South Africa just gets it; they have a vibrant craft and design culture, and understand the power of creativity to deal with social challenges. No wonder they have been hosting the most influential design conference in the world since 1995; Design Indaba.
A visit to explore South African crafts at the expo, and to indulge in the inspiring talks at the conference has been op top of Craftscurator's wishlist for years. This year the dream came true and it turned out to be very real. Here is a report on the conference.
No designer superstars were to be found at Design Indaba, all speakers were very down-to-earth. They spoke about the impact of their designs and how to identify the real need when creating something new. Danish chef Rene Redzepi talked about creating food memories, over and over again every day, 'cause my work turns into shit in 24 hours anyway'.
Many designers spoke about their relationship with clients. 'Please do not give us designers a brief, but ask a question' product designer Mathieu Lehanneur pleaded. Many speakers talked about developing open source software, to stimulate further innovation, but also to prevent themselves from having to repeat success projects of the past. They just want to move forward and do new things every time. Eddie Opara said that 'as a designer, you are not supposed to finish anything'
'If you are not failing, you are not working hard enough' interaction designers Hellicar and Lewis told the crowd. Because designers are doing new stuff every time, there is no guarantee for success. 'Best practice cannot be applied to truly original work' the designers from FoxP2 said.
Think Big, Act Small
Urban Think Tank architect Alfredo told the audience to 'forget designing the total', especially when it comes to design for social impact. Start small and learn, then apply this idea to other areas. Dutch/ Afghan designer Massoud Hassani has also come up with a simple idea with great impact; he developed a low-cost wind powered mine detector, clearing war-torn countries of mines meter by meter.
Piet Hein Eek talked about the maker process and how he found a new approach by reversing things. 'I wondered what a product would look like if waste material was expensive and labour cheap'. Architect Bjarke Ingels spoke about hedonistic sustainability, and his work on creating buildings, cities and even regions that are both more green, more clean and more enjoyable.
Design Indaba really proved to be the most influential conference on creativity. All speakers shared insights into their design process, not afraid to show struggles and flaws. They told the audience it is easy to have an idea, but it takes courage to see your vision through, and you have to get hands-on to really make it work. Stating once again that making a difference is all about doing.
Read more on South Africa's inventive crafts, senstitive style and expressive products.