INDEX and Workspace 2023: Why the Dubai Edition is one to remember

Last week INDEX Dubai 2023 returned to floors with panache. With over 300 exhibitors and 60 speakers, INDEX and Workspace 2023 at DubaI World Trade Center were the places to be for industry professionals, studios and design aficionados alike. Dubai’s close-knitted circle of design experts meant almost every studio in the city was a part of the event in one way or another.

With an exhibition event transfused with talks, discussions and friendly fires – liveliness was a by-product of the charged environment at INDEX and Workspace 2023. The gregarious Esra Lemmens of her eponymous PR studio moderated the Design Talks at INDEX 2023 in an arena designed by Brand Creative and built by Design Infinity. On the other end, the animated and jovial Marina Mrdjen of Intelier helmed the discussions at Workspace Summit 2023.

Insightful Discussions, Opinions and Topics

The Design Talks at INDEX 2023

The very first talk addressed the unique design of the arena. Diving into the concept and process, Carla Conte, Founder and Creative Director of Brand Creative, informed the audience that the design was inspired by the desert and its relaxed ambience that urges one to speak their hearts out in camaraderie of their dear ones. If the bright, bulbous lamps and amphitheatre seating bedecked by faux sand weren’t a giveaway, the azure-coloured seating made by Interiors 360 coupled with white sofas would definitely remind visitors of the calm of an oasis. 

Geetha Nayak, Managing Partner of Design Infinity LLC, testified, “The best part is all these materials are recyclable, and there will be no waste generated from this.” Other sponsors from the talks were Cosentino, Kohler, Geberit and Presto.

The Design Talks at INDEX Dubai 2023 covered a wide range of topics. For instance, day one saw experts such as Sarah-Jane Grant of LXA deliberating on the skills required to be part of a team and how some extremely ambitious people could be better suited to work solo. Together with Mehmet Aktash, Managing Director at Bishop Design, Darren Taylors, Global Head of Client Relations, INC and Deepa Bhatia, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Capsule Arts, the conclusion drawn pointed that there was no one-size fits all approach to teamwork and playing on each team member’s strengths was pivotal.

On the same day, Carla Conte, Robin Rossi, Design Director, Altavia ODG, Kristian Stinson, Co-Founder, Studio EM and Andrea Sensoli, Founder, SUPERFUTUREDESIGN, shared opinions and ideas on revitalising retail spaces to make them engaging for consumers. Here, the subdued world of Metaverse was spoken about. While the Metaverse does offer greater convenience when it comes to the shopping experience, the experts pointed out that personal boundaries must be kept in mind. 

Expectedly, the booming AI influence was also discussed at the Design Talks of INDEX Dubai 2023. On day one, Firas Alsahin, Co-Founder and Design Director, 4space delivered a Tech Talk, and on day two, a friendly fire if employing AI in design today is essential. Andy Shaw, Managing Partner, AMA, moderated the debate as Lee Worthington, Managing Director MENA, JPA Design; Rakan Jandali, Design Associate, KCA International; Drew Gilbert, Design Manager, OBM International, Mithun Paul Varghese, Associate, LWK + PARTNERS and Ben D’Souza, Co-Founder, Love That Design shared how they employ AI in their day-to-day work. The overarching message was to view AI as an assisting tool, overthinking it as a far-off reality.

Workspace Summit 2023

Even at Workspace, thought-provoking themes, such as the influence of company culture on brand identity, were addressed. Matthew Bate, CEO of Design by Mahsa; Yullianna Porter, Head of WorkplaceDesign MEA, JLL MENA; Chris Barnes, Founder of Broadway Interiors and Vikita Shahani, Manager of Love That Design, was seen in the throes of an insightful discussion on how the company values and branding form the foundation of any business longevity and success.

The Brand Showcase

Exhibits at INDEX 2023

An all-inclusive design fair, INDEX Dubai 2023 also boasted stands from Portugal, Romania, Belgium, France, Italy, India and Turkiye. Divided by country, the stands bore an almost transitional quality. For example, the Italian side of the hall emphasised the luxurious accents – especially chandeliers and magnificent lighting products, and the change was evident as one moved to the no-frills and sleek French furniture that favoured a more outdoorsy theme. With visitors surrounded by variety, several stands were designed to stop and stare, and others captivated passersby with their products.

Kohler‘s exhibit garnered attention with their Artist Collections, which artists worldwide concocted to commemorate the brand’s 150th anniversary. Some of the collections shown were Falling Gently, in collaboration with street artist ELLE from the UK, and Aranya, in tandem with traditional artist Pushpa Kumari from India. 

VitrA Bathrooms also displayed its clean and stylish collections focusing on CMF – colours, materials and finishes. Centred around flaunting their diverse ceramic sanitaryware finishes and PVD-finished faucets, the booth’s heroes were the Tom Dixon Liquid collection and the Fluid range from Terri Pecora.

Geberit‘s stand played on its strengths and educated onlookers about their WC systems and flush plates in new finishes and shades. Sanipex Group, too, put their best foot forward, displaying their prowess via beautifully designed booths showing 264 metres of slabs and a wide range of faucets and other sanitaryware solutions from BAGNODESIGN, exuding luxury. Along with Talenti Outdoor Living, the SANIPEX GROUP’s booth resembled a compact showroom allowing visitors a truly interactive experience.

Speaking about engaging, Chattels & More‘s stand was one of the booths that visitors couldn’t help but photograph. From the tattered painting to other piece-de-resistance pieces, the well-curated exhibit highlighted not only their products but also their creative and characteristic spirit.

Messara Living‘s stand usurped inspiration from their own showroom! The double-height bookcase with a ladder was translated into a smaller version at the display. It housed the products Messara Living was most proud of – from the wallpapers to soft furnishings specified in prestigious projects. Skyline Outdoor Furniture had its dedicated side at Messara Living’s, where the mighty Spartan DayBed lured passersby to sink its cushions. Separately, the suppliers also had stands for Vincent Sheppard and Heatsail.

Surfaces Furnishing – CarpetLand, CurtainLand and more – also displayed their range of soft furnishings and informed those engaging about their impressive products and services. EuroArt, one of the most reliable names in ironmongery in the region, also displayed their collection of diverse metallic products. Their booth emphasised on the importance of details in a design.

Exhibits at Workspace 2023

Workspace Dubai 2023 boasted some of the leading brands in corporate furniture as well. Bene, in tandem with Jabra, showed the ideal collaborative environments,  focused heavily on design. The stand was reminiscent of The Secret Garden installation that the brand hosted at FuoriSalone 2023 during Milan Design Week 2023. Both the exhibits promoted the lively and invigorating Casual Outdoor product line, which is focused on inspiring and underpinning the fusion of outdoor and indoor spaces at the workplace. Bene’s vivacious seating options, in combination, with Jabra’s innovative video conferencing solutions had visitors flock to the booth.

Sedus‘ stand focused on acoustic and ergonomic comfort in an office environment and displayed their seating solutions along with their noise-cancelling pod and panels. Storage was also a key display. 

Haworth‘s towering installation was hard-to-miss at Workspace Dubai 2023. Three blocks comprising two cubes with circular cut-outs paraded Haworth brands under their umbrella – including BuzziSpace, Cappellini, Boss Design and BoConcept. Behind this, a live collaborative workspace was curated that was consistently abuzz with professional networking – serving as a potent example of Haworth’s competence. Acoustic panels, biophilic interventions and designs by Patricia Urquiola, like Lud’o Lounge, charmed visitors. The cosy, two-person booth by Hushoffice and the roomy four-person pod by BuzziSpace in the installation were, too, always occupied by one person or another. 

Gauging the shifting terrain of workspace design, Frezza showcased their solutions for offices that incorporated materials such as wood, fabric and even rope. Multiple mock scenarios at the site urged visitors to walk through the booth and look at the designs. Milani’s coveted People Home lounge seating and chairs also imbued Italian finesse at Workspace Dubai 2023.

At Leisure and Wellness Show 2023, Technogym too showcased their latest equipment. A live-workout session spearheaded by trainer managed to get onlookers in the mood on day one, and thereafter, the sizeable screens on the treadmill and the particularly sleek designs of the equipment were bait enough to intrigue passersby.

Overall, INDEX Dubai 2023 and Workspace 2023 succinctly captured the essence of the current product portfolios with their exhibits and the design scene with the talks. Installations at the show prompted innovative thinking and the usage of AI-driven design. However, in the upcoming editions, we hope to see a larger surge of these installations as seen in previous editions. With the quality of the talks seeing a definite improvement, we hope INDEX 2024 will be the venue for even more compelling discussions and eventually become the event that educates, encourages and represents the regional design community. 

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