Balancing Form And Function: Industrial Designer And Entrepreneur Sahar Madanat
Dynamic industrial design is a balance of combining aesthetic appeal and functional design solutions to improve everyday life. Sahar Madanat, product designer, and winner of the Red Dot Award 2012, IDEA Award finalist 2012, and two Spark Concept Awards 2011, among other international competitions, agrees, “[It’s important to] create a product that not only people need, but also want."
The award-winning designer is the founder of her own design consultancy, and has become an influencer on design thinking in Jordan and parts of MENA. "The balance between form and function should not be determined by the designer's set of values, rather it should be user's values that define it," says Madanat, indicating the importance of understanding and designing for the needsof the target demographic. An art and science enthusiast, Madanat studied Industrial Design in the U.S., and sought to establish a design culture in the Middle East.
As a product designer, Madanat is driven by the influx of consumerism -wherein the quality decreases with mass production- to "design things that adds value to people's lives, and not just sell a product." Previously working as a freelancer, Madanat always knew she would start a company. "After being exposed to the design scene abroad, I felt the importance of starting this conversation in the Middle East," adding that starting up her studio in in her hometown, Amman, was a priority to attract local talent and develop the R&D scene. Madanat believes that MENA has a bevy of talent with innovative ideas, and "wanted to create a platform from which these ideas can take shape, and potentially reach international recognition."
As with establishing any venture there are challenges, and in Madanat's case, it's the realities of "pioneering in a new field, without the support you would get from a developed sector." She points out how the small number of industrial design university programs in the region results in the difficulty of finding qualified designers. Madanat perseveres by keeping in mind how her business is also her passion: "It's very rewarding to see your ideas take shape, it truly gives me a sense of contribution to the community."
Today, her company offers workshops on design thinking for business professionals, even recently being asked by the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region at the MENA ICT Forum 2014 last November, as well as providing internships and mentorship programsfor anyone attracted to the industry.
Regarding product designand overall design culture in MENA, Madanat admits that while it's slowly gaining traction and has potential, they've still got a long way to go. Most companies are unwilling to allocate budget for R&D, and so "it's impossible to lead markets, when your products are outdated or offer the same features as the imported product. It's not an option to copy what the West is doing anymore, China will do it faster and better."
Madanat commends the government's leadership in encouraging the IT sector in Jordan, and encourages incentives to invest in R&D. She also points outhow the imported products we have aren't tailored to our needs, so imagine if the region designs, builds and also exports to the world? "We have to innovate, and we have to shift companies' philosophies, from being market followers to market leaders. With the right platform, I am confident that we can put MENA on the world map of product design and innovation."
Sahar Madanat's Award-Winning Products
HEART AID Ergonomically designed to be easy enough to be used by the elderly and anyone not trained medically, the devicescan perform CPR and defibrillation to a heart attack victim, within three to five minutes of the onset of an attack. It's currently being tested in the U.S., with their patent pending for the invention.
PLATE-OH A sustainable solution, Plate-oh is a disposable, biodegradable plate allowing the user to peel off the upper-used layerfor a fresh plate underneath, lasting up to 10 uses. An environmental impact study showed 60% material reductions, with shipping and packaging cost savings up to 85%. It's currently in the prototyping phase, with international manufacturers in talks for potential deals.
VANILLA LOUNGE A made-to-order item, ergonomically designed with a wooden frame that adapts to the user's weight. The statement lounge chair represents the "generational gaps" we experience.
SAND ART REVIVAL A furniture line launching in Jordan, each item is handcrafted and filled with sand art by local sand artists. The range includes coffee tables, wall art and bookends.
The design consultancy company develops products for clients from concept to prototype. Besides being a design studio, they also develop their own projects as an R&D lab and have a few U.S. patents pending for their inventions. They're in contact with international manufacturers for potential licensing deals, and in some cases, they also partner and develop their work locally.
Their design process is analytical in approach, starting with listing the problems that they're trying to solve. After conducting user and product research, it's the concept phase where they generate ideas, resulting in only a few selected. During the design development phase, they start to build mockups for testing before building a prototype. After testing the prototype, it's finalization phase and production. This can take from a few months to a few years.
Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.