Festivity Issue A/W’18
& Exclusive Interview By Diane Vay
Dubai Design Week is the region’s largest creative festival which is set to take place from
November 12 – 17, 2018.
The six-day programme is made up of over 200 events covering design across a range of
disciplines including architecture, product, furniture, interior and graphic design. Key events
include the region’s leading design fair Downtown Design and its showcase dedicated to
limited-edition design, Downtown Editions; the Global Grad Show that brings together 150
works from 90+ of the most innovative universities across the world; and Abwab, the curated
and interactive project containing original commissioned design from the region.
Downtown Design is the anchor event and commercial centerpiece of Dubai Design Week and
the region’s principal annual meeting point for the local and international design industry. The
Middle East’s leading design trade fair for the industry professionals to discover original and
high-quality design from the region and beyond and curated to ensure quality and relevance,
Downtown Design presents a selection of high-end exhibitors across product categories
including furniture, lighting, bathrooms, kitchens, carpets and flooring, wall coverings, materials
This year, we are introducing Downtown Editions; a carefully edited showcase of limited-edition
and bespoke design and occupying a new key area within the Downtown Design fair.
Downtown Editions is a platform for industry professionals and design enthusiasts to connect
with the creative community to discover and commission bespoke and limited-edition design,
whilst a stage for the design talent, emerging brands and individual design studios to connect
with a design industry audience for enhanced commercial opportunity.
Global Grad Show is an exhibition of life changing inventions from the world’s largest design
and technology schools, giving unprecedented insight to how the next generation will shape the
future through design, science and innovation.
Held in November as part of Dubai Design Week, the exhibition is a non-for-profit initiative
which brings together works from the most innovative universities in the world.
Grown to become the world’s largest student gathering, Global Grad Show is set to involve +90
universities from +50 countries this year, showing work from graduates worldwide with a focus
for social good.
The Exclusive Interview Follows for The 7th Magazine’s Festivity Issue with Brendan McGetrick,
Director and Curator, Global Grad Show
The Global Grad Show exhibits leading tech and Design from all over the world. Why is it held in Dubai?
The Global Grad Show is held in Dubai for a variety of reasons, the first and most obvious being that it is an original initiative of Dubai Design Week, so it makes sense for it to be held here during this period.
Second, Dubai serves as a great hub to host the Global Grad Show, as it is genuinely a meeting place where people from all over the world can come together and exchange ideas. It is so well connected which makes it a great location for a global exhibition or a gathering of any kind, and it’s already a place where people feel comfortable visiting, particularly from the MENASA region, as it fosters a spirit of openness and fairness, to do business, meet new people or try new things.
Another important reason is that Dubai as a city, as a government, and as a culture is investing in education and innovation extensively and has been for years. The Global Grad Show is all about innovation and education as well, so it’s really nice for it to take place in an environment that’s so supportive, forward looking and future oriented, because what we’re trying to showcase at the Global Grad Show is the next generation of design and innovation, and Dubai is a good place for that.
On the website, GGS underlying theme promotes innovation as a “vital part of life”. Please give three reasons why these projects are essential to our future?
First, there are many problems in the world today that are very large in scope – problems like climate change, migration, accessibility, and many more. These are large scale, and often times it’s not realistic to expect the unified governmental or international solutions that these problems seem to require. This is why the smaller scale solutions that we showcase at Global Grad Show are vital – because they are not only original but also actionable. A lot of the projects we feature are human scale, but address very large, essential issues of social and environmental good, which are essential for us to resolve and improve over the next 100 years.
Secondly, what’s really important, especially when it comes to the Global Grad Show, is that we want to make it clear that innovation is not dependent on technology or money. Often, when people hear that term they automatically conjure up images of robots butlers and flying cars and so on, but the reality is that innovation is merely a good and new idea that’s solving a problem that hasn’t been solved yet, or taking advantage of an opportunity that hasn’t fully been understood yet. We’re trying to create a platform where you will witness both, high and low-technology projects, and often times it’s the low-tech innovations that are potentially much more valuable as they’re easier to implement for a larger number of people.
Lastly, we’re trying to show the young people in particular, who visit from across the UAE and the region, that design is for everyone. If there’s an issue that frustrates them, or if they wish they could affect positive change, then they too can actively seek and create solutions through design. It’s all about encouraging the next generation and empowering them from the beginning to believe that they can actively address the things in life that exasperate them or that they wish they had more control over.
Please share more details about the progress prize. What does it take to win?
The progress prize was initiated last year and will continue this year as well. It’s a prize that’s awarded to the project which the jury feels is most representative of Global Grad Show’s priorities, which are:
A) It has to be an original idea that isn’t currently available. This helps narrow down our selection as well, because it’s not about how beautiful a design is if it’s already been made before. It has to be new and unique.
B) It must have social impact. All designs need to be directed towards humanitarian, community or environmental good. It has to try and solve a larger problem.
C) It must have international relevance. The design must be able to be applied and implemented anywhere in the world, to help beyond the specific location or area it was inspired by.
D) It must be feasible. Often, student work can be ambitious and utopian, but a big part of the challenge of design is that it has to work. So, in order to win the progress prize, the design usually has to have a working prototype, one that the designer has established can work and could actually be made if it receives the right support.
How was the jury formed?
To form the Progress Prize jury, we try to find people from different fields that relate to design, so that they can apply their expertise and critical thinking to the projects in different ways. We usually have a good mix of individuals who are product designers, journalists or critics, and those from the finance or production side, so that we can apply as many different concerns to the projects and arrive at a winner that satisfies these different needs. Ultimately, the winner gets a cash prize and hopefully everything they’d need to take the project to the next level, and the jury is there to ensure that that’s the case.
Now that you’ve been a part of three shows, tell me more about the production process. What is it like to transition from one show to another?
The first edition of Global Grad Show had only 10 universities and 50 projects, and last year we had 92 universities and 200 projects. Our main goal for the past three years was to simply make it bigger and more diverse, so that it was genuinely global and represented a huge number of countries and a diversity of universities in terms of size and educational philosophy. We wanted to ensure that the Global Grad Show is truly representative of the talent and creativity that’s out there.
This year however, we’ve scaled it back a little. We want to make the show even better in terms of the general experience for visitors, and we realized that 200 projects is too much to take in. So this year we’re showcasing 150 projects, even though we’ve had far more submissions, which means that the projects selected will feature a higher level of quality and originality. The Global Grad Show is getting bigger in terms of the network of universities and submissions, but it’s also getting much more selective, so that we can create a stronger experience and exhibition.
What were your initial thoughts when you began working in GGS for 2015?
To be honest, the initial thought was that we hoped it would work – the Global Grad Show was an idea we came up with that hadn’t really been done before. The focus initially was to try to make it as good as possible, so that we could convince visitors that this something they need to see. People ended up really liking it, but they also gave us feedback that it needed to be more global and include more local and regional universities as well, which directed our focus for the next year towards expanding the number of schools.
But for the first year all you can do is try to execute it as well as possible and prove that it’s a good and essential idea, and in subsequent editions work towards making it better and fulfilling its potential.
What can we look forward to in the future for GGS?
The Global Grad Show is the largest and most diverse student gathering the world. Every project in the show is represented by its talented designer, and every university featured is represented by one of their professors or the dean. To have all these brilliant people together makes the Global Grad Show an amazing opportunity socially and creatively. In the past years we haven’t had the chance to take advantage of this, but that’s going to change this year. For 2018, we’re organizing a conference for all professors on the topic of creativity in the age of automation, to discuss how artificial intelligence will affect the creative process as well as arts and design
education. We will also have a design challenge for the students themselves, who will get to collaborate on projects and create original designs inspired by Dubai. We’re aiming to make this a much more proactive, generative event rather than it simply a showcase.