited to work with our counterparts at DIDI to build the new institution and its foundational curriculum and look forward to the impact this unique institution will yield on design education and industry locally and globally.”

DIDI will be housed within The Creative Community at d3 in a new, 100,000-square-foot facility with the capacity to accommodate 550 students. Designed by Foster and Partners as a “mega studio,” the layout will seek to enable collaboration between design disciplines and to bring students and faculty together in a dynamic environment.

According to the “MENA Design Report,” a recent study from the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), design is driving innovation and economic growth for the Emirate and the Middle East and North Africa region. The study estimated that design-related industry contributed more than $100 billion to the regional economy in 2014 — with Dubai as the largest market — and projected continued growth at double the pace of the global design sector.

“DIDI will be a platform which is strategically critical for talent development in the region, and this is aligned with our mission to invest in and support the youth of tomorrow,” said Amina Al Rustamani, chair of DDFC and Group CEO TECOM Group. “By harnessing the expertise of world-class institutions such as MIT and Parsons and incubating students within the design community here at d3, we have the unique opportunity to positively shape the future of the design economy in the region, whilst also empowering new design industry leaders simultaneously.”

The MIT/DIDI agreement sets the stage for support for specific activities and initiatives from faculty in the School of Architecture and Planning, including the Department of Architecture, the Media Lab, and other departments and centers. DIDI is expected to open in the fall of 2019.

Originally published October 24, 2016 by Tom Gearty, MIT School of Architecture and Planning for MIT News.