Dubai’s Design Trade Show Doubles In Size

Downtown design celebrates its 5th year


Saudi Gazette

With 150 brands exhibiting from 25 countries at Downtown Design this year, we spoke to William Knight, Managing Director and Head of Design at Art Dubai Group in an exclusive interview about the six-day event. Knight said the exhibition creates a range of business opportunities directly for exhibitors and has the effect of being an economic driver in its own right. Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, in partnership with Dubai Design District and supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, the third edition of Dubai Design Week is set to take place from 13-18 November. The substantial growth has been supported by the government since day one and Knight said the support is essential, both in terms of promotion and events, but also in terms of setting a wider-context; supporting the creative industries and building confidence and infrastructure around them. We asked about his journey and the economic impact of these trade shows. William began his professional career as a researcher and MP’s assistant in the House of Commons and went on to join the London Design Festival Ltd and many more till he took on the role of Show Director for Clerkenwell Design Week in February 2014. He joined Art Dubai earlier this year.

SG: Tell us about your journey at Art Dubai so far. What has been the highlight and the biggest challenge so far this year?

WK: I’ve been at Art Dubai since March this year. It’s been very memorable, and without a doubt the highlight has been meeting the design community here in Dubai. There’s so much talent and people have been so kind and welcoming. Arriving in Dubai without my family to get started was my biggest challenge, but they’re here now!

SG: Dubai Design Week is an indisputable leader in the region, can you tell its significance and us where it stands internationally outside the region?

WK: Having ‘seen’ Dubai Design Week from an external perspective over the last two editions, I’ve seen its reputation develop. A key aspect of this is the blend of international, regional and local content. The rest of the world increasingly recognizes its significance as a platform for design and creativity in the Middle East.

SG: Could you share some insights about the growth of Dubai Design District and regional participation?

WK: Dubai Design District has really started to take shape. Even in the few months I’ve there have been significant changes and developments, with more businesses opening and the precinct evolving into a great destination for retail, cafes and restaurants in its own right. As a destination for design, the combination of d3 and Dubai Design Week and all of their component parts have been well received. This is a true design hub for everyone to access and make the most of.

SG: Could you tell us more about the economic impacts of Art Dubai and Dubai Design Week?

WK: Trade shows are focused on generating positive economic impact for the sectors they represent and the markets they are staged in. Our shows act as a meeting point, providing a platform for new companies to be introduced to the market, often with a view to setting up here. The intention is also to provide architects and designers looking to buy products for projects designed in Dubai; this is where the value is added and economic impact generated. With 150 brands exhibiting from 25 countries, Downtown Design creates a range of business opportunities directly for exhibitors and has the effect of being an economic driver in its own right.

SG: From a business standpoint, what do you predict the future holds for the Middle East market, mainly Dubai in the next 5 years?

WK: Downtown Design has doubled in size since the last edition; I think this in itself indicates the design sector is looking to expand and develop in Dubai. The plans for phase two of Dubai Design District are also really impressive and will help business here and beyond by establishing a diverse pool of talent that is unique in the region.

SG: What are the ‘Top 5 things’ you are looking forward to this year?

WK: I’m looking forward to seeing d3 activated with a series of installations specially staged for Dubai Design Week – the realization of weeks and moths of work. The speaker program, led by Sir David Adjaye has a series of highlights, including Elmar Mock, the inventor of Swatch and Mauro Porcini taking to the stage. Abwab – the regional showcase of contemporary design will be a standout installation. Downtown Design will be a treat, and as a unique showcase for global design talent the Global Grad Show is set to be a real highlight.


Follow the journey on social media

@dubaidesignweek @globalgradshow @downtowndesignd