One of the world’s leading exhibitions of graduate design work, the Global Grad Show shows some 150 projects by individuals from all over the world. During this year’s Dubai Design Week, these visionary endeavors are on display at d3, the design district within the capital of the UAE. The show’s new curator, Eleanor Watson (formerly part of the curatorial team at London‘s Design Museum) chose the concept of scale as a starting point. Inspired by the classic short documentary Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, the sections of the 2019 edition are The Human, The Home, The Community, The City and The Planet.
Watson tells us, “I looked through all of the 1200 submissions and just selected the 150 projects that really stood out, where the student has identified a very specific issue and then found an elegant solution for it. That’s the first criteria, and then you check that you’ve chosen a broad geographical scope, but generally you have it. The reason why something will jump out at you is because it’s totally surprising and new. You get the geographical diversity in that way, but they’re selected firstly, inherently for their own value as a project.”
2019’s show also has many more women represented than in previous years; in fact, more than half the works on display are by women. Watson says, “I find it very interesting that there are as many women graduate designers as men. In the UK at least it’s almost 50/50, but only 5% of product designers are women—those who have established themselves as a professional designer in the UK. There aren’t enough women product designers, it means that certain issues just aren’t being addressed.” With this diversity of students in mind, we spent some time with Watson exploring the many impressive and innovative projects and have highlighted some of our favorites here.
For RoboKumbia, a provocative and clever project by a large group of students from Tecnológico de Monterrey, participants were asked to imagine what tech would look like had Silicon Valley been located in Mexico. The result is a group of robotic instruments that function as a band that plays Aniceto Molina’s “La Sampuesana.” The whimsical and colorful instruments also reflect many of the colors and iconography of rural Mexico.
Pazapa, a board game conceived by Célia Ferrer, is based on the fact that in playgrounds, boys tend to play in the center while the girls are on the edges. This board game allows children to create new games, with new rules and new playing fields, increasing the understanding that space should be equally distributed.
Almost surreal is Hark, which Antya Waegemann created as an over-the counter rape kit. In the US just 30% of rapes are reported and only 1% lead to a conviction. So Hark is a depressingly useful product, and allows survivors to collect their own initial kit, easily report to a hospital and the police, and receive assistance from a specialized SANE nurse. Discreet and set to be available in pharmacies, Hark helps build evidence and gives the survivor some control back.
Jitendra Sharma’s Rotomo is a tool that transforms a simple bucket into a washing machine. With a DC motor and high torque, it’s highly portable and takes just a few minutes—drastically reducing time spent hand-washing. This project could make a huge difference to people’s lives in many parts of the world, but was made with students in Delhi in mind.
Matières Spécifiques (or Specific Materials) by Maxime Louis-Courcier reinvents the humidifier and air conditioner thanks to its material and process. A more sustainable appliance than traditional iterations, this one diffuses water poured into its base and absorbs heat—all without electricity.
With her Mastectomy Caregiver, Pauline Agustoni has created a new form of knitwear aimed at supporting women through their healing process, and to give them confidence. It works as a protective shell and has been crafted to be seam-free for comfort.
Made with Pakistan’s nomadic population in mind, Sarman Hassan’s Safe Cooking is a cheap and safer version of a stove. While wood-burning stoves are common, Hassan has imagined one that uses less fuel, reducing the chance of injury and longterm illness. With efficient ventilation, it also cooks faster than traditional iterations.
Another practical project, Terracold is also a take on an existing appliance: a zero-energy fridge conceived and designed by Anne Bertoncini. The product keeps food cold thanks to the ancient process of evaporative cooling, which works by filling the terracotta bricks with sand and water—keeping the contents within chilled. Again, this is a useful concept that uses no electricity and can be more portable and versatile than traditional versions.
Not quite an essential, but a fantastic concept, Marie Radke’s Familie Hempel is a small collection of furniture that’s made for storing worn clothes that aren’t yet ready for the washing machine. Named for the German saying, “Your room looks like family Hempel’s place!” (which is typically said to mean the place is messy), Radke is embracing the chaos and messiness of everyday life.
Zi Ning Ng rethinks the children’s book with Making Mistakes—part storybook, educational tool, and interactive game. Readers make decisions throughout the book, with some turning out more positively than others. The goal is not just to teach kids about decision-making, but also (obviously) making mistakes. After all, isn’t that what design—and perhaps life altogether—is about?