Design Indaba 2014 Day 3

Design Indaba
The final day of this years Design Indaba started slow and ended with the whole audience on their feet singing.
The day kicked off with Ivory Coast architect Issa Diabaté from Koffi & Diabaté. Issa spoke about the need for more African Architects to help solve uniquely African problems, he aims to start the first school of Architects in the Ivory Coast. Currently that area only has about 200 architects and a population of 26 million.
Next up Hans Ulrich moderated a session entitled 89Plus, part of a project that looks at people and artists born after 1989 (this now accounts for over 50% of the worlds population).
Hans chatted with a number of local African young artists such as musician & videographer Kyla Philander.  Kyla said “The major design tool in my life is empathy”, then there was Haroon Gunn-Salie, a local designer who changed Cape Town’s Zonnebloem’s road signs back to District 6 to remind the citizens of parts of its controversial history.
London based award winning design studio El Ultimo Grito were up after the break. The studio was set up by Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado, together they have been testing out new designs to rethink how objects are used (see below). A lot of their work revolved around fast prototyping objects using basic framed then shaping them using buddle wrap, tape, and colourful stickers. Roberto said “Great designs get used naturally.”
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Next up was a panel of Danish Design experts. Architect and product designer Nille Juul-Sørensen who kicked off the session by saying ‘’”We must design for the 99%, not the 1%”, and pleaded designers around the world to “Design like you give a damn!”.

Alarm clock hackVinay Venkatraman shared his story of hacking alarm clocks for use by medical personnel in rural India (see his talk here).

Mikal Hallstrup from strategic design firm , Designit, shared some incredible examples of using big data to create human design platforms that work (Here is his talk). One example was that they managed to get breast cancer diagnosis down to 3 days (a 90% improvement) at the Oslo University Hospital.
Fashion designer Henrik Vibskov shared some of his impressive collections, see them for yourself at
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After lunch Dean Poole (see work above) Creative Director of New Zealand firm Alt Group gave an impressive talk on his design beliefs. He said “I love language it’s our most basic tool as designers”, then shared an example of how Spike Milligan placed a classified newspaper ad after losing his dog, which read ‘Here, boy!’. His talk revolved around the beauty of simplicity & constraint in design. To read about them have a look at GoldblattThe next speaker was the legendary South African photographer David Goldblatt, who shared his personal story of how he documented developments, atrocities, and stories of hope and forgiveness in South Africa through the period of apartheid to the present day. The Hasselblad award winning photographer was given a standing ovation for his story, below are 2 pictures from his personal collection he kindly shared.

The last two speakers of the day were famed Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, and then Stefan Sagmeister, founder of NY Design Studio Sagmeister & Walsh.

Naoto gave an incredible talk on Natural Design (without thought design) , the process of designing work based on human insights so that when the design is made, people use it intuitively. He gave the example of a not using an umbrella stand and instead just making a simple groove in the floor, or a side table lamp with space for your keys / wallet etc (see below).
Lamp trayUmbrella Stand
Naoto also suggested that designers often focus on only one element, and reminded us to stand back and look at the whole picture.
He ended by saying “Great design in a multi layered relationship between human life and our environment”.

The final speaker was Stefan who talked about Happiness by design, a look back at insights he made during his 1 year sabbatical studying happiness. Stefan goes on a year-long sabbatical around every seven years, where he does not take work from clients
You may have seen some of his TED talks, if you want a good taste of what he spoke about watch some of his talks at

Stefan shared some of the main factors influencing happiness in our lives, some tips that stuck out were; “A shorter journey to work makes you much happier”, “If you don’t ask you don’t get”, and “worrying solves nothing”.
Stephan also shared the 3 quickest and easiest ways to get happy, namely, 1. Meditation, 2. Cognitive Therapy, 3. Drugs.
The end of the day was rounded off by Stefan leading the whole audience in a karaoke session, a fitting and humorous way to finish 3 wonderful days of inspiration.

If I could narrow the event into 3 key trends they would be:
1. Stop conceptualising and start making things. Prototyping & proactive building will teach you lots + make it much easier to sell to clients.
2. The best design is grounded in humanistic insights. This makes it intuitive and natural for people when they interact with the design.
3. Great Creativity and design works best in messy & fun environments.

To find out more about the Design Indaba head over to

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