Dubai Design Week – the region’s largest creative event, is an actualization which began with the purpose to initially provide emerging Arab designers and creative minds a platform to expose their work and engage with potential clients and corporations. They have expanded working at a broader level where they are aiming to establish Dubai as a hub where creative economies can opportunely co-exist and expand, a space where international brands can participate and situate themselves. It’s not explicitly for Middle Eastern designers though this is one of their mandates. It’s more of a governmental initiative through Dubai Design District (d3), and Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI). DIDI’s first semester just started in September and it is located in Dubai Design District. It’s a combination of MIT and Parsons School of Design. 

We had a chance to have a sit down with the Creative Director of the annual event who educated us with all we needed to know about the carefully planned event everyone awaits for annually.

You told us: “This is literally my dream job!”. Tell us more about that and your career journey.

“How can design become a passport…” – I often say. Design should not be for one person; it should be accessible to everyone. Whether it’s designing a beautiful park, or designing something that solves a problem. So, I was trying to figure out how to marry design in a harmonious sense to as many people as possible, effectively highlighting cultures, identities, and celebrating differences and similarities. Hence, Dubai Design Week!

What are you responsible for?

As the Head of Programming, we undertake to develop for a variety of time-frames, ideas that are essentially on a long-term. For example, Dubai Design Week exists for 6 days, you can sell on-sight for 6 days, and then there are design competitions that run 3 month-long. We create the contests, alongside with our partners. For example, Audi are our sponsors and they promote innovation; running a competition that’s regional, the end product to be developed within 12 months. So basically, Dubai Design Week isn’t really just 6 days, we’re targeting to give potentials a head-start on their fashion and design career within a year.

Tell us more about the Audi Innovative Award.

It’s in its third year. We announce a theme at Dubai Design Week, and then anybody across the Middle East can submit their designs within this theme. It has to include some sort of problem-solving or innovation in the design. The submissions are then judged by 10 judges from across the Middle East. The judges then select the project based on a heated debate. The General Manager of Audi Middle East is also one of the judges! The winner essentially receives $25,000 worth of mentorship. It’s not a cash price, it’s more of an experiential price. The winner gets to decide how the amount is appropriated and towards what.

What is your scope of work within this event?

Since I am the Creative Director, which suggests that I am responsible for expressing a particular image, we look at three different angles: local, regional, and international. Then we have cultural and commercial. 

So, we have three major exhibitions. One being the commercial one, Downtown Design which is a trade show, it has a retail element called Downtown Edition. It evolved, it now takes place in November. It brings together Middle Eastern designers and has a part in promoting them. 

Next up is Global Grad Show which is the world’s largest exhibition for students’ projects from every university. From Harvard to AUB, students from all over come to participate for this event. 

I’m responsible for an exhibition called Abwab which is a regional design exhibition, that usually includes North Africa and South Asia as well. We’ve got an architectural team to develop physical pavilions which are structures which the design exhibition is showcased within.

As you joined the team since the very start. How do you see the progress and where do you see the vision heading?

Starting with Dubai Design Week, Dubai is a different city than fashion capitals such as Milan and Paris. We’re establishing a sense of what the future is going to look like versus what the past has looked like. I think Dubai is constantly evolving, trying to be different and to be ‘something else’, something that effects the city itself in a long-term strategy, not just a 6-day strategy. There is an important recognition in the fact that we are part of a larger transformation in what Dubai is becoming and where Dubai is heading.