William Knight | 5 minutes with Dubai Design Week Director

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November 13th 2018, Dubai Design District is buzzing with exhibitions, talks, the Grad show, a Facebook – Tasmeem pavilion. It’s in the effervescence of it all that we caught William Knight, Dubai Design Week director for a quick 5 minute chat. 


Interview/Cynthia Jreige

Editor/Salomé Aubergé


William Knight


Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your journey from London Design Festival to Dubai?

My name is William Knight, and I’m the director of Dubai Design Week. I’ve been in Dubai since march 2017, it’s the second time I’ve done this programme here in mid- November. I’ve been doing design promotion work for a very long time, I started doing design campaigns, then I helped set up the London Design Festival as of 2003, and more recently in London I was running a big trade show called ‘100% Design’.

I also ran Clerkenwell Design Week in London, so I have a lot of experience around design communities, which enabled me to come and work with the talent that’s here in Dubai.


How would you place Dubai within the global design scene?

It’s a city that’s very ambitious, there’s a lot of support here for the creative community, particularly around innovation in regards to visions for the future, which is an amazing combination! I think there’s also a strong focus on what is beneficial for the region as a whole.

Dubai is a unique place in many ways, it’s super accessible, there are many different populations here. It’s also very connected to the region, and we want to be part of that network; to encourage, report on and bring to life designs that relate to different cities in the Middle East. I think Abwab is the best example of that, designers from across the region are represented within its five pavilions.


Aeon by David Harber, Downtown Design 2018, copyright Jalal Abuthina 18


What would you say makes Dubai Design Week so special and what are its main characteristics?

I think the main characteristic is Dubai Design District (d3). What we have here is a set of buildings that enables us to put on a programme of huge variety, from global brand-led perspectives to more cultural expressions of design, through to kids’ workshops. The use of  space is a big characteristic, we respond to what d3 gives us in terms of indoor space, outdoor space, access to areas where we’ve put things like downtown design on.

It provides us with a facility for our vision to come to life. People who attend are free to walk around, they can see and feel their way through the whole variety of programmes, we deliberately don’t suggest a route as such, we want to allow people to feel the space and follow their noses. There’s an adventure there I think, if it was all lined up in one sequence, it wouldn’t offer the same experience.

We’re lucky enough to work with other design oriented organisations in different locations across Dubai, in areas like Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, and the historic neighbourhood. The intention is to put such places on the map as best we can; design in Dubai is not restricted to the design week, it takes place across the city throughout the whole year, so we really wanted to shine the spotlight on these places, whilst getting them involved in the design week as well. We really wanted to tap into the notion of Dubai as a global hub, as a place that people can relate to from anywhere in the world because of its internationalism, whilst also highlighting the opportunities that exist locally here as well.


Is there one stand-out program in Dubai Design Week that is not to be missed?

I’ve been involved in a lot of the projects here so it’s very difficult to say just one. I would say the thing to do is to visit Abwab, which will bring you all the way into the middle of d3, which in reality means you’ll have to see everything else as well.



Cover picture/  ANARCHITECT© – Circadian Light Synthesis