LUMA ON THE GO
I am very much looking forward to sharing this interview, the first of 2019 with Luma Shihabeldin who uses the power of design to facilitate the transformation of mindsets, helping industries and companies invent disruptive products and services, as well as design urban policies conducive for community wellbeing and engagement. She has worked with clients as diverse as Sony, American Express, Qatar Museums Authority, and the World Government Summit, just to name a few.
I am constantly seeking new approaches by shifting the perspectives in which we see the world, exploring new opportunities to solve challenges in unconventional ways, and striving for unique insights that can be built into transformative ideas. It’s an exercise in curiosity, discovery & intuition.
She recently founded MNDBAR, which is a unique approach for individuals to cultivate their creative problem solving capacity through design and futures frameworks and leveraging emerging technologies. She also works with Envisioning, a technology research institute that builds database digital platforms for clients in their respective industries, offering them an interactive tool in which to explore and utilize that research.
How did you decide this was something you wanted to do Luma?
There is a misconception that Design is purely aesthetic. My career as a designer has always been strategic, challenging norms, exploring hidden opportunities, and designing transformative solutions. My strategic approach allowed me to leverage myself beyond a traditional approach of design as communications, where I would often offer clients more than what they came for, identifying new possibilities for their businesses and organizations. I’ve always been a BIG idea kind of person, searching for unique ways to do things differently and with more impact. I get excited by novelty and change. Which makes my transition into strategic consulting and technologies almost natural.
Challenges of what you do?
The main challenge is of such a unique career is finding clients that appreciate and recognize the value of such a strategic approach. The world is changing rapidly and automation will soon replace most jobs that are dependent on expertise skill sets. With this said, 60% of CEO’s value creativity, as a way of problem solving, not as an aesthetic, as the number one skill of the future.
Still, most people still fear this shift in professional dynamics and prefer to depend on what they know, what they are comfortable with, and ideas that are validated by precedence. It’s been an interesting journey to explore this challenge using the process itself, educating potential clients to embrace uncertainty, take risk, explore the unknown, for more imaginative ideas and bigger impact.
Your greatest inspirations or influences?
My parents have such had such a subconscious influence on me- My father is a nuclear physicist that thrives on challenges, and my mother is one of the most creative and imaginative people I know. That combination alone, has defined my approach to design as well as my personality. Family time has until today always involved exploring nature and pushing our limits. Connecting the dots between their idiosyncrasies has really helped me understand where I get my unique perspective, even if it’s often not understood by others. I still believe that ultimately it’s my strength and what sets me apart.
For inspiration I read and listen to as much as i can, with a huge focus on meaning and understanding. I’m fascinated by human behavior and psychology, which works out well for any strategic design approach, as it focuses on fulfilling human needs as a pillar of the process. I also try to surround myself by friends who challenge me to grow, by example of their own journeys. I truly believe we are the 5 people that we spend the most time with, and I look for inspiration in those people.
What would be a dream project for you?
MNDBAR has been my dream project that is slowly and surely coming to fruition. I believe there’s such an important gap that needs to be filled in our communities, that helps individuals reconnect to our human superpower, our imagination, in productive and useful ways. We’ve lost that ability through our outdated educational systems and societal conditioning. Our successes (and some failures) as a species is a direct product of our imagining great things. We now carry an even larger responsibility to use it wisely and impact fully, as we’ve shifted the evolution of nature, where we dictate the fate of our surroundings, rather than the other way around.
I enjoyed your comments on SOLE DXB as a cultural experiment in Dubai, would love for you to share your impressions with us.
SoleDXB is an incredible example of Dubai’s underlying social experiment. Whenever anyone asks me what draws me to Dubai, I always say because it is a city that exemplifies the design process, ideating and prototyping rapidly, learning from mistakes, and iterating. What’s been particularly intriguing to me about this process is the byproduct of cultural integration that happens in pockets here and there, organically and sporadically, giving me hope in the faith of mankind. While far from perfect, this interactivity is so exciting to me it makes me giddy. SoleDXB is a great place to observe and experience this giddyness. Not to mention the remarkable job the organizing team of SoleDXB has done over the years to increasingly grow and build street culture, albeit contained, and often borrowed, to Dubai.
What questions do you most get asked?
Most recently, after a video went viral where I’m being interviewed by one of my students from the American University, it’s been about the NFC chip in my hand. I got “chipped” a few years ago at a conference at the THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam, where the german company Digiwell was presenting the chip and asked for volunteers. When I noticed that the volunteers were primarily male, it became important for me to represent. I of course also was encouraged to be at the forefront of technology and get to experiment with something that while so scary today, will be standard within a decade. And no, it’s not trackable, if people are worried about being tracked though, they should stop carrying around their smartphone, that’s far riskier than an NFC chip.
Tell us more!
It’s easy to get swept up into tech culture and become both obsessive and consumed by it. In fact technology is nothing new. Even paper currency is a form of technology, anything man-made is. What’s most important about technology, and often left out of the conversation, is the importance of building a healthy relationships with it. Bringing a level of self-awareness to your engagement. Questioning it’s impact on you as an individual and renegotiating periodically how you interact with it. Otherwise it’s easy to become overwhelmed and find yourself in a downward spiral, not knowing how you got there. I’ve taken to putting my phone to ‘bed’ in the kitchen at 10pm and not allowing myself to look at it until 8am (This includes all Tvs, iPads and the sorts). This has opened at least an hour on each side of sleep for the forgotten valuable experiences like reading, writing, or even just spending time with family.
Connect with Luma
@mnd_bar on Instagram @mndbar and @thinkdesignluma on twitter