Interior Design 101!

Occasionally, we are tasked with assignments that feel less like work and more like play. The OFIS Design Octagon was one such event where we witnessed the thrill, adrenaline, stress and competitive streak of design students from various institutions collaborating with major design firms to create the ultimate modern office and win the coveted prize.


Known for hosting some of the most innovative furniture and flooring brands in the region for over three decades, OFIS recently launched their Design Hub in the d3, which aims to double up as a showroom and a collaborative working space for designers and clients. The Hub also provides a perfect platform for educational and on trend design events.

One of these initiatives is the OFIS Design Octagon, and we had the privilege of partnering for their inaugural event.

Interior design is rapidly evolving to accommodate the technological advancements and consequently, the ever changing workplace culture. Its design can then pose quite a challenge to teach in colleges and universities. Design students need real life experiences to better understand the nuances and demands of the market they are entering. And so, in an effort to lessen this knowledge gap between academic learning and real life designing experience, OFIS devised the Design Octagon – an event that allows students to mingle with top firms and learn from the greatest minds in the regional design industry.

We spoke to David Blabolil, Specifications Manager at OFIS, and the brains behind this project. “Being suppliers has allowed us to cultivate good, close contacts with designers. I wanted to link them with the students, and since we have a great showroom, we thought it would be a fantastic platform for them to interact with the designers and exchange ideas”.

The event saw 48 students from four universities compete in an intense design competition. Students were split into six teams, guided by seven captains (all designers from well known firms), and judged by five leaders industry leaders.

Their mission – to create a moodboard for “The office of the future – year 2030″.

“When you are in school, the world is an oyster,” says Carla Conte, Founder of Brand Creative and one of the judges. “Yes it’s great to be a big thinker and have big ideas, but as professionals, we can help add that little bit of reality check and a point of reference back to context”.

Hadeel Kassem, Junior Designer at DWP and one of the captains spoke from the heart about her recent transition from student life to work life. “Being a student and working in a design firm are two completely different experiences. This event provides a good opportunity for students to get some idea of a design firm work environment”.

After an intense hour of design, tears, glue and tape, as the competition inched closer to the end, the captains helped navigate the students through the occasional confusion on themes and last minute panic. (Check out our video for more of the madness!)

Finally, the judges and audience congregated to witness the individual presentations by each team on their project. And after much deliberation (and nail biting from the teams), the winners were announced.

This exercise not only provided all parties involved with a constructive activity and a fun day out, it was also a very clever initiative by OFIS in realising the power and potential of the next generation and tapping into that talent and information pool – to learn how they think, and how they perceive their modern workspace… for they are the client and designers of the future.

The Task

All six teams were given one hour to design a moodboard and present their “Office of the future –Year 2030”.

The Judges

Patrick Bean, Design Director, Lacasa iD
Toufic Alayyash, Senior Interior Designer, Lacasa iD
Carla Conte, Founder and Creative Director, Brand Creative
Mehmet Aktash, General Manager, Bishop Design
Gillian Blair, Associate Design Director, DWP

The Captains

Nour Toubia, Senior Interior Designer Obermeyer
Sana Maarrawi, Senior Interior Designer, Brand Creative
Boutros Boutros, Design Manager, Brand Creative
Grishma Shetty, Interior Architect Swiss Bureau
Abeer Zaidi, FFE Manager, Swiss Bureau
Günel Aghazada, Architect, Royal Haskoning DHV
Hadeel Kassem, Junior Interior Designer, DWP

The Institutions

Manipal Academy of Higher Education
American University of Dubai
University of Sharjah
Canadian University Dubai

The Winners!

Captain: Boutros Boutros, Brand Creative (in conjunction with Tatiana Hakim)

Sharon Mary
Radhika Mehta
Batul Shabbir
Sarah Nizar
Lana Vasilenko
Nadine Nour

The winning team showed a virtual space equipped with VR, holograms and 4G dimensions to create environments based on individual user experience. Their concept was for client in the future, who would be faceless and nameless, in a world that thrived on women empowerment (the team consisted solely of women). And so, the name of their company was titled Selfie-She.

The moodboard showed a lot of red – the colour to increase heart rate and grab attention. This moodboard stood out as the only one that showed a client profile as opposed to others that depicted office landscapes.

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