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CAAD interior design students have confidence and a competitive advantage
The UAE design market is one of the leading economic drivers for 2019, with the recent MENA Design Outlook report projecting US$ 35.9 billion to be brought into the UAE this year through design projects, largely propelled by Expo2020.
Interior design students from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) are watching eagerly to see the impact of this year’s Dubai Design Week from November 11 to 16.
Every year, CAAD contributes at least 16 graduate interior designers to the UAE design market. Despite the competition of international talent, CAAD graduates continue to be highly employable due to the high quality of skill and experience they bring to a project, even fresh out of university.
For senior interior design student Sana Fathima, having professional experience ahead of graduation is a game-changer. Since her second year of studies, Fathima has been involved in real-world projects, learning the invaluable skills of managing client relationships, dealing with suppliers and contractors, and seeing the tangible outcomes of her design concepts.
“In 2018, I worked on an installation project for Ellington Properties with a team of other AUS design students. We started from the design concept and saw the project through from start to finish, communicating and interacting with the client, and building a network of suppliers,” said Fathima.
“This experience, as well as the work I did with Preciosa Lighting last summer, has given me a great deal of confidence in my final year of studies, especially in my senior design-build module,” she said.
The Bachelor of Interior Design program was introduced at CAAD in 1997 and since then has produced some of the region’s finest talent. CAAD graduates have gone on to work in or establish leading design firms, while others are pursuing graduate studies at some of the world’s top institutions.
Noteworthy alumni include Pallavi Dean who was recognized as Young Interior Designer of the Year in 2010 by Commercial Interior Design (CID). Since then she has continued to receive accolades and international awards for her work as founder and creative director of leading Dubai-based interior design firm, Roar.
And this year’s nominees for CID Interior Designer of the Year also included CAAD graduate Alaa Mohamed, who worked under Dean before joining Dubai firm XBD Collective. Only three years on from graduation, Mohamed is already being hailed as a designer of influence in the regional market.
So what is CAAD’s recipe for success? According to Fathima, it’s CAAD’s holistic approach to design education that makes the difference.
“As a CAAD student, I’ve undoubtedly received a very solid grounding in design practice as well as design thinking. Our ‘culture of making’ means that we are constantly making, creating and learning from doing. But even more than that, I’ve learned practical life skills like time management and interpersonal communication that are essential in professional practice,” said Fathima.
“Throughout our studies, we’re trained how to talk to a client, how to present our designs and ideas, and how to interact with contractors and suppliers. Since we have the opportunity to work with the amazing facilities in the CAAD labs, we’ve also refined our craft so we really know what we are doing,” she said.
The CAAD labs are considered the best-equipped in the region and include comprehensive facilities for woodworking, metal working, pottery, casting, laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC cutting, industrial robotics, audio/video production, photography, printmaking and physical computing. Students receive hand-on experience and application as an essential component of their design education at CAAD.
Despite the high competition in securing internships last summer in the lead up to Expo2020, CAAD students were consistently picked up by the top design firms in the region, with some even securing international internships.
“Being a CAAD student has definitely given me a great deal of confidence and a clear advantage over my competitors,” said Fathima.
“I’ve asked professionals, and they’ve told me that if they had the choice between working with a CAAD student or a student from another institution, they’d choose CAAD every time,” she said.
The graduating class of interior design students for Spring 2020 is an all-female cohort, and according to Fathima they’re more than ready to join the professionals.
“The current interior design market seems to be playing it safe at the moment. This graduating class is full of risk-takers, so I think we’re going to see some really interesting work come from them in the future,” she said.
“When I first started at CAAD and saw the quality of work created by senior interior design students, I thought I would never be able to achieve that. But here I am and I’m doing it! I’m very excited about the future,” she said.
After graduating, Fathima plans to work in the region before pursuing further studies in lighting design.
For more information about the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit www.aus.edu/caad.