Goethe-Institut Libanon recently marked the first-year anniversary of its design program FANTASMEEM by reflecting on the initiative’s many achievements to date and outlining some of its plans for the future.

Launched in September 2018, the FANTASMEEM program aims to build a bridge between artistic creativity, handcrafts and cultural entrepreneurship, with a focus on design.

The program was opened to early-to-mid-stage design professionals operating across the industry and includes four qualification modules, namely: FANTASMEEM
Faculty, a 2-week residency that enabled 18 designers to develop their project or product ideas through a mini-curriculum around creative entrepreneurship; FANTASMEEM Factory, which offered job-shadowing opportunities and internships in design start-ups/enterprises in Lebanon and abroad; FANTASMEEM Forward, which supports designers in realizing their innovative business ideas by providing financial grants, mentoring sessions and workshop spaces, as well as training; and FANTASMEEM Fair, which offered the opportunity for 25 designers to participate in local and regional design fairs, such as Beirut Design Week and Amman Design Week.
These run alongside several independent events and activities, such as FANTASMEEM
Focus sessions, which provide design experts, academics and practitioners with a platform to discuss topics relevant to the design industry.

Konrad Siller, Director of the Goethe-Institut Libanon, explained that having identified the challenges faced by the local design industry, FANTASMEEM had opted for an innovative, integrated approach that would effectively help participants on the program to overcome the key hurdles designers routinely encounter.
“In the context of the FANTASMEEM program, design is considered to be an interdisciplinary approach, with participants on the program encouraged to adopt a holistic, cross-cutting approach and attitude that this will stand them in good stead across all fields of discipline in the industry, artistic expression and indeed, in other aspects of life,” he said.

Reactions to the FANTASMEEM
Faculty program have been universally positive, with one participant describing it as a “life-changing experience”, another as a “window of hope” and a third saying the support system went far beyond the location and two weeks spent at the residency.

Dima Tannir, graphic designer and film researcher, a participant at FANTASMEEM
Faculty, described the extent to which the residency program had transformed her. “It gave me the tools to evolve my project, and most importantly, created a community that I can be part of and support and be supported by,” she said. “This is an asset that cannot be quantified.”

Multidisciplinary artist and designer Nathalie Harb, founder of “Urban Hives” and grantee of FANTASMEEM
Forward, said that the program created a highly constructive platform to jumpstart her project, while constituting a real presence that she could rely on. “Urban Hives” is a project aimed at reintroducing the garden in parking lots. The lightweight structure, which is positioned above vehicles, is a lifted garden characterized by urban farming.

In addition, research undertaken as part of FANTASMEEM
Findings is providing valuable, in-depth knowledge about the development of the Lebanese design industry. Among the research already compiled is a paper titled “Design Economy in Lebanon: Challenges and Opportunities” (https://www.goethe.de/resources/files/pdf182/design-economy-in-lebanon.pdf) by Dima Hamadeh and Adham Selim, which explores the various factors shaping the design economy in Lebanon and assesses them holistically in terms of impact, economic sustainability and investment opportunities.
The report is highlighting the potentials as well as the fragility of the industry and the major challenges it faces.

Imke Grimmer, Head of the FANTASMEEM Program at Goethe-Institut Libanon, added that one of the initiative’s key aims was to support design practitioners in Lebanon and ensure they are equipped with the skills-sets they need for all-round success.
“Designers are considered as potential agents of change who can have a considerable positive impact on society,” she said. “Through the FANTASMEEM activities, the Goethe-Institut wants to support creatives transform their innovative ideas into sustainable business models and obtain better visibility, first locally and on a long term also on a regional and international level.”

Future activities are now being planned for FANTASMEEM. These include sharpening the focus on developing entrepreneurial skills for design practitioners and helping them to raise their profile, while also putting ecological, social, economic and cultural sustainability high on the agenda.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) and the Goethe-Institut promote the emerging market of cultural and creative industries in Africa and in the Middle East.