Appendix 2 - Design, data, technology and STEM Outreach in Pakistan
Design outreach (by Chisel & Foundry)
Upon joining LUMS, I quickly became deeply involved in improving local awareness about the functional and problem-solving aspects of design. Most of Pakistan’s design schools leave unclear the distinction between art and design, producing a design workforce underprepared to meet the challenges of UX and service-design related projects. To address this gap, I began organising new conferences, design meetups, workshops, and design, data and technology competitions. These initiatives have had a huge impact on the local design landscape, and have succeeded in creating a lively, trailblazing community of design professionals.
UXPakistan (Pakistan’s inaugural design conference, its largest to date)
Founding UXPakistan, Pakistan’s first design conference, stands as one of my most prominent contributions to Pakistan’s design landscape. We have organized five successful iterations of this conference, which has grown into Pakistan’s largest. It was the only design conference to be organized even during the pandemic. Over its course of operation, the conference has attracted thousands of participants, with over 120 unique speakers giving talks and holding workshops. The groundbreaking conference transformed the realm of design in Pakistan, and has become a catalyst in creating a countrywide and international network of Pakistani design professionals.
Each iteration of UX Pakistan is replete with workshops, design hackathons and competitions, followed by talks from a star-studded lineup of industry leaders and design professionals. Each year, we select a locally relevant theme, and curate the ensuing design discussions around it. There is specific emphasis laid on startup culture in Pakistan. A UX Clinic is traditionally hosted to provide budding startups with design-based product and service feedback. Startup demos are also showcased to allow local startups to advertise themselves and receive comprehensive expert-backed feedback.
Since the inception of the conference, I have served as the main conference organizer, architect and curator. UX Pakistan 2021, the fifth of its kind, succeeded in providing a platform for designers, developers, business leaders, architects, artists, end-users – and everything in between – to converge and share, collaborate, learn, educate, and eventually emerge as the creators of tomorrow. After celebrating its fifth year of operation, we are now in the process of institutionalizing the conference and expanding it (see ‘Lahore Design Festival’ below). To this end, we are curating a steering committee to undertake an advisory role, as well as a formal organising committee.
Lahore Design Festival
In 2021, I launched Pakistan’s first Design Festival: Lahore Design Festival. This festival was envisioned as a means to demonstrate on a grand scale the importance of multidisciplinary design in Pakistan’s local context. Its roster currently includes four large events: UX Pakistan, Line+Fill: The Illustration Conference, Interactive Exhibition, and the Youth Design Forum. Each of these four events is intended to embody and highlight a different facet of design, and through each of these we bring together local designers, thinkers, activists and practitioners with diverse backgrounds, in order to create fun and uniquely informative experiences. This landmark festival serves as a celebration of Pakistan’s newly thriving, colourful design community, while also offering a wide range of opportunities to emerging and aspiring designers.
Line+Fill Illustration Conference
As part of the Lahore Design Festival, I introduced the annual Line+Fill Conference. It is the first conference in Pakistan dedicated towards celebrating the works of local illustrators and artists focused on social change. Line+Fill’s inaugural edition was a day-long online hybrid conference centered around the rapidly growing community of illustrators, animators, graphic designers and visual artists in Pakistan. Through in-depth talks and innovative workshops offered by several of the community’s biggest names, we aim to draw greater attention to Pakistan’s contemporary visual art and design scene, celebrate it, and grow an inspired community around it.
Interactive Illustration Exhibition
In addition to Line+Fill, I also launched an annual (interactive) Illustration exhibition. The driving force behind the exhibition was a desire to curate and showcase illustrations created by both aspiring illustrators and renowned local professionals in the field. The motivation was two-fold: to grant the participating artists considerable exposure, and to inspire potential young illustrators at LUMS. The first edition, held on campus, was a resounding success, and 1000+ people visited the exhibition over two days. The exhibition was fully curated in an online 3D space.
Youth Design Forum
The Youth Design Forum is an annual event at the Lahore Design Festival that aspires to bridge the gap between professionals and budding designers in the realm of Design Innovation. The forum offers a space for young explorers, designers, artists, and technologists to share their thoughts, fuse ideas, and discuss local and global issues in an interactive, playful, and professional manner. YDF provides the youth with a platform to discuss innovations and projects in the areas of graphic design, product & engineering design, digital art, design for social impact, technology for good, and more.
National Design Awards
In April 2018, I inaugurated Pakistan’s first National Design Awards to celebrate the importance of functional design in Pakistan. The awards celebrate excellence across three categories: UI/UX Design, Visual Communication Design, and Product Design. They are open to students and professionals of any age, and winners receive cash awards, gift vouchers, and perhaps most importantly, a chance to make themselves known within the world of design and innovation. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the National Design Awards are currently paused, and will resume in 2022.
We have also established a partnership with BNU-SVAD to create Pakistan's first ‘academic’ Design Summit in 2018. Unlike UXPakistan, the design summit took a more academic perspective on design.
To cultivate design at the grassroots level, I felt it vital to begin introducing large gatherings and networking opportunities, both at the national level (e.g. UXPakistan) and the local level. For this purpose, we launched a series of UXCamps in Pakistan, the main purpose of which was to expand awareness about the world of design in smaller cities where local universities are not equipped to educate young students regarding the subject matter. This series began two years ago, and my team and I provided camps in a number of cities, our largest camp being in Quetta. UXCamps will resume in 2022, after the pandemic.
Design Baithak meetups and podcast
Design Baithak is a community initiative for promoting design in Pakistan through local meetups and a podcast. Prior to the pandemic, we hosted monthly meetups in Lahore, and released a few episodes of our podcast. These meetups were highly successful and as a result were expanded to other cities of Pakistan.
SIGCHI Lahore Meetups
The Lahore chapter of SIGCHI organizes monthly meetups in collaboration with the Design Baithak team, the focus of which revolves around the academic side of the design. Like the Design Baithak meetups, they, too, were momentarily paused, and have now been resumed.
Design Foundation Pakistan
Two years ago, we began working towards establishing a national organization for promoting design within Pakistan. The Design Foundation was established after months of hard work and comprehensive negotiations undertaken by a team of leading Pakistani design professionals.
Summer Design Internship Program (By Foundry)
The Design Internship is a 6 week-long paid program aimed at imparting the Design Thinking process to undergrad students with an interest in Design. Our interns work on real-world projects under the supervision of mentors, bringing their solutions and ideas to life. The first cycle of this internship was held in Summer 2021, from June until July. In its inaugural cycle, Foundry mentored six interns from different universities in Pakistan including LUMS, Habib University, and NCA. The interns engaged in a hands-on design thinking process under the guidance of highly experienced mentors from the design industry. Following the success of the first cycle of our design internship, we are now working towards launching a larger second edition.
Data Outreach (By Foundry)
Open Data Visualization Challenge
In 2021, I started Pakistan’s first Open Data Visualization Challenge, as an Open Data Pakistan initiative. It is a bi-annual data visualization competition aimed at highlighting the importance of open data resources for Pakistan's development, inviting data enthusiasts to address their countries' socio-economic issues by harnessing the actual value of open data. The first competition was a roaring success, featuring teams from all over Pakistan producing excellent work. The winner received prizes, and the top participant is now being hired as an intern in the ODP team.
‘Playing with Data’ Summer Internship Program (By Foundry)
The Design Internship is a 6 week-long paid program aimed at familiarising young design enthusiasts with the Design Thinking process by engaging them with real-world projects.
STEAM/Robotics Outreach (By Chisel & Foundry)
National Summer/Winter STEM Program
In collaboration with the Pakistan Innovation Foundation, I organized a yearly residential National STEM School at LUMS. From 2017 to 2019, I was the co-program director for the School, where between 25-30 students and 8-10 faculty members from all over Pakistan participated each year. As part of an external arm of the program, I am also currently assisting local schools in establishing their own robotics labs. This venture has been ongoing since early 2018, and was undertaken under the direction of LUMS’ pro chancellor.
Summer STEAM Schools
Since 2018, I have organised an enriching and comprehensive STEAM summer program for children from resource-constrained schools. The program is completely free, supported by funds raised from donors.
Winter Robotics Schools
I have also been organising winter robotics school programs at LUMS for teenagers studying in resource-constrained schools. This has taken place each year since 2018.
Technology Outreach (By CHISEL and IEEE CS)
CodinGuru – Annual Coding Competition
CodinGuru is a yearly two-day event organized by IEEE CS LUMS. The event has grown to become one of Pakistan’s most renowned coding competitions, attracting hundreds of talented young coders from across the country, as well as major sponsors. The primary objective of this competition is to broaden local notions of what programming is and the kinds of problems it can be used to resolve, especially in terms of innovating and creating eco-friendly solutions for global problems. It consists of several modules, each aimed at a different facet of programming, including AI, data science, web development, and idea-generation.