Back in February 2017 we were enthusiastic about the appointment of William Knight as managing director and head of design for the Art Dubai Group, which produces Dubai Design Week as well as the collectible design fair Design Days Dubai during Art Week. We felt his expertise as design director for London-based 100% design and his previous role establishing the London Design Festival would add real weight to Dubai’s aspirations to be a design destination.
The word is that he’s eased himself into the role, imposing few if any changes but reportedly using his contacts and experience to beef up many of the elements of Dubai Design Week. So how does he feel he’s doing?
magpie Now that you’ve been in post for a while, what’s your impression of the design scene in Dubai?
Knight Very positive. The quality of talent is already high and constantly evolving. Dubai’s design landscape absorbs and amplifies compelling ideas, and creates its own discourse.
I see the immediate future as helping Dubai expand from a creative destination to speaking the language of business – positioning design as a strategic asset in the wider economy. Dubai Design Week aims to create a meeting point that helps by increasing confidence in the sector and articulating the diversity and value of design. Of course, we want this to translate to more opportunities for local designers.
magpie What has William Knight contributed to Design Week? Is there anything specific that you have influenced? Or is your contribution more about structure, presentation, strategy?
Knight The structure of Dubai Design Week is firmly in place. I hope I’ve helped consolidate key elements such as Downtown Design, Global Grad Show and Abwab, all of which are primed to be outstanding this year.
I want to build on the success of the last two editions and continue the evolution by joining things up as much as possible
I want to build on the success of the last two editions and continue the evolution by joining things up as much as possible. One of my mandates is making design – and the design community in Dubai – more accessible. I hope this will come through in the programming, the delivery and tone of the event this year.
magpie How does Dubai Design Week compare with other international design weeks. Does it offer as rich an experience?
Knight Like the city itself, Dubai Design Week should be a leader and not a follower. There are a number of things that we do that no one else does, like Abwab, Global Grad Show and Iconic City.
Another key differentiator is our hub location at Dubai Design District (d3); it’s a unique project, aiming to deliver a 360-degree destination for creativity – the richness of the experience here is comparable to events around the world.
There isn’t a world ranking for design weeks but we know our events are taken very seriously and there is lots of potential to keep on developing.
magpie The distinction between Design Week and Design Days seems to be getting a bit blurred. It used to be simple and clear – Downtown Design was a trade show for manufacturers and suppliers, Design Days was more a B2C event for individual designers and small studios to talk directly to individual buyers and supporters. But Design Week has spread to include lots of individual-oriented add-on events, and it’s obviously no longer primarily a B2B date; so will Design Days become a second Design Week?
Knight Our immediate focus is attracting broad audiences to Dubai Design Week 2017 in terms of both quality and quantity. As we increase awareness and interest in design the formats and structure of activity throughout the year will develop.
We’re pushing November as the key period for design in Dubai, attracting the audiences from commercial buyers, through to individual commissioners of design to potential design students through to consumers. Again, it comes back to being as accessible as possible so that there is something for everyone to discover and engage with.