Design Indaba
The Way to Creative Design

Here we are again, kicking off yet another year of the Design Indaba conference; one of the biggest events on the South African creative calendar. As a first timer, I was looking forward to learning more about the world of design and being immersed in something outside the typical advertising inspiration. What was really exciting, is that this year marked 20th anniversary since the inception of the Indaba, so there was bound to be some interesting insights.


While creativity is pervasive at O&M, creative design is not an everyday cup of coffee in strategy – the department I work in. But after the first day of the conference, in a full Cape Town Convention Centre, I soon realised that innovative design solutions can really change the world. It’s fascinating hearing from all types of people attending the event – industrial designers, architects, photographers – and what the next generation are thinking where our world could be in the next 20 years.

The prevailing theme on the first day for me was around achieving quality above all and the process designers go through to achieve that. We often see what the final product looks like, but it’s not often that we hear about the real craftsmanship behind the work.


Dutch industrial designer, Hella Jongerius, described that there is too much “shi*t design in our world” and showed us how a holistic approach to design can result in amazing pieces of art that are commercially practical. Her “Design Mentality” which should “start with the design of the material and end with the final product”, really inspired me. She also called for more imperfections and said “perfections kill everything”.

When the duo from The Workers took the stage, they reflected on the fascinating projects they’d done since setting up their studio post-graduating. Instead of opting for a specialty, they decided to merge digital technology, interaction design, product design and branding. Their sentiment is “digital technology is accessible, yet we haven’t fully embraced it” and that digital gives us multiple avenues to solve commercial and social puzzles. Their successful project ‘After Dark’ proved that with technology, time doesn’t have to be an obstacle but rather an opportunity.

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The students from around the world who were invited to present their projects at this year’s Indaba came from institutions such as Parsons New School of Design and RISD. They came up with some brilliant ideas that could shape the future of the world, including the fusion of biology and technology. One of the most fascinating pieces, done by the young Teresa Van Dongen, is called Ambio, a lamp that is powered by bacteria and movement.

The last speaker on the day, Michael Beirut of Pentagram New York, was my highlight. His exciting “How To’s” of design echoed the overall theme of the day and focused on simple ways of creating effective corporate identities that can not only sell, but can change behaviour. He also launched his new book to the audience, aptly titled “How To”, and if it were anything to go by, I would highly recommend it.

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