Since 2013, the Tanween professional development programme has provided UAE-based emerging designers, makers and artisans, access to a wide range of resources available in the country to help them explore the wealth of materials, processes and possibilities that can enrich their craft. Led by contemporary design project specialist Helen Voce (UK) and local mentor Kevin Badni, the 2019 cycle of the programme includes architect Abdullah Al Mulla, interior designers Alia Mazrooei and Lana Al Samman and graphic designer Yara Habib. Together, they will embark on a journey of investigation, learning and making, covering the entire arc of developing a product from concept to completion.

Abdullah Almulla


An architect and designer who established his own studio in 2018, Abdullah Al Mulla is a graduate of Woodbury University in San Diego. Since returning home to the UAE, Al Mulla has presented design works at ZERO (1971 Design Space, 2015), WASL (Dubai Design Days 2016), Specular (Dubai Design Week 2017), UAE Design Stories (Milan Design Week 2018), 1000 Vases (Paris Design Week, 2018). His seating concept ‘Shak’l’ that was a commissioned by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for Al Safa Arts & Design Library debuted During Dubai Design Week 2018. Through the programme, he seeks to refine his approach to product design and gain knowledge from expert makers.

Alia Mazrooei


The Emirati interior designer’s lifelong fascination with spaces and shapes inspired her to study Fine Arts and Interior Design at Zayed University. In 2017 she her capstone project — a community bench — was presented at the Global Grad Show. Soon after, Alia was selected by Dubai Design District to be part of UAE Design Stories (Milan, London and Paris 2018). During Dubai Design Week 2018, she presented ‘Thuluth’, a conceptual majlis inspired by desert forms; it commissioned by 1971 Design Space. Her mission during the programme is to ultise the experience to challenge herself to evolve her creative language and grow as a designer, absorbing new thought and approaches.

Lana Al Samman


The designer who grew up in Beirut and later Canada, began her career as a teaching assistant at the American University of Sharjah. An alumnus of the Florence Institute of Design, Italy, she is now part of the Sharjah Art Foundation, where she progressed from working as an interior designer to become a significant member of the SAF Production Programme. The programme offered Lana the opportunity to further explore furniture design. Through Tashkeel, Lana will work towards finding and honing her distinct voice as a designer.

Yara Habib


Yara Habib is a graphic designer and emerging product designer and has lived in Lebanon, Canada, the UK and the UAE. A Graphic Design BA graduate from the Lebanese American University, she worked for four years as a graphic designer for various corporate clients mainly in Montreal. In early 2018, she launched Layers by Yara in the UAE, a collection of design pieces made of multiple layers of wood, acrylic glass and metal. With her experience at Tashkeel, Yara seeks to apply her experience and passion for graphic design in the third dimension, creating functional objects of beauty.

Key players

Helping mentors Voce and Badni steer this year’s programme is Gareth Neal, who in 2006 established his progressive and innovative London-based design studio, along with UAE-based designer and alumni of Tanween Design Programme 2016, Jumana Taha, and Salem Al Qassimi, the multidisciplinary designer, educator and Director of the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial.

Through a series of laboratory sessions, site visits to the region’s innovative manufacturers and collaborative practice, the mentors will offer participating designers’ critique on design, feedback on manufacturing, help them investigate new business models and ultimately empower them to develop their own sense of individuality as designers.