Organised by creative cultural consultancy, &bouqu, Saudi Design Festival (SDF) returned to Riyadh from January 12-23. The second edition marks the expansion of the festival’s offerings, unveiling a brand-new vision and format that celebrates design in its multiple forms, locally and globally.
SDF 2023 was simply the starting point for the festival’s vision to grow in breadth and depth, serving as the launchpad for the festival’s 2-year cycle programming. Basma Bouzo, co-founder/CEO of &bouqu and Saudi Design Festival, shares:
“Since our early days as Saudi Design Week, and now as Saudi Design Festival, our aim has always been to provide a platform to showcase designers and local talent, to amplify their voices, and elevate the design conversations in the region. And as the sector evolves, so does the festival. We (&bouqu) always think in future terms, ‘what should the festival be now so it can set the stage for tomorrow?’ A big part is enabling partners to contribute to the narrative and setting the tracks for the design ecosystem to scale sustainably. Our mission this year is to show how design permeates through the very fabric of society and to develop meaningful opportunities that expand the role of SDF from an annual event to a catalyst and accelerator of growth.”
SDF introduced a robust program that extends well beyond the second edition, aiming to amplify the efforts of the Saudi design community both locally and internationally. Here are the highlights:
VIP Opening Night
Kicking off the opening weekend, institutional leaders, dignitaries, and community champions convened for an evening of thoughtful discussions and inspiring talks from Dr Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO, of Architecture and Design Commission, HRH Princess Noura Bint Faisal, CEO, Adhlal for Design, Norah Alyusuf, Chief Business Planning Officer Vision 2030 Quality of Life Program, Khaled Tash, Chief Marketing Officer, Saudia Airlines
Held this year at the Mohammed Bin Salman Nonprofit City, the design forum was a nexus for creative dialogue, mentorship sessions, and educational programming. Bringing together local industry leaders and luminaries from across disciplines during the opening weekend, the Forum serves as a launching point for the various activities to come.
This year’s edition introduces three leading Design Destinations across the city. Oud Square explores the future of work and play through interactive design interventions. The Boulevard Riyadh played host to The Pulse. This design installation blurred the line between physical and digital interactions. It aimed to get the consensus of the general public and creatives on certain topics in the realm of design. Gallery Design held two days of industry-specific talks from thought leaders, workshops, and a design experience light show.
To actively empower the community to be part of the conversation, SDF launched a design participants program, giving SMEs, studios, cafes, and commercial establishments an opportunity to be part of the calendar and activate the city. This new format will allow the community to grow with the festival in the coming years, being ambassadors of design in their own way.
Brand Your Neighborhood (BYN)
In its pilot edition, Brand Your Neighborhood showcased design interventions developed by students from Jeddah, Riyadh, and Sharqiyah. The initiative is meant to allow participants to reconnect with their neighbourhoods and propose solutions for the public realm.
SDF Goes Online
Saudi Design Festival also hosted online workshops and mentorship sessions to make design learning more accessible to a broader audience.
Presented by the Architecture and Design Commission of the Ministry of Culture, the SDF 2023 aligns with the commission’s aim to develop the Architecture and Design sector in Saudi Arabia and support practitioners in achieving their goals. Dr Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission, said:
“Saudi Design Festival exists to provide a platform for emerging and established designers, SMEs, and industry players to forge collaborations, find growth opportunities, and learn from each other. We’re excited to bring the power of design across the city and showcase talents from around the Kingdom. We’re building the sector's future together and ensuring that local talents are given the tools and skills to succeed through thought-provoking talks, workshops, masterclasses, and networking sessions.”