Born in Saudi Arabia, Ayah Al Bitar is a renowned designer and graduate of the BFA Product Design program. Al Bitar opened up dialogue about her country’s ban on female drivers when she released her Wisada orthopedic floor cushions.
In 2013, women in Riyadh took to the streets demanding the right to drive but were granted permission only to ride bicycles in the presence of a man. A champion of women’s rights, Al Bitar was moved to action by the protest. “I imagined a piece of furniture shaped like a bike seat,” she says. “Wisada became an embodiment of the way design triggers social change. It inspires people to stop, sit, and speak.”
A literal conversation piece, Wisada derives from traditional Middle Eastern floor seating but is targeted to a universal audience. The design draws on both contemporary aesthetics and Al Bitar’s cultural heritage. Made from high-quality, carefully sourced materials, the cushion has several variants, one of which incorporates illustrations that call to mind illuminated manuscripts and graphic novels. The motifs illustrate stories Saudi women shared with Al Bitar about their transportation experiences.
Wisada is designed to create a safe space where people can speak freely about feminism at home and in public spaces. “These seats may be a tool for social impact,” says Al Bitar, “but it’s the conversations they spark that create change.”