Design Indaba 2012: Day 1

Cape Town’s ever-inspiring Design Indaba conference kicked off yesterday with talks by speakers including Pentagram partner Eddie Opara, Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin and also René Redzepi, the head chef of Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant…

Cape Town’s ever-inspiring Design Indaba conference kicked off yesterday with talks by speakers including Pentagram partner Eddie Opara, Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin and also René Redzepi, the head chef of Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant…

Proceedings kicked off with a talk by Justin Gomes and Charl Thom of Capetonian ad agency FoxP2 who drew parallels between George Lucas’ creation of his first Star Wars film and how the agency approaches creating work for its clients. “Best practice can’t be applied to truly original work,” they suggested, whilst advocating courage to see a creative vision through. “Don’t put pants on the Wookie” was their final piece of Star Wars-related advice before they showcased some cracking work for a Drive Dry campaign they completed for Brandhouse that featured hardened convicts, rather than actors:

US designer John Bielenberg also offered advice in his following talk, suggesting that Indaba attendees shouldn’t simply think outside the box, but “think wrong”. He then named a few people he considered as “wrong thinkers” – Phillipe Starck, Picasso, and Steve Jobs, among them.

Bielenberg talked through his Project M project that looked to take advantage of his belief that creative genius flourishes between the ages of about 18 and 30. Assembling small groups of young creatives, Project M looked to cook up and act on ideas that could make a positive impact on certain communities. “It’s an immersive, experiential programme to expose young creative people to the chance to shape a positive future in communities, and about things that they actually cared about.”

Bielenberg ended his talk with a Skype link to Alex Bogusky who he partnered with last year (along with Rob Schuham) to create COMMON, which looks to take the lessons learned through Project M and “do shit that matters”.

A COMMON STORY from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.

Before signing off Bogusky left the audience with this insight for those with similar dreams of encouraging creative solutions to the world’s toughest challenges: “If changing the world isn’t fun – nobody’s gonna do it.”

Landscape designer Dan Pearson showcased a beautiful forest and garden environment he’s been working on in Japan and then René Redzepi, head chef at Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant spoke of his approach to creating wonderful and original food using freshly foraged ingredients.

Pentagram’s newest partner, Eddie Opara cited his mother and Lebbeus Woods as his biggest influences, presented a few projects that have sadly never seen the light of day after suffering “death by committee”, and showcased various projects which revealed his love of folding paper and materials to create “dimensional” objects (above and below). He finished by showing footage of an interactive table created for the Savanna College of Art and Design and also a highly adaptable data visualisation project called View 2 developed for JWT.

Alfredo Brillembourg of Venezuelan design and architecture practice Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) gave an impassioned talk about how his company has been working to create simple but functional structures and infastructures in slums in both his hometown of Caracas and also in Brasil. Here’s a look at the slum in San Augustin in Caracas with it’s Metrocable car transport system courtesy of U-TT:

The project, like all of U-TT’s work, is based on a thorough understanding and empathy towards landscape, the community and its needs. Find out more about U-TT’s work at

The final talk of the day was given by Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin – who have never presented together before. They talked of their quest to explore the question “what else can music videos be” and showcased the projects they’ve worked on together – namely The Johnny Cash Project – which allowed fans to create artwork for a frame of the video of their choosing in black and white using an online application built in to the project’s website (by the brilliantly named Mr Doob – a programming whizz pal of Koblin’s) at Visitors to the site can also explore artwork already created and also choose to watch the videos in a number of different ways according to how each artwork has been tagged by its creator.

It turns out that Milk and Koblin (who had met at a design conference in Europe a few years ago) actually had the idea for the Johnny Cash project (their first collaboration) before they knew which artist they’d be able to work with on the idea. Fortunately Milk bumped into his friend, legendary music producer Rick Rubin (as you do) who was just finishing off the final Johnny Cash album and so Milk was able to pick a track that could work before the record was released.

In many ways Johnny Cash was perfect as it made sense to make it a black and white project (JC was, of course, known for wearing black) and Cash also has a huge international fanbase who could get involved and contribute to the project.

Milk and Koblin’s proactive exploration and generation of ideas also led to them working with Arcade Fire to create The Wilderness Downtown site. As the pair explained, showing footage from the website at a conference doesn’t really work as the project is designed for individuals at their computers to have a personal experience as the site pulls in Google Earth images relating to each viewer’s childhood neighbourhood. Read our post about the project from September 2010 here.

The pair also showed examples of projects they’ve worked on individually. Milk showed some hilarious ads that he made at the beginning of his directing career that I can’t actually mention for legal reasons – and showed clips of various music videos he’s directed for the likes of Kanye West, Gnarls Barkley, U2 and more. See his work at

Koblin also showed various projects that showed his love of exploring new technologies and services to create artworks. Highlights were projects he created using The Mechanical Turk website where you can crowdsource pretty much anything – from drawings of sheep (for just 2 cents each) to vocal recordings. To see (and play with / explore) his work, visit Chrome users will benefit most from the experience!

The duo signed off by showing footage relating to ROME (above) – a musical collaboration orchestrated by LA-based producer Dangermouse. Koblin and Milk developed a new type of music video experience that takes advantage of WebGL – an extension of javascript that allows super high quality motion graphics to be rendered instantaneously on screen. If you’re running Chrome as your browser, there’s much fun to be had at

To the audience’s delight, the duo signed off by showed this clip featuring Adam Buxton (which we flagged up here on CR blog in August last year) – a making-of spoof:

Today’s schedule promises talks by Hellicar & Lewis, Porky Hefer, and United Visual Artists – and more!

PS: CR subscribers can read more about Chris Milk’s work in our feature Chris Milk: HTML Poet.


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