Ahead of the opening of the Global Grad Show, Curator Brendan McGetrick shares his insight into the value of graduate design, the growth of the show and what visitors can expect to see for the 2017 edition.

Ahead of the opening of the Global Grad Show, Curator Brendan McGetrick shares his insight into the value of graduate design, the growth of the show and what visitors can expect to see for the 2017 edition.

1. What are you most looking forward to for this year’s GGS?

As always, I’m looking forward to meeting all of the designers, and introducing them to each other and to our audience.

2. How has this year differed from last year?

This year’s Global Grad Show will be the largest ever, including almost 200 projects from 91 schools. In order to accommodate this growth, we’ve moved into a new venue, next to the Downtown Design tent. We’re very excited to activate the space and give visitors a richer, more interactive and social experience. We’ve invited all of the participating designers to attend. Throughout the week they will be present in the space explaining their projects. We hope that this will create unique opportunities for discussion, and make Global Grad Show a center of exchange and discovery – for everyone, but especially young people.

Alongside the exhibition, we’ll also host a series of workshops, panel discussions, forums and networking events for students, professors and industry specialists.

Finally, we will be launching the Progress Prize, an award that celebrates the values that Global Grad Show stands for and will be awarded to one Global Grad Show exhibitor each year. The winning project will be selected by an international jury of design and innovation experts, through a transparent and public process of deliberation and debate.

3. Is there a trend, or thread you have noticed while going through the selection process of the projects?

There are many threads. There are multiple projects that respond to the challenges of caring for a patient or loved one with dementia, for instance. There are also a number of projects dedicated to providing greater independence of people with disabilities and improved medical care for people living in low resource environments.

As always, there are projects that explore the border to between the physical and virtual worlds. Some of the virtual reality and augmented reality works this year are among the most exciting.

The truth is that the show is too vast and diverse to identify any single trend. Global Grad Show’s diversity is what makes it so exciting to curate. There are high tech projects and low tech, luxurious ones and low cost, mechanical and manual and virtual. For me, the experience of making it is almost like reading great literature – it expands my understanding of the human experience. Every year there are dozens of projects that respond to issues that I’ve never considered.

4. What do the selected projects show visitors and what do you want to visitors to take away from this year’s exhibition?

The projects provide a view to the fascinations, fears, and ideals of the next generation of designers. Their works are designed to directly benefit social, humanitarian, community or environmental causes. By presenting a cross section of design and tech programs from around the world, GGS shows visitors how the world’s brightest young minds are designing the future. The variety of programs offers a completely unique view to the ways in which designers in different places, with different budgets, cultural contexts, and tools develop solutions to the problems and opportunities of our time.

Global Grad Show was created to open the field of design to participants from as many places as possible. This includes the show’s exhibitors, of course, but also its audience. In the exhibition they’ll find products intended for infants and for the elderly, for athletes, office workers, global brands, farmers, and families displaced by war. Our goal is to make it clear that design is a vital part of life, relevant to everyone and in need of contributions from everywhere.

5. Overall, what is the importance and significance of the exhibition?

In addition to the things I’ve already mentioned, I think GGS makes an important point about innovation. Innovation is an unavoidable buzzword – in Dubai and almost everywhere. Usually it’s associated with futuristic visions that are dependent on wealth and technology. Global Grad Show was created to challenge that interpretation and show that innovation should be accessible to everyone. That spirit of ‘innovation for all’ informs the best design, whether student or professional. But you are much more likely to find it in schools.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is the protective atmosphere of higher education in general. The other is more specific to design schools, where students are taught to see design as both a set of professional skills and a means of engaging the world. In universities and colleges on every continent, young creative people are encouraged to apply their talents and technical training to address unsolved problems. Free from the commercial pressures of professional life, they channel their energies toward the issues they care most about. The work is personal and the process of making it often leads them into unexplored territories.

A huge number of world changing innovations started as student projects – television, Google, and x-rays to name a few – the assumption is that student work is unproven and therefor ignorable. But it seems to me that a lack of identifiable precedent can itself be a kind of proof – proof of originality and potential value, proof of a need that nobody is addressing.