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Everything that you need to know about Dubai Design Week



The process of creation always needs a starting point. Ideas always require a framework. Everything we use in modern life is, to a greater or lesser extent, “designed”, the result of conscious planning, refining and amending prior to implementation. Our daily lives are all designed, from the clothes we put on in the morning to the pillow cases we sleep on at night.

When we talk about “good design” then, we’re talking about the optimum way to live – the marriage of function and form, the ability to be both useful and aesthetically pleasing. Utility plus art. In a city like Dubai, which is perhaps one of the most “designed” cities on the planet, design shapes every moment, from the morning commute to the neighbourhoods we live in. As such, the latest Dubai Design Week, centred around an enlarged hub at Dubai Design District, is an opportunity to take stock of the industry here, identify the field’s emerging talents and look at what trends are shaping how we’ll live in the years and decades ahead of us.

“Dubai has a distinctive design story to tell and Dubai Design Week does this as comprehensively as possible,” says William Knight, head of design at Dubai Design Week. “It is an important focal point, not only boosting the profile, confidence and opportunity for the design community as a whole, it presents Dubai as a creative destination from which products, services and ideas are available to the world. “With the d3 partnership, we can tap into an amazing pool of creative thinkers and businesses, which means the design festival is from and about the creative community. All of this is complimented by exhibitions and events in locations across the city.” The show, then, isn’t just a niche industry affair, with esoteric workshops and in-the-know exhibitions. It’s a showcase for the kind of ideas that Dubai, the UAE and the Middle East are capable of producing.

Here are some of the things we think you should be looking out for…


Rawan Kashkoush, head of programming at Dubai Design Week on the MENASA-focused exhibition, Abwab.

So what will we see at this year’s Abwab exhibition?
This year, it’s a showcase of ready-made objects instead of interactive installations – and they are all on sale. We witnessed an urgency to accommodate the growing number of product designers who want to show people what they’ve been cooking up – there simply aren’t enough concept or design stores to host regional products.

Who is taking part?
We have 15 countries represented by 46 pieces.

How were they chosen?
We piloted a peer-selection process called “designer dominoes”, whereby if you want your work to be considered for Abwab, you are required to nominate another designer to submit. This exhibition is about empowering a community and knowing you might not be where you are if it wasn’t for the help of others. We reached a shocking number of designers, losing count after 250. What this taught me is that we have more work to do to make sure those people are being seen and heard.

What is the focus?
Materials. Once designers were mainly focused on showcasing cultural nuance, but their interest has turned to new materials and production techniques, whether that’s the silicone dipped in gold leaf by Anjali Srinivasan, recycled rubber pulled to form carpet thread by Sara Ouhaddou or plastic strips melted and stretched to form transparent surfaces by Soukaina al Idrissi, there is a host of new ideas in this area on display.


Silent Call

Khalid Shafar, designer of the stunning glass sculpture, explains it all..

“The five daily prayers are among the most important obligations of the Islamic faith, but today’s busy world poses a challenge to worship at times determined according to the sun. Software-based ‘azan clocks’ help travellers keep track, and this led to the idea of programming a sculpture to silently remind worshippers of prayer times using light effects and motion. “It features stylised domes of five iconic mosques from the UAE, Russia, Malaysia, Germany and Denmark, all transformed into silhouettes of a chandelier’s crystals. It may be uniquely pre-set to move according to its collector’s time zone and schedule. “Silent Call puts the audience in the experience rather than it being a static complement to the environment. It holds the viewer’s attention as different performances are expected at different points of time.”


We speak to Rue Kothari about which local brands are bringing the big ideas to this year’s event..

So, who will be exhibiting their designs this year?
We’re excited to be presenting 11 regional design brands at Downtown Design this year, coming from Saudi and Lebanon, to Bahrain and the UAE. They all demonstrate the immense potential of our own homegrown design industry. For many of these young designers, this platform is an opportunity to engage with a commercial audience and really test how the market responds to what they do. It’s a great way to learn and develop, and ultimately we hope to lay the foundations for these designers to become the first “Made in the UAE” design brands.

How many are coming?
We’ve doubled in size from last year so there are 150 brands, of which 70 are new. Today, the most successful brands are the ones that have adapted to the tastes of today’s consumers, so it’s less about luxury and more about original, high quality pieces that reflect the lifestyles of the multicultural people that live in the region.

How do brands use this platform to grow and get noticed?
Downtown Design has proven to be a really effective platform for connecting brands to the region’s leading buyers. We work with international and local brands to promote and engage them with the right audience, and help elevate their profile and ensure they have multiple opportunities to network and do business.

What can people expect this year?
We have the Middle East’s largest curation of high-end design brands, and this year they will be presented in a new venue master-planned by local architects LSD. We’ll be located on the d3 Waterfront, with a large scale garden installation designed by Desert Ink, with our registration area concept created by design firm Pallavi Dean Interiors. The Lighthouse will bring a bespoke pop-up created especially for the event, which will add another unique visitor experience.


GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond

Co-curator Teal Triggs explains the legacy of the Royal College of Art RCA graduates have played a significant role in shaping visual landscapes in the UK and further afield. When the first “GraphicsRCA” exhibition opened in 1963, Professor Richard Guyatt aimed to capture the new direction of the craft as it emerged from its Victorian roots in the pre-industrial world, and how graphic designers were adapting to a new professionalised landscape.

Graduates of the RCA’s School of Communication are creative leaders who enrich the ways the profession and the academia develop its practice – whether that’s with an agility in design thinking or via experimentation that leads to communication innovation. Students are actively engaging with new production mediums and technologies, as well as addressing some of today’s “big” design challenges.

We found it very difficult to finalise a selection of pieces as we felt that work from all our graduates deserve to be shown! But we chose Kyuha Shim, one of our current PhD students, to create a “living digital archive” composed of work submitted online by RCA graphic design alumni from all over the world. All new content is incorporated dynamically.

If there is one timeless design, it must be John Pasche’s 1971 lips and tongue logo for the Rolling Stones, commissioned by Mick Jagger whilst Pasche was still a student at the RCA.


A selection of the best seminars at DXBDW

Digital Fabrication x VR
Virtual reality enables us to simulate any environment and any material in the palm of our hands and this workshop will enable designers and architects to maximise its potential.
When: November 16, 6pm-9pm
Price: Free
Contact: website

Type Bazaar by Erich Brechbühl & Noël Leu
Working with limited materials, the group will design the lettering of a fictional shopfront by hand, and design their own A1 black and white poster using their new font.
When: November 15-16, 10.30am-4.30pm
Price: Free
Contact: website

Designing With People: Product Design Workshop by The Royal College Of Art
Participants will be presented with traditional and experimental tools and methodologies for public engagement, sense-making and co-design from action-research to public interventions – which will centre on the Dubai Design Week event itself and hopefully create micro-interventions and design proposals.
When: November 17 and 18
Price: AED1,850
Contact: website


Fluid Design Studio
Omar Safa’s skill lies in morphing calligraphy into three dimensional pieces.

Apical Reform
A studio dedicated to creating immersive experiences led by art and production technologies.

Roudha Alshamsi
A designer who explores design through artistic approaches, resulting in “Art Furniture”.

Dubai Design Week 2017
When: November 13-18
Where: Dubai Design District (d3)
Contact: website

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