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About

ZARA ARSHAD

I am a curator, writer and design historian based in London, specialising in twentieth- and twenty first-century design from East Asia. I have lived in China, Syria and Indonesia, as well as the UK.

Since 2011, I have been documenting the field of contemporary design in China on my blog, Design China. I have been profiled on platforms like Forbes, Perspectives and Core77, and in projects such as Creative Cities (initiated by Jackson Tan and Justin Zhuang) as a key China design advocate.

While based in Beijing from 2008 to 2013, I practiced as a freelance graphic designer, with clients like United Nations Volunteers and Teach for China, exhibiting my work widely, including at Three Shadows Photography Art Center, Affordable Art Beijing and Beijing Design Week 2012. I was also a member of the Organising Committees for Xin: Icograda World Design Congress Beijing and Beijing Design Week in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

I am a graduate of the RCA/V&A MA History of Design programme, where I studied on the ‘Asian Strand’ under Dr. Christine Guth as the 2013-2015 Friends of the V&A Scholar. My thesis, “Design Museums in Contemporary China: Localising Global Models”, was awarded a Distinction. I completed my undergraduate degree at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Right now, I am part of the Design, Architecture and Digital Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, working in a curatorial team on an exhibition called The Future Starts Here. I am also a Trustee and Communications Officer for the Design History Society (DHS), and a Governing Board Member of China Residencies.


SPEAKING
I am often invited to speak at conferences, universities and organisations around the world. Most recently I spoke at Beyond Change in Basel (2018), Design Museum, Helsinki (2017), Makerversity in Somerset House, London (2017), Seoul National University (2016) and ICDHS Taipei (2016).


TEACHING
I have taught at numerous institutions, including Central Academy of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University and Raffles Design Institute, all in Beijing, and Royal College of Art, London College of Communication, The Cass and Sotheby’s Institute in London.


AWARDS
DHS Research Travel and Conference Grant (2016)
Friends of the V&A Scholarship (2013-2015)
Basil Taylor Memorial Prize (2014)
Anthony Gardner Fund (2014)
FCO Communications Award (2011)