skip to Main Content

Nazima Ahmad is Putting People Over Profits by Connecting Art and Design at the Design Lab

Nazima Ahmad is Putting People Over Profits by Connecting Art and Design at the Design Lab

Nazima Ahmad is Putting People Over Profits by Connecting Art and Design at the Design Lab

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our communities are more important than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways in which we experience and perceive community—sometimes even causing us to feel that it has vanished. The past two years have been an uncertain time for those involved in the arts, with many creative professionals being impacted by dwindling audiences and interest. Nazima Ahmad, a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab, noticed the crumbling connection between artists and consumers and sought to find a way to mend it. Working with fellow designer Michelle Hoogenhout, the two were able to come up with City Canvas, a concept developed in collaboration with the Arts and Commission Department of the City of San Diego that won the 2020 SCALE San Diego Urban Innovation Challenge that works to make connecting with local artists easier for San Diego residents.

“Working with the city on that project was all-around trying to figure out how to promote the creative economy of San Diego,” says Ahmad of the goal of the project. Not only was the project a great success at Design Week, but it is also what led Ahmad to The Design Lab.

“That’s where the real connection happened with The Design Lab,” says Ahmad, “Michèle Morris [Associate Director of the UC San Diego Design Lab]was on the conversation when I was presenting… and that’s sort of where [it] connected for us, how Design Lab and I could figure out a way to maybe promote and engage the art and design community further.” Providing a real-life example of the ways in which the Design Lab works to bring together problem solvers with communities to enrich the human experience.

In the time we spent speaking with Ahmad, one word continued to find its way into our conversation: “community.” It became clear that whatever the project was, people are always at the center of what Ahmad does. Even when working with corporations as big as HBO or Comedy Central, her underlying approach “has never changed, [it’s] always been people-driven.” She expands on this, noting that her work with corporations might have a different meaning or a different outcome from that of her work with the city, but the goal is ultimately to make people’s lives easier and better. 

“I like to think that as I progress in my life, I’m having a more positive impact on people, and that’s the change that I would like to see happen,” says Ahmad, “and just having more of an impact that is important to people’s daily lives as opposed to just another revenue stream.”

It makes sense, then, that Ahmad would be a strong supporter of the World Design Capital Bid that saw not only San Diego, but also its southern neighbor Tijuana, named the World Design Capital for 2024. The naming of the two cities is a significant step forward, as it not only marks the United States’ first Design Capital, but also the first bi-national, regional effort in obtaining the title. 

“I don’t know if I look at it as a regionality thing or a nationality thing, but more so as a community thing,” Ahmad said when asked about the regional nature of the title and bid effort.  “The mindset that we’re trying to change is exactly that […] it’s not about the place, so to speak, but more about the people. When the people have a shared history, language and culture, the borders become arbitrary. If we start thinking about it in those terms, then perhaps we can start to apply that across other border relations, and really focus on what the needs are for the people and the community itself.”

It seems fitting that Ahmad’s attention would drift towards the people involved, and not necessarily the place (or places) in which the events are unfolding. As a British-born Pakistani woman who has lived, studied, and taught in the United Arab Emirates and the United States, attachment to place seems to be ephemeral. 

Ahmad is not sure what her future looks like, only that design will continue to play an important role in it. “I don’t know what the future holds, to be honest,” she confesses. “I do know that I’m continuing on with the Design Forward Alliance. I’m a big believer in advocating for design and bringing that to the forefront for the community, so I’ll continue to do that.”

For now, though, she makes it clear that “all efforts are on the World Design Capital.” Ahmad has also taken a position at HP as a Product Design Expert in the past year and has continued working on City Canvas since its debut at the 2020 San Diego Design Week. We may not know what the future holds for San Diego, but with community-oriented designers like Ahmad at the helm, the city is sure to make history.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our communities are more important than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways in which we experience and perceive community—sometimes even causing us to feel that it has vanished. The past two years have been an uncertain time for those involved in the arts, with many creative professionals being impacted by dwindling audiences and interest. Nazima Ahmad, a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab, noticed the crumbling connection between artists and consumers and sought to find a way to mend it. Working with fellow designer Michelle Hoogenhout, the two were able to come up with City Canvas, a concept developed in collaboration with the Arts and Commission Department of the City of San Diego that won the 2020 SCALE San Diego Urban Innovation Challenge that works to make connecting with local artists easier for San Diego residents.

“Working with the city on that project was all-around trying to figure out how to promote the creative economy of San Diego,” says Ahmad of the goal of the project. Not only was the project a great success at Design Week, but it is also what led Ahmad to The Design Lab.

“That’s where the real connection happened with The Design Lab,” says Ahmad, “Michèle Morris [Associate Director of the UC San Diego Design Lab]was on the conversation when I was presenting… and that’s sort of where [it] connected for us, how Design Lab and I could figure out a way to maybe promote and engage the art and design community further.” Providing a real-life example of the ways in which the Design Lab works to bring together problem solvers with communities to enrich the human experience.

In the time we spent speaking with Ahmad, one word continued to find its way into our conversation: “community.” It became clear that whatever the project was, people are always at the center of what Ahmad does. Even when working with corporations as big as HBO or Comedy Central, her underlying approach “has never changed, [it’s] always been people-driven.” She expands on this, noting that her work with corporations might have a different meaning or a different outcome from that of her work with the city, but the goal is ultimately to make people’s lives easier and better. 

“I like to think that as I progress in my life, I’m having a more positive impact on people, and that’s the change that I would like to see happen,” says Ahmad, “and just having more of an impact that is important to people’s daily lives as opposed to just another revenue stream.”

It makes sense, then, that Ahmad would be a strong supporter of the World Design Capital Bid that saw not only San Diego, but also its southern neighbor Tijuana, named the World Design Capital for 2024. The naming of the two cities is a significant step forward, as it not only marks the United States’ first Design Capital, but also the first bi-national, regional effort in obtaining the title. 

“I don’t know if I look at it as a regionality thing or a nationality thing, but more so as a community thing,” Ahmad said when asked about the regional nature of the title and bid effort.  “The mindset that we’re trying to change is exactly that […] it’s not about the place, so to speak, but more about the people. When the people have a shared history, language and culture, the borders become arbitrary. If we start thinking about it in those terms, then perhaps we can start to apply that across other border relations, and really focus on what the needs are for the people and the community itself.”

It seems fitting that Ahmad’s attention would drift towards the people involved, and not necessarily the place (or places) in which the events are unfolding. As a British-born Pakistani woman who has lived, studied, and taught in the United Arab Emirates and the United States, attachment to place seems to be ephemeral. 

Ahmad is not sure what her future looks like, only that design will continue to play an important role in it. “I don’t know what the future holds, to be honest,” she confesses. “I do know that I’m continuing on with the Design Forward Alliance. I’m a big believer in advocating for design and bringing that to the forefront for the community, so I’ll continue to do that.”

For now, though, she makes it clear that “all efforts are on the World Design Capital.” Ahmad has also taken a position at HP as a Product Design Expert in the past year and has continued working on City Canvas since its debut at the 2020 San Diego Design Week. We may not know what the future holds for San Diego, but with community-oriented designers like Ahmad at the helm, the city is sure to make history.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our communities are more important than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways in which we experience and perceive community—sometimes even causing us to feel that it has vanished. The past two years have been an uncertain time for those involved in the arts, with many creative professionals being impacted by dwindling audiences and interest. Nazima Ahmad, a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab, noticed the crumbling connection between artists and consumers and sought to find a way to mend it. Working with fellow designer Michelle Hoogenhout, the two were able to come up with City Canvas, a concept developed in collaboration with the Arts and Commission Department of the City of San Diego that won the 2020 SCALE San Diego Urban Innovation Challenge that works to make connecting with local artists easier for San Diego residents.

“Working with the city on that project was all-around trying to figure out how to promote the creative economy of San Diego,” says Ahmad of the goal of the project. Not only was the project a great success at Design Week, but it is also what led Ahmad to The Design Lab.

“That’s where the real connection happened with The Design Lab,” says Ahmad, “Michèle Morris [Associate Director of the UC San Diego Design Lab]was on the conversation when I was presenting… and that’s sort of where [it] connected for us, how Design Lab and I could figure out a way to maybe promote and engage the art and design community further.” Providing a real-life example of the ways in which the Design Lab works to bring together problem solvers with communities to enrich the human experience.

In the time we spent speaking with Ahmad, one word continued to find its way into our conversation: “community.” It became clear that whatever the project was, people are always at the center of what Ahmad does. Even when working with corporations as big as HBO or Comedy Central, her underlying approach “has never changed, [it’s] always been people-driven.” She expands on this, noting that her work with corporations might have a different meaning or a different outcome from that of her work with the city, but the goal is ultimately to make people’s lives easier and better. 

“I like to think that as I progress in my life, I’m having a more positive impact on people, and that’s the change that I would like to see happen,” says Ahmad, “and just having more of an impact that is important to people’s daily lives as opposed to just another revenue stream.”

It makes sense, then, that Ahmad would be a strong supporter of the World Design Capital Bid that saw not only San Diego, but also its southern neighbor Tijuana, named the World Design Capital for 2024. The naming of the two cities is a significant step forward, as it not only marks the United States’ first Design Capital, but also the first bi-national, regional effort in obtaining the title. 

“I don’t know if I look at it as a regionality thing or a nationality thing, but more so as a community thing,” Ahmad said when asked about the regional nature of the title and bid effort.  “The mindset that we’re trying to change is exactly that […] it’s not about the place, so to speak, but more about the people. When the people have a shared history, language and culture, the borders become arbitrary. If we start thinking about it in those terms, then perhaps we can start to apply that across other border relations, and really focus on what the needs are for the people and the community itself.”

It seems fitting that Ahmad’s attention would drift towards the people involved, and not necessarily the place (or places) in which the events are unfolding. As a British-born Pakistani woman who has lived, studied, and taught in the United Arab Emirates and the United States, attachment to place seems to be ephemeral. 

Ahmad is not sure what her future looks like, only that design will continue to play an important role in it. “I don’t know what the future holds, to be honest,” she confesses. “I do know that I’m continuing on with the Design Forward Alliance. I’m a big believer in advocating for design and bringing that to the forefront for the community, so I’ll continue to do that.”

For now, though, she makes it clear that “all efforts are on the World Design Capital.” Ahmad has also taken a position at HP as a Product Design Expert in the past year and has continued working on City Canvas since its debut at the 2020 San Diego Design Week. We may not know what the future holds for San Diego, but with community-oriented designers like Ahmad at the helm, the city is sure to make history.

Read Next

UC San Diego Receives Community-Engaged Research Grant

UC San Diego Receives Community-Engaged Research Grant

Design Lab Member Lilly Irani has been awarded the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Community-Engaged Research Grant. This funding will assist the United Taxi Workers San Diego team in their community-engaged research on community-accountable, employee-driven technology entrepreneurship in San Diego.

“We’re excited to support community engagement in the research process through this grant portfolio. These six projects aim to build equitable, collaborative, solution-driven initiatives between communities and researchers with the potential to advance inclusive prosperity through entrepreneurship.” — Chhaya Kolavalli, Senior Program Officer, Knowledge Creation & Research, Entrepreneurship

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation based in Kansas City, Mo., that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation uses its $3 billion in assets to change conditions, address root causes, and breakdown systemic barriers so that all people–regardless of race, gender, or geography–have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity. For more information, visitwww.kauffman.org and connect with us at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.
How To Reduce Obesity Among Latino Children

How to Reduce Obesity among Latino Children, with Precision

UC San Diego and community collaborators receive $3 million grant to develop more community-centered, precision approaches to reducing adverse childhood events that lead to obesity, a nationwide problem

“Working with the Latino community, we want to create a family-based approach to improve individual and community resilience to stress and address the obesity epidemic,” said lead principal investigator Gary S. Firestein, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and ACTRI director.

Blanca Meléndrez, director of the Center for Community Health at UC San Diego and a co-principal investigator on the study with Eric Hekler, PhD, Design Lab member, professor and interim associate dean for community partnerships in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health, said that beyond determining which methods best promote resiliency and reduce obesity among children, researchers and community collaborators will seek to create interventions that can be delivered to different families that match a family’s unique circumstances and needs.
Ucsd Logo Design Lab

Design Lab statement on protests, violence following George Floyd’s death

The Design Lab stands in solidarity with the Black community in the fight against racial injustice. We condemn all acts of police brutality and violence that led to the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and countless other members of the Black community.

We condemn all acts of discrimination. We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and their efforts to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe. We recognize that these acts of violence are deeply rooted in a history of systemic racism, and we understand that design plays a large role in influencing whether our structures and technologies support or further oppress people of color. We vow to use our platform, position, and privileges to fight for a more equitable future. 
Trolley Stops Designathon UCSD Design Lab

Designathon Seeks to Reimagine Trolley Stops

On April 6+7, 2019, on UC San Diego campus Warren Mall, over 200+ students, neighbors, designers, technologists, and media-makers will come together for the Pepper Canyon Mobility Hub Designathon, an event developing proposals that will support the transformation Pepper Canyon Trolley Station at UCSD campus, currently under construction, into a dynamic, multimodal mobility hub. The event is produced through a partnership between The UC San Diego Design Lab, SANDAG, UC San Diego Campus Planning, the UC San Diego Young Planners’ Society, Sixth College Culture, Art, Technology program, and UC San Diego Urban Planning Program.
Earth2 Project Challenges Vaccines

Earth2 Project Challenges Vaccines, 10 to 100, Ten Days to Vaccinate Everyone

"In collaboration with the University of New Mexico, the Earth2 project is helping to present a 10 day series of seminars on Vaccines and Vaccine Hesitancy, covering topics that range from vaccine-myths to Native American implications and special aspects having to do with other minority and LGBTQ communities, to hearing trusted voices." - David Brin, Author, Futurist, Public Speaker

"Solving the most complex societal programs involves a whole community approach. That's why I'm so excited about the Earth 2 Challenge to reach 100% vaccination which will make our society healthier and safer. But to succeed, we need everyone to participate." - Mai Nguyen, Design Lab Director, UC San Diego
San Diego Profs Tackle Dying Oceans

San Diego profs tackle dying oceans and idea cross-pollination at global exhibition

San Diego Union Tribune

Design Lab member and Visual Arts Professor Pinar Yoldas joins the 2021 Venice Biennale to promote discussion of dying oceans and idea cross-pollination through a global exhibition.

This summer, 112 artists and architectural teams from around the world were invited to the annual Venice Biennale in Italy to create artworks that answer the forward-thinking question: “How will we live together?” Two of the invitees to this prestigious exhibition are from San Diego.

Pinar Yoldas, a multidisciplinary art professor at UC San Diego, took an imaginative look at what the world’s endangered oceans might look like in 30 years, while Daniel López-Pérez, a founding faculty member for the architecture program at the University of San Diego, studied the global dialogue of ideas inside a spherical structure inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller’s geoscope design.
Back To Top