The world’s youngest and most ambitious design week is back to enthral design lovers, creators and influencers.

Dubai Design Week, in it’s second year, will run from October 24 to 29 at Dubai Design District (d3) and various other iconic locations around the city. Here’s the low down on what’s happening and what to see…

This year’s event hopes to improve on last year’s impressive 23,000 visitors and to firmly establish Dubai as the de facto hub of design innovation in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region.

Returning headline exhibitions include Global Grad Show, Downtown Design, Abwab and Iconic City as well as various site-specific installations, talks and workshops.



Global Grad Show

This not-to-be-missed exhibit will be the largest global collection of university student work to ever take place. While the idea of student work might not sound like a big deal, we can guarantee you that this is about the closest you’ll get to seeing cutting-edge design solutions for real-world problems in one location.

Curated by independent writer, editor and designer Brendan McGetrick, the show featuring 135 projects from 50 universities in 30 countries seeks to identify work which will not only shape our immediate future but also create a meaningful and lasting impact on our world. Each work tackles a different problem, often which is unique to the designer’s immediate and localised environment, for example Nesma Khodier, a recent graduate of VCUQatar, created Oud/Kanun – a device designed to make complex traditional Arabic music more accessible and intuitive and hopefully as a consequence better appreciated.


A few of the other exciting projects include Algae Harvester – an algae-eating drone that cleans the water and powers itself with biofuel produced by the collected algae, designed by Fredrik Ausinsch at Umeå Institute of Design, in Sweden, TippyTalk – an app that allows a person with a verbal disability to communicate by translating pictures into text messages, designed by Robert Laffan at Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland,Synchrony – a touch-based music therapy platform designed for Autistic children, designed by Kenneth Tay at ArtCenter College of Design in the USA and Growframe – a system of collapsible hydroponic farms that can grow food in empty shipping containers returning to China, designed by Philippe Hohlfeld at Royal College of Art in the UK.

Apart from the exhibition, the participating designers and representatives from their respective institutions will meet for what is being pitched as  ‘the world’s most diverse design education summit’. As Paul Thompson, Rector of Royal College of Art, commented: “We believe strongly that collaboration lies at the heart of transformative design, so the Global Grad Show is a great way of working across borders to bring about change and improvement in society.”


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Downtown Design

Downtown Design celebrates its fourth edition this year and is a trade faire carefully curated with the Middle Eastern buyer in mind. This year over 100 brands from 28 countries will be exhibiting, featuring a mix of both established international brands and emerging local and global talent.



Abwab means ‘doors’ in Arabic and so this purpose-built pavilion invites visitors to step through and experience the very best of MENASA’s emerging design talent. With the theme of The Human Senses, designers and studios from Algeria, Bahrain, India, Iraq, Palestine and the UAE will present new work which speaks to the rich culture of each individual country but as a whole aims to bring the region closer through proximity, cultural commonalities and dialogue.

The pavilion, designed by Dubai-based architectural firm A Hypothetical Office, plays on the idea of an Arabic neighbourhood courtyard which offers both intimate semi-private areas as well as walkways and common areas which lend themselves to social interactions and conversation.

Head over to Algeria to participate in a designer drum circle or to India to capture a memory in a hexagonal floor tile, to Bahrain to learn about the island’s rich but largely forgotten heritage of pottery and to Iraq to see abstract design based on their rich culture of poetry, architecture, sculpture and calligraphy. Palestine looks at the tradition of olive wood carvings and the UAE at the curator and multidisciplinary designer Salem Al-Qassimi and Maryam Al Qassimi draw inspiration from the cafeterias that have become an important element of the Emirati culture.


Iconic City: Cairo Now! City Incomplete

Following on from last year’s successful showcase of Beirut, this year organisers have chosen Cairo as their design muse. Iconic City is a comprehensive look at design in this ancient yet ever-changing city from architecture to product, furniture, graphic and typeface design.

Curated by the highly knowledgeable Mohamed Elshahed, a Cairo-based architect, writer and researcher who curates the British Museum’s Modern Egypt Project and is a founder of the architecture and urbanism blog Cairobserver, the exhibit looks at the theme of Cairo as an “incomplete” city or a city in a perpetual state of unrealised or disjointed design – be it intentional or by circumstance.

As he explains, “Cairo Now! sheds light on the city’s emerging designers who, despite the lack of a marketplace or an infrastructure supporting their practices, continue to innovate, to turn the city’s trash into new products and revive fading traditions with a contemporary edge. They always take Cairo with all its flaws as their muse and as the source of their creativity. The city’s zeitgeist is reflected in their often satirical take on the absurdities that make up contemporary Cairo. ”

dubai design week 2016

Talks and workshops

In addition to the various core exhibitions there is a six-day programme of free public talks, workshops and satellite installations. Be sure to look out for Designing Futuristic Arabia – a talk by Dubai-based director/producer Mohammad Rasoul on designing a futuristic Gulf state for his upcoming sci-fi film Duneopolis, Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum x Mirzam – a collaboration between Emirati designer and photographer Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum and Mirzam chocolate, 20 Icons of French Design and Bil Arabi Celebrates 10 Year Milestone – a curated exhibition of a decade of jewellery design by Nadine Kanso.

dubai design week 2016

To find out more about the full programme, visit

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Images: Courtesy Dubai Design Week