Design Indaba is one of the most eclectic creative conferences around and the first day in Cape Town did not disappoint. It’s hard to distill so much design wisdom into a round-up but here’s a few of the highlights as we saw them from the first day in South Africa.
The Workers – After Dark
We knew about The Workers’ Tate project where they sent four robots round the Tate Britain at night but it was fascinating to hear Ross Cairns and Tommaso Lanz talk about it. What came across was the pair’s infectious enthusiasm for harnessing digital technology for very human ends and they clearly relished the chance to wander round the Tate after hours.
The Dutch designer gave an interesting and insightful overview of her work but we were particularly enamoured by her work for the UN, including this bead curtain which was designed for a delegate lounge. It needed to allow people see out but protect the privacy of those inside the UN headquarters; it also looks great.
Kathryn Fleming/ Ackeem Ngwenya
The Pecha Kucha featuring recent students is always one of Design Indaba’s highlights and the young practitioners who took the stage this year were incredibly impressive. Kathryn Fleming’s practice explores evolution, and her orchid that reflects the ovulation cycles of women in the vicinity was arguably the best thing we saw all day. On a more day-to-day level, Ackeem’s Ngwenya’s wheel that adapts to its surface is a brilliantly practical solution to a very fiddly design problem.
Stanley has worked with brands like LEGO, Starbucks and Nike but the big take-away from his talk was about the importance of personal connections. Projects like Tatcha sprang from relationships he had with talented and creative people, and it was refreshing to hear someone who’s worked in some of the world’s biggest companies maintain that the people you already know can be the biggest source of inspiration.
Larry Harvey is the founder of the Burning Man festival which was first held in Baker Beach, San Francisco, in 1986. Now based in Black Rock Nevada, a vast expanse he described as “more nothing than we had ever seen” it’s become arguably the most authentic arts festivals in the world. Larry explained that he’s particularly drawn to “jeopardy and awe” and “what you can do with them” and he showed how the organisers design the space to maximise the festival goers’ experiences. By harnessing the creative talents of the attendees, he explained, “what started as a mardi gras party can become a deeply spiritual place.”The event now has an annual budget of $30 million but Larry clearly takes its principles very seriously despite its growth: “Show me art that doesn’t have the unknown and that’s not good art.”