Taking inspiration from Arabic motifs, origami and multiplying patterns to produce interesting, geometric shapes in her furniture designs, Aljoud Lootah tells darc how designing gives her a sense of freedom and accomplishment.
A multidisciplinary designer based in Dubai, UAE, Aljoud Lootah explores the realms of product design and personalised corporate gifts. With a keen interest in the idea of contrast in form and function, she composes her creations by mixing traditional silhouettes and concepts with modern elements.
Patterns, folds and geometric shapes are at the heart of her inspiration. Her creative drive comes from a passion for detail, aesthetics and experimental approaches to materials and techniques. As a product designer, she has been involved in projects that distinctly interpret Emirati culture, traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. Along the way, Lootah continuously produces bespoke objects for government ogranisations and private companies, and has been involved in various retail and residential interior projects.
Having studied Applied Media Studies at college, majoring in Graphic Design, Lootah’s passion for creating things started during her time at university. “I’m a very visual person,” she tells darc, “I remember things based on their logos or packaging, not names! The idea of developing patterns, motifs and later on producing them, invigorated me.”
Upon graduating Lootah founded her first company Niftee, which focused on bespoke corporate gifts as well as fashion accessories. Then, in 2013 she joined the Design Road Professional program, an initiative by Tashkeel & Dubai Culture and established her fondness of working with her hands, feeling materials and experimenting.
“I had a change of heart and felt product design is where I really found myself,” she continues. “I took a break for a year after that and focused on rebranding and getting on the product design track. Niftee was a stepping-stone but ultimately Aljoud Lootah Design Studio is where I envisioned myself. Research and time helped me produce my first full series of limited edition furniture items in 2015.”
Discussing Lootah’s influences, Arabic motifs, origami and multiplying patterns continue to influence her work in one way or another. In her latest work Double Square, Lootah explains her decision to explore marble and experiment with how it can be used in her design: “I worked on a trial and error basis, which is a learning curve in itself! I’m often involved in projects that interpret the Emirati culture and traditional crafts but develop them in modern concepts. I find the elements of Emirati culture very inspiring with their patterns, materials and textures.”
It was “the fear of being attached to a nine-to-five job, working with people and creating,” that inspired Lootah to set up on her own and as a result continues to work aimlessly to avoid it. For four years she worked as Head of Social Media at a government entity, which she tells darc, she enjoyed but still had the desire to work on her personal brand at the same time. “Eventually I felt the need to quit my job and focus entirely on the studio,” she says. “I feel a sense of freedom and accomplishment that I will continue to fight and keep.”
Working with various product types, for Lootah it is lighting that provides the most challenges when it comes to design, but is something she “absolutely loves working on. Combining the right form or structure with the suitable light creates a magical piece,” she says.
Having produced Oru Lamp ast part of the Oru Series, which comprises four pieces – table lamp, chair, decorative mirror and cabinet with an exposed shelving unit and inspired by the art of Origami – she feels it is one of her strongest products to date.
“The idea behind the designs is to show that folding a flat, two-dimensional sheet can create aesthetically appealing functional three-dimensional forms,” she says. “I work with geometry, patterns and shapes a lot and believe this is my signature style – it has been incorporated within my work, creating brand recognition. I absolutely love working with new materials or mixing materials together with almost every project / collection I work on, as this challenge makes me grow as a designer; it also adds an element of surprise.”
For Lootah, the most rewarding part of being a product designer is seeing her products in homes, spaces and various interiors after they’ve been acquired, with all the hard work and long hours spent in production paying off. “Having two of my Oru Series’ products acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, as part of their permanent contemporary collection,” she also considers one of the most significant moments in her career.
Looking ahead, for Lootah there is a lot to be excited about, with a move to her new studio space and new products launched at the recent Design Days Dubai show, which included the Double Square floor lamp, part of the Double Square collection of geometric furniture. The collection depicts a recurring Arabesque eight-pointed star motif when viewed from the top. The motif, which consists of two squares, one rotated 45º with respect to the other, is the starting point of a variety of Arabesque patterns, and through it, different combinations can be generated.
“I am blessed to be in a country where I am propelled forward with the support of the government, society and my peers,” she says, “it is invigorating and exciting.”