It is Dubai Design Week and the Global Grad Show talks Apocalypse. According to what is on, it seems like days are over for design that sparkles. It is time to take a position and acknowledge where the world is leading to, rather than looking after sterile abstract compositions and polished objects. We explored 200 final-year projects by design students around the world, and took note of a global tendency: Immediate response. The pressing issues of our time basically: access to education, food, shelter, community, energy and the on and off-line worlds. Today’s urgencies are social, environmental and political: sadly, they seem not to leave much space for long term speculations, fantasies and peaceful recreation.
Post-climate and disaster. In the time of rising sea-water levels, temperature, pollution, and natural cataclysms we might need or want to use fancy garments to keep our bodies cool when temperatures touch 53°, or store beers in coolers powered by sand. May an earthquake occur, several high-tech drones will be ready for rescue operations even on the world’s tallest skyscraper. When going back home, we could stare at a mirror that highlights the extent of UV light damage on our skin, and water would pour from a tap that tells us how many liters we’re allowed to use. Our roofs and gardens will necessarily host digital devices for the reproduction of bees, and organic food will just mean growing plant-cell jellies with artificial flavors. True Matrix.
Kids will only use half the bathtub and play cooking with insects. No electric lighting in our rooms but only portable rechargeable lights. Window blinds could store solar energy and art paintings will purify our living room. If we’re lucky enough, algae might save us all through biodegradable natural packaging, sneakers and soccer shoes. Mangroves used as planet heroes that keep soil from eroding, and skaters will be able to show off their skill in abandoned petrol silos. With less snow, skiing is replaced by hardcore electric vehicles.
Displacement and war. Urban fighters will have breakthrough protective headgears and soldiers will purify water in special bottles. Your tears will turn into bullets to shoot. Cities will build prefab houses with discarded building materials, whereas a portable stool will allow for safe off-site childbirth. Children’s backpacks can be instantly transformed into studying environments no matter where, and refugees will be given a Protection Guide for assistance anywhere. An online platform preserves the cultures of endangered languages and, in case of escape, sensible documents can be quickly stored in protected digital files. Oh, and if you don’t know how to say “diabetes” in dutch, an app will break down language barriers with your foreign doctor.
Diseases of our times. Our brain has not evolved much since the mammoths roamed but external background noise did, tilting our mental abilities. Several projects deal with Alzheimer and how to face it as a matter of fact. How to detect it, how to playfully help someone who is affected by it, and how to cope decently with highly uncomfortable situations. Jewels might become physiotherapy tools, prosthesis for kids might look a bit cooler, and transplanted hearts might travel more safely than today. Simple tools will let women test the presence of vaginal infections, ovulation period and garments such as shoes will provide accupressure and reflexology. Office chairs will stimulate our emotional center, and a series of well conceived designs might help the visually impaired to better cook and move through busy environments. In case needed, a small dashboard that customises your car according to your disability requirement may be used, e.g. for the hearingly or visually impaired. A small shield will attract mosquitos and vaccinate them to prevent people from contracting diseases from bites, and a pencil-case shaped tool will enable the reuse of single-use catheters.
No place for humans. Use your third arm to hold music lines while playing the violin and detox your overloaded brain observing a mechanical device that places your mind into a meditative state. Mirrors which won’t reflect your image unless you smile, and when in doubt, a tool will force you to make decisions in seven seconds. Music becomes tactile with sticky pads to place all over your body, while drumming pads trousers will allow you to Keith Moon anywhere. A special desk can provide the tactile feedback of what your driverless car’s intentions are, and a ring lets you plan your life in augmented reality, just by scrolling. Whenever uncertain on how to solve a practical situation, a small head camera will connect you to human or non-human experts. Finally, fight impulsive money spending with a device and download apps to avoid using monetary systems. It just seems like young designers want us to be properly prepared for a near apocalypse.
Directed by independent writer and designer Brendan McGetrick, the Global Grad Show is a non-profit initiative started in Dubai back in 2015. It features projects from 92 universities in 43 countries and every project is represented by its author. A global design-student gathering. As McGetrick explained, the show celebrates Dubai through innovation for all with the purpose to promote equality, exchange and social impact. The projects have been structured through three main groups, rather than sectioned by geographic zones or schools: Empower, Connect and Sustain.
- Global Grad Show 2017
- Dubai Design Week 2017
- Brendan McGetrick