The eighth Dubai Design Week was curated in strategic collaboration with Dubai Design District (D3) and with the support of Dubai Culture. Design week took place between 8 November 2022 and 13 November 2022 at D3, the regional center for art, design, fashion and architecture. It strengthens Dubai’s status as a “UNESCO Creative City of Design and further raises the profile of the city’s creative industries”. Like any notable Design Week, the programming of Dubai Design Week 2023 focused on designing a sustainable future through the week’s activities in a variety of disciplines, led by international and regional designers with its overarching theme ” Design with impact”.
What does ‘Design with impact’ mean? Isn’t design always impactful because of its communicative nature? Designers were the first responders during the global pandemic. They understood paper better than any other industry during the disaster. In the post-pandemic world, designers are no longer constrained and dictated by the confines of the industrial age. Design protagonists deploy design not as a commercial tool executed under the instructions of employers or clients, but as an eclectic ambitious change agent.
The many design weeks, exhibitions, installations and fairs held around the world every year generate an obscene amount of waste. Entire pavilions built with non-recyclable materials are discarded after a few days or weeks and end up in landfills. Designers are responsible for considering the life cycle of their creations and incorporating nature-based materials into their work, offering more sustainable design solutions.
As an industry, we need to create sustainable design solutions. Design can only reach its full potential or orchestrate transformative change if designers take advantage of these insights. Dubai Design Week strives to bring these ideas and talents together to engage, connect and inspire artisans who present installations, exhibitions, talks, workshops and the design fair at the centre. It is time to consider products as a sum of their materials.
The commercial arm of Dubai Design Week, Downtown Design, mixed the latest from top international brands with the best of the Middle East’s homegrown design scene. They created a layered program of talks and organized B2B activations to spark new ideas and foster new business. The design fair created a space for dialogue that reflected Dubai’s cosmopolitan soul, fostered commercial opportunities and fostered cross-cultural cross-pollination.
After the pandemic, the design industry in the Middle East has recovered. Any hint of impending trouble is erased, with increased demand for luxury residences, exceptional hotels and ultra-exclusive leisure destinations. Compared to historically struggling luxury markets, the Middle East is a promising destination for designer brands looking to grow their business. Dubai is the hub of it all.
Dubai Design Week witnessed designers seeing investments as a way to build their legacy, focusing on quality and originality. The product focus differs from other fairs and encourages innovation in design and cross-cultural collaboration.
The UAE Designers Exhibition featured the work of 16 designers and studios working across a range of disciplines curated by Cyril Zammit. Sharjah-based Reem Jeghel displayed objects made from palm veneer, a material he developed from pressed palm fibers, creating a finish similar to wood veneer. Design is a key pillar of Dubai’s strategic roadmap. We continuously support talented people and empower the creativity behind the development of the creative economy. This support consolidates Dubai’s position as a global center of culture, an incubator of creativity, a thriving hub of talent and a global capital of the creative economy.
Dubai’s strategic position is that of a crossroads city. It was an important port on the historic Silk Road trade route and later a financial center straddling Europe and Asia. It is associated with a meeting place of cultures. However, Dubai Design Week 2022 essentially spent its energy on familiarizing visitors with its burgeoning crop of local talent. In addition to the many international participants, the fair was full of creatives born and raised in the Middle East, offering a glimpse into the region’s vibrant creative scene.
A great growing development
A new generation of designers is rethinking our relationship with everyday things. Finding value in our trash, imagining a future of clean materials and a circular economy could open the way out of the age of waste. We have to deal with the problem of waste. We can no longer ignore what happens to things when we fall apart. Instead of thinking of objects as things that have a finite life, they can have many lives. This is not just an exhibition; it’s a campaign, and we all have to actively participate in our future. Imagine a future where sustainable circular design can lead us out of the age of waste.
“Design for impact” should not be used as a buzzword. We still see designers who lack critical self-reflection design for Instagram or PR purposes, and are swept under the rug of design with impact. Designing without purpose is unacceptable. Back in my days at design college, designs labeled “good” or “funny” were off-limits. I am focused on the vast majority, who are more concerned about the planet and humanity.
It is crucial to stimulate a collective discussion on the fundamentals of circularity and sustainability in design. These principles must be applied holistically and recursively at every stage and scale throughout the design process. In doing so, designers of all disciplines can work to creatively innovate and act alongside the natural world, not against it. It is not just about our life as humans; it is about the life of our planet.
Dubai Design Week 2023 was exhibited on 8 and 13 November 2022 at D3.