From November 12 to 17, Dubai becomes the design capital of the world, as designers and creatives converge on the city for Dubai Design Week (DXBDW). No two visitors to DXBDW will experience the festival in the same way. Our recommendation is to identify a few things in advance of your visit that you definitely want to see, but then let yourself wander to discover things for yourself. Look behind doors and through windows, and stop at creations in spaces in between.

The significance of the event is that it provides multiple platforms for presenting regional design within the global context. Giants of the industry such as Thonet, Poltrona Frau, Georg Jensen, Vitra, Cappellini and Puiforcat will be presenting at Downtown Design, and the freshest of ideas that are springing out of design institutes across the world will be showcased at the Global Grad Show.

What makes DXBDW unique is the prominent profiles given to regional design, and in particular Emirati design. Look out for Tashkeel’s Design + Making UAE (pictured below) exhibition with a retail pop-up, and the Design 100 competition unveiling. The winning design in this open callout to UAE designers will be produced in 100 editions and can be bought by visitors to the fair, with all proceeds going to Dubai Cares and their support for Syrian refugees.

DXBDW Tashkeel. Image courtesy of Make Works UAE and Tashkeel copy

Global Grad Show

If you want to see truly creative minds generating really exciting work, then this exhibition is required visiting. No fewer than 150 design solutions will be presented, which have been sourced from 100 universities across the world.

The design outcomes are diverse; from everyday products to high-tech gadgets, and from the astonishingly simple to the astoundingly complex. There will be solutions to problems you didn’t realise existed, and others that are so seemingly straightforward that you’ll wonder why it wasn’t thought of before.

The Global Grad Show celebrates innovation for social and environmental good, with submissions covering a profoundly diverse scope including medicine, the environment, toys, clothing, housing, sport and more.

Just a sample of some great ideas on display include:

  Locally designed Little Traveller is a kit that aims to develop a child’s curiosity for the world around them by providing background information on the landscapes and cultures they will encounter on holiday.

Rolar blinds are otherwise normal-looking roller blinds for the home that provide shade from the sun’s glare, but also capture and store solar energy to provide users with a renewable energy source that can be easily downloaded.

Jelly Drops are super-hydrating sweets that are made of 90 per cent water, intended for people with dementia who are at risk of dehydration.

Rehber may look like a digital watch, but it isn’t dependent on Bluetooth or WiFi. It is intended to help families locate and reunite with their loved ones – especially the elderly and children – should they get separated while travelling on the Hajj.

Apibox is a low-cost portable beehive made from expanded polystyrene boards. It contains nine frames per box with a tap system to collect the honey.

When visiting this exhibition, keep an eye out for enthusiastic young people seemingly hovering near specific displays. If you are fortunate, it will be one of the designers, who will be only too pleased to talk to you about their work, the problems they are trying to solve and their proposed solutions. It will inspire you.

Dubai Design Week Typecase

From RAK to DRAK

If you are an industrial designer, it makes complete sense to locate your studio in the heart of an industrial district. One is immediately surrounded by people who are solving problems, creating solutions and making things. So it isn’t surprising that in among all the factories and showrooms of Dubai’s Ras Al Khor district, designers have slowly been moving in as well.

For DXBDW 2018, some of these designers have been setting their creative skills to work for the good of their own neighbourhood. Three designers were paired with three local commercial outlets with the aim of creating products that could be of value to the businesses. It is surprising where these partnerships have ended up.

Emirati graphic designer Khalid Mezaina focused on the bakeries that supply the workers with delicious fresh bread. He found the work to be hard, and often tedious, but realised that even this age-old process could benefit from a little innovation. His offer is a simple stamping tool to replace the manual process of adding the dots that decorate and add texture to the bread.

Amal Haliq, an Emirati jewellery designer, worked with the barber shop to re-design the hair-cutting shears and finger brace. The conclusion provides a new look for Dubai’s salons.

The third designer is Faissal El-Malak who focused on a calligraphy and advertising signs business. The result is his new contemporary language for a branded line of products and clothing inspired by their promotional merchandise.

The outcomes of this original on-site research will be on display in RAK to DRAK, along with photographs depicting the research, design processes, connections and relationships.

Rouda_Al_Shamsi_1 DBXDB

UAE Design Stories

Following on from recent acclaimed showings in London and Paris, the results of the project UAE Design Stories: The Next Generation will be presented to a home audience during DXBDW 2018.

As the title suggests, this project is presented as a series of stories, with each manifestation defined as a chapter. The opening chapter was an exhibition that was included in the prestigious Milan Design Week in April, and profiled pieces that were inspired by the flora, fauna and soil of the UAE.

The same eight designers are included in chapter two, which shows the results of being challenged to explore the idea of Objects of the Past: Today. This exhibition’s initial showing was in one of 12 national pavilions included at the London Design Fair in September.

This time the designers were commissioned to create pieces specifically inspired by the rich photographic and film archives of the UAE. Many of the images by early pioneers, such as Ronald Codrai, are included in the exhibition, which enables visitors to make their own connections between the old and the new. It is always fascinating to see how important traditional craft techniques and materials of times past, but not so long ago, can be recalled in the objects of today.

The weaving and plaiting of the areesh (palm-frond) structures originally built in the region’s early settlements clearly inspired Abdalla Almulla’s room dividers and tables, and Alia bin Omair’s golden headpiece echoes the intricate hair braids seen in the portraits of the young Bedouin girls. Traditional sturdy wooden dowry chests with metal studs that were to be found in many Emirati households have inspired Aljoud Lootah to create the Mandoos series of jewellery boxes and cases. Where the origins were solid and sturdy, Lootah presents delicate objects made from strips of finely woven camel leather.

The other participating designers are Alia Al Mazrooei (interior designer), Azza Al Qubaisi (sculpture and product designer), Roudha Al Shamsi (interior designer, lamps pictured above), Salem Al Mansoori (interdisciplinary designer) and Ahmad Al Areef (multidisciplinary Bedouin artist). Some of these names will be familiar to those who have been to earlier Dubai Design Week festivals, others will be refreshingly new.

It is reassuring to see that objects and skills that were clearly valued by Emiratis in the past are still cherished by their creative descendants. The project is curated by Khalid Shafar, himself an Emirati furniture and product designer.


Dubai Design Week runs from 12 to 17 November and is free to attend. The main program will take place at Dubai Design District (d3), but look out for events across town. General opening hours: 12 November: 6-10pm; 13-16 November 10am-10pm; 17 November 10am-7pm

Words: Annette Welkamp