Dubai Institute of Design & Innovation set to bolster regional design education

Details have been unveiled for the region’s first ever higher-education design school , the Dubai Institute of Design & Innovation (DIDI), designed by Foster + Partners, which aims to set a new milestone in UAE’s efforts to drive innovation by building a regionally developed program for students.

Ali Jaber & Dr Amina Al Rustamani announcing the establishment of DIDI.

The establishment will be held the patronage of Her Highness Her Highness Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, TECOM Group, and Dubai Creative Clusters Authority.

DIDI developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Parsons.

With a total financial investment of AED 270 million, the institute is a direct response to the growing design needs of the regional market which are outlined in the MENA Design Education Outlook report released earlier this year by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC).

The report concludes that the region requires 30,000 designers by the year 2019.

“We see that DIDI will have a great influence on not only Dubai, but the entire UAE and the region in general,” Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, Chairperson, DDFC and CEO of TECOM Group told designMENA.

DIDI Campus model displaying during the unveiling at d3.

When we looked the educational aspect of the design industry, we realised that there is so many limitations and the demand from the industry itself was immense. We also looked at the specific talent required and the calibre as well and what we have strategically decided is to look at two things: one is to invest ourselves in a school that promotes high quality, as is evident with our partnership with MIT and Parsons to offer niche programs that are linked to the Dubai Design District and the TECOM strategy in terms of managing the creative industries as well as the bigger ambition set by His Highness for Dubai.”

She continued: “We also focused on encouraging education institutes within Dubai and the overall region to look into their programs and enhance and grow their offerings in terms of design and innovation. This way we will be able to really address the educational needs for young designers in the coming years.”

READ MORE: Studio head at Foster + Partners explains how d3’s Creative Community will bring designers together

The curriculum 

“When we started looking at establishing the institute, we researched various programs and curriculums from around the world and we had a number of discussions and of course MIT and Parsons ranked top,” Dr. Al Rustamani told designMENA.

She explained that a relationship with the two schools has been developing over the course of two years.

“We realised that they have a futuristic outlook towards design and that they understand where the design industry is heading. They were also very comfortable to help us design a program that will fit the requirements of the regional market. You cannot simply bring what MIT does and plug it here,” Al Rustamani added.

The curriculum will offer a Bachelor of Design, with a focus on Product Design, Strategic Design Management, Visual Arts, Media and Fashion Design, in addition to offering a non-traditional concentration learning structure.

DIDI will accommodate 550 students, resulting in a low student to teacher ratio that will ensure that all students receive one-to-one interaction.

The programs are DIDI will be highly focused on studio-work to provide a more hands-on approach rather than a modular design approach.

DIDI Central View, designed by Foster + Partners

Planned to open to students by September 2018, DIDI will be a private, non-profit education institute. Tuition fees will be included.

DIDI will also recruit faculty from around the world and the region, with the help of MIT and Parsons, who will be helping with the evaluation.


The 100,000 square feet campus will be located in the Creative Community at d3, also designed by Foster + Partners.

The space is laid out in a ‘mega’ studio setting, enabling cross-collaboration between design disciplines, focusing on creativity, technology as well as the practical side of design.

DIDI Central View, designed by Foster + Partners

“Being part of d3, as students enroll in the school, they will be exposed to the industry itself and will be able to observe the reality of what the industry has to offer and gain a better understanding of what it takes to set up a brand or start a business, gaining stronger access to an understanding that comes outside the educational environment,” Dr Al Rustamani said during an interview with designMENA.

The institute will accept students from all over the world, prioritising the UAE and the region.  

“Dubai’s nature is to attract talent from all the world and our model is the same. We are not limiting ourselves to the region totally, of course there will be a greater focus on national and regional students but we will be accepting students from everywhere. Hopefully this will also allow us to collaborate with other design capitals to exchange ideas and gain a stronger outreach to fellow design students globally,” Dr Al Rustamani said.