With Dubai Design Week kicking off this week, A&E meets William Knight, Managing Director and Head of Design at Art Dubai Group. Knight is bringing his extensive experience from the UK where most recently he was Show Director of Design Trade Events at Media 10 and headed the vibrant 100% Design and Clerkenwell Design Week events.
We find out what he thinks of the creative scene in the region and his plans for the future.
You joined Art Dubai Group earlier this year, what have been your main points of focus?
A key focus has been to connect with as many people in the design community as possible; Dubai Design Week only happens thanks to the commitment and effort of the design community as well as our sponsors and supporters. I’ve also tried to get under the skin of the city, see what makes its creativity tick and where the opportunities exist; some of this is about context and I’ve been lucky enough to visit other destinations since arriving; in both the UAE and the region. Essentially trying to make sense of it all.
How is the design scene here different to London?
There are similarities; particularly the international brands that operate in both markets; great design is universal. In London, there has been a concerted campaign over more than 20 years to promote design through a host of channels; and it has succeeded in positioning itself as a city of ideas. Dubai is on a similar path, with more and more design activity taking place, better media coverage and a developing knowledge and understanding of the potential of design.
Are there any designers in the Middle East that you’re a particular fan of?
On a personal level, I’ve been made to feel so welcome by the design community, so there are lots of designers I’m fans of. In terms of work, I’ll reference just some we’re featuring in this year’s Dubai Design Week: Lujaine Rezk and Albert Kolambel have developed a beautiful entrance structure for Dubai Design Week at d3, Boano Prismontas and Ricardas Blazukas are promising a dramatic installation here too, depicting a middle eastern skyline. There is a host of talent within group shows Abwab, and Once Upon Design, curated by Noor Aldabbagh. These are just some and I’m looking forward to learning more during the week.
Where does your interest in the industry come from?
I started working in design promotion in 1999. From that point I was drawn in by the positive nature of the industry; its progressive and focused on making things better. The industry is also multi-faceted; this diversity of applications is really interesting for me; design can be used to make one person’s every-day life just that bit better through to re-defining an entire country.
How is Dubai going to become a key design destination in the future?
By continuing to believe in itself and it growing its pool of design talent. Working together is key, which is why both Dubai Design Week and Dubai Design District are so critical in putting Dubai on the world’s design map. Another key factor is being distinctive; from a Dubai Design Week perspective, this is why shows such as Abwab and Global Grad Show are important – you simply cannot see these shows anywhere else on the planet.
Which projects have you been most excited to work on?
The installation programme this year has been great to work on and I’m looking forward to the projects taking shape. However, it’s the big show, Downtown Design that I’m really excited to see: this is a showcase of 150 interior and furniture brands, staged within a brand-new location; the d3 Waterfront at Dubai Design District. This show is a great way to see trends and products produced by international and local brands, and shouldn’t be missed.
What have you found to be the key design interests of the people residing in Dubai?
I’ve managed to meet and work with a host of talented people across the design community, by its nature it’s engaged in a host of interests but one thing joins them all up – the pride, commitment and opportunity they can see in Dubai.
Can you reveal anything about the future events?
Events are ever-changing; Dubai Design Week is on a great trajectory, we need to keep connected to the community and reflect its interests and direction; design doesn’t stand still, so one thing is for sure, each event will be different from the last.