RCA Demonstrates Critical, Design Thinking at Dubai Global Grad Show, 2016

Royal College of Art graduates from programmes including Innovation Design Engineering, Interior Design, Service Design and Design Products are among those exhibiting at the Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week (24–29 October 2016) – a unique event that brings together work by students from across the world in a single exhibition, allowing emerging designers to meet one another and to share knowledge and ideas.

Curated by award-winning designer and writer Brendan McGetrick, the event has almost tripled in size this year. The number of exhibits has risen from 47 to 145 and the Show features students from 50 institutions based in 30 different countries. 

Much of the work selected by McGetrick for the Global Grad Show attempts to find long-lasting design solutions to pressing contemporary concerns, in fields ranging from transport to mental health. This diverse work is exhibited in three categories: Empower, Connect and Sustain. As McGetrick explains, ‘instead of using traditional categories… or organising the work according to the universities, I wanted to show how different projects from different places, in different media, can produce similar effects.’

The projects presented by the 22 RCA graduates at the Global Grad Show are united by a creative and practical approach to problem solving. According to McGetrick, they display ‘originality of thought’ and offer ‘strong, persuasive arguments for a much richer and more valuable understanding of design’.

Heeju Kim (MA Design Products, 2016) has created a set of tools that enable users to learn more about the way that individuals with autism experience the world. She describes her project – made up of three simple, low cost tools and a mobile application – as ‘a bridge towards mutual understanding’.

Gabriella Gagaea (MA Interior Design, 2016) and Anne Sophie Geay (MA Interior Design, 2016) present Wearable Shelter, an innovative project emerging from a design brief instigated by Judith Balcazar, Director of Design at Wall London. In this joint project between Wall London and the RCA Interior Design programme, students created clothing that addressed some of the challenges faced by millions of displaced people around the world. 

Evadine Okoye (MA Service Design, 2016) has designed a service called Sibicare that supports a community of siblings who have brothers and sisters with severe mental health issues. This personalised service enables siblings to connect with people going through similar situations and to access information from clinical professionals.

Exhibited within the Sustain category, Haidin Rashid’s (MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2016) MaterializeX is a pioneering bio-material made exclusively from organic by-products of large industrial plants, currently being used to create low-cost, 100% biodegradable road and flooring for events.

In the same category, John Routledge’s (MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2016) Recandescent is an artificial light source produced using a combination of traditional incandescent lighting technology with cutting-edge hot mirror technology.

Jan Libera’s (MA Design Products, 2016) London City Trailer provides a solution to the fact that cycling has traditionally been incompatible with the transportation of heavy and bulky goods. His trailer, which can be collected and deposited at any London bike-sharing system point, works with both rented and privately owned bikes. 

Philippe Hohlfield (MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2016) has designed a way to cultivate food in empty shipping containers on their return to China, using collapsible hydroponic farms. GrowFrame is exhibited in the Connect category. 

During the Dubai Design Week three tutors from the RCA – Harriet Harriss (Senior Tutor in Interior Design), Martina Margetts (Senior Tutor in Critical & Historical Studies) and Tim Rundle (Tutor in Design Products) – will be running one-day workshops on Interior Design, Curating Design and Industrial Design. 

The proportionately high number of RCA graduates included in the Global Grad Show is testament to the impact that critical design thinking – a mainstay of teaching in the Schools of Architecture and Design at the RCA – has in producing students who can ask fundamental, critical questions about what it means to be alive now, and answer them with creative perspective and intellectual rigour.


Global Grad Show is part of Dubai Design Week, 24–29 October. The exhibition is held in Building 6 of d3, Dubai Design District. For information on admittance and opening hours, and for more information about the exhibited work, visit the Dubai Design Week website.

Read more about Design ProductsInnovation Design Engineering, Interior Design and Service Design at the RCA, including how to Apply.