Design Diary: IFI Congress comes to Dubai

Design Diary: IFI Congress comes to Dubai

Promoting the value of quality design and advancing its positive impacts, International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI) unifies the global Interior Architecture and Design community in shared experience and understanding.

As their biannual gathering, the IFI Congress is at the heart the federation’s efforts in nurturing the industry.

In collaboration with APID (Association of Professional Interior Designers), the IFI Congress returns to Dubai this month. The theme, ‘IFI DESIGN 2050 — Technology. Design. Education’ will probe our collective tomorrow, targeting new and deeper understanding for these three foundational aspects shaping the future.


Rosanne Somerson, the President of the Rhode Island School of Design (USA) will deliver the keynote, ‘Designing for Complexity’.

A designer, professor and academic leader, Somerson has been advancing art and design since she was a student at RISD in the 1970s. She returned to the College in the 1980s to teach and in 1995 founded the Furniture Design Department before serving as Provost and chief academic officer. As RISD’s 17th president she is committed to expanding inclusion, equity and access in order to enhance a genuinely rich learning environment that consists of diverse experiences, viewpoints, and talents.

Industries are reformulating, cultures are more globally based and challenges are inter-related across fields and disciplines. Innovation is stemming from interdisciplinary knowledge building that is cross-pollinated and design is at the Centre of the most successful inquiries and collaborations. In this talk, Somerson will explore how design education is preparing the next generation of change agents for an increasingly complex and rapidly evolving world.


Technology is a crucial aspect of innovation, yet it also poses increasing challenges for design methods and for gauging future global impacts. Ashley Hall will speak on ‘Innovating with Technology — Complexity and Progress’.

Hall, the Professor of Design Innovation in the School of Design at the Royal College of Art (UK), will illustrate how designers are exploring new opportunities for tackling complex technology issues ranging from designing AI to the Belt and Road initiative through to the future of flying.

Hall’s background and academic work researching in design innovation ranges from innovation strategy to design thinking, design for safety, experimental design, design pedagogy, globalisation design and cultural transfer.

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Ashley Hall will speak on ‘Innovating with Technology — Complexity and Progress’.

Through a diverse range of projects, he will illustrate how design is expanding its reach into new strategic areas and exploring complex emerging technologies while keeping human led experiences at the centre. Answering the challenges that arise from intersecting innovation with humanity will pave the way for the future of design. Suddenly Cedric Price’s important 1966 question — ‘Technology is the answer, but what was the question?’ — becomes even more relevant today.


Increasingly, young designers have the freedom to move globally to where building development is more active and revenues are higher. Such migrations have important social and economic impacts on the countries where young people are moving from, including a drain on regional design skills.

In response, universities are increasingly driven to develop international curricula that provides students the tools for use in a global market. Top-ranking schools are moving beyond teaching traditional design and digital skills, to incorporate major themes such as economics, management and sustainability as part of broader professional practice. In so doing, designers are evolving from the design of a space, to the design of the service related to this space.

Arturo Dell’Acqua Bellavitis is an Architect, Professor of Industrial Design and Dean at the Design School of the Politecnico di Milano. He recently became Director of the new International Art and Design Centre in Shenzhen, China, where he leads the soon to open Design museum.

Dell’Acqua’s keynote, ‘Global Education for a Genius Loci Discovery’, will question if global study can support designing with a special eye to the spirit of place, or as Norbert Schulz called it ‘the genius loci’?

The IFI Congress takes place February 25 - 28 in Dubai. For more information visit