Design Indaba Day 1

This year’s Design Indaba in Cape Town kicked off with some inspiring talks on advertising, digital innovation and interactive story telling. Here are a few of the highlights from the first day

This year’s Design Indaba in Cape Town kicked off with some inspiring talks on advertising, digital innovation and interactive story telling. Here are a few of the highlights from the first day…

Ogilvy & Mather – story making not story telling

Chris Gotz, creative director at Ogilvy and Mather‘s Cape Town office, spoke about the agency’s shifting focus from story telling to story making, creating interactive print and digital campaigns that rely on audience engagement.

Gotz cited several projects that put this theory into practice – the first was a campaign marking the end of production of the Citi Golf, South Africa’s biggest selling car for over 20 years.

Volkswagen wanted to create a farewell campaign using material from previous commercials, but O&M instead decided to take the last ever Citi Golf on a tour of South Africa, allowing residents around the country to say goodbye in person and write a message on the car. The model is now a permanent exhibition at a South African museum and the project attracted 60,000 followers online.

In another project for Volkswagen, O&M used Google Street View technology to create a game where users would win points for spotting VWs in South Africa, which resulted in a 700 percent increase in traffic to VWs website:

And when the company wanted to launch a print campaign advertising its new range of eco-friendly cars, the agency devised a sticker that offered free postage to a recycling centre so when readers were finished with their magazine they could pop it in the post box. The campaign was launched in Cape Town but has since been rolled out in other destinations.

For Carling Black Label, O&M devised a mobile app that allowed fans of football teams the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs to be coach, choosing players for the starting line-up and voting on substitutions. 85,000 tickets were sold and 10.5 million votes placed through the game in seven weeks.

Ushahidi – connecting rural communities

Gotz’s talk was followed by one from Juliana Rotich – co-founder of Ushahidi, an open-sourced crisis mapping platform that allows citizens to report incidents or emergencies during national disasters, conflicts or major events.

The platform is free to use and was set up after Kenya’s 2008 elections chaos, but has since been used to report on unrest in Ukraine, the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan in 2011.

The company recently moved into hardware and last year, developed Brck: a modem built for areas where internet connection is expensive or unreliable. The modem can withstand power surges from circuit boards, is portable and cheaper to use than other internet services in Africa and can operate using 3G during blackouts, which are frequent in many African countries.

Ushahidi’s main aim is to get the world connected, particularly in Asia, Latin America and Africa where there remains huge potential for growth. Better internet connection has a direct impact on GDP and having access to it is as essential as other utilities such as water and energy, she said.

Experimental Jetset – the A-Z of Influences

Experimental Jetset‘s talk offered a look at the studio’s biggest influences. Citing one from each letter of the alphabet, founders Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen paid homage to the Beatles and punk rock, film directors Jean Luc Godard and Stanley Kubrick, designer Wim Crouwel and the political movement Provo, of which Stolk’s father was a founding member, amongst others. The trio also acknowledged the influence of Helvetica on their work, but said they do not feel it defines them.

As well as providing an insight into the inspiration for some of the studio’s most successful projects, it provided a look at the ideas, quotes and visuals that shaped their careers, and inspired them while studying design.

Local Projects – interactive story telling

The last talk of the morning was delivered by Jake Barton, co-founder of Local Projects, a New York-based media design company that has created interactive platforms and installations for museums, cities, galleries and schools.

At the Cleveland Museum of Art, Local Projects has developed some excellent works that offer greater engagement without taking away from the traditional experience of visiting a gallery and viewing exhibits up close.

The company created an interactive wall where users can view different items in the museum’s collection and curate their own tours to share with others, as well as an interactive game that uses facial recognition software to re-create artworks in the museum using visitors’ faces:

It also developed the media for the 9/11 memorial in New York: using recordings from visitors, survivors and people around the world recounting their memories of the day to create a powerful alternative to an audio guide or curator tour, and creating a database where visitors can search for names among the thousands listed on the memorial fountain and view people they are connected with, either personally or through events that took place on the day.

Both use technology to create more immersive experiences that enable visitors to create their own stories as well as find out about others’. And in each case, Barton said the company reversed the traditional creative process of planning before designing and testing, building prototypes throughout. While he acknowledged it can be an inefficient way of working, he also said it leads to better work in the long run and is how the company approaches all of its projects.

Thomas Hulme – open-sourced design

After Pecha Kucha style talks from a range of creative graduates (see the line-up and links to their work here), and an interesting talk on branding from Wolf Ollins’ Ije Nwokorie in which he stressed a need to create brands that people can engage and have fun with, was a talk on the democratisation of design from Tom Hulme, co-founder of IDEO’s collaborative creative platform, OpenIDEO.

OpenIDEO is in its early stages but is effectively a crowd-sourcing platform where people can pose a problem or idea and work with other users to create solutions and prototypes in response. People can then rate and evaluate suggestions and winning ideas will be developed.

The company regularly works with charities to set briefs: it launched a challenge with Amnesty International to design a device to help people at risk of kidnap and, earlier this month, launched a challenge for people to create solutions to help improve safety for women and girls living in slums.

Like an open online suggestion box the platform is designed to act as a blank canvas, explained Hulme, allowing anyone to collaborate and build on others ideas.

While it raised questions over ownership and the role of trained professional designers, Hulme said they still have a vital part to play – but will have to listen to rather than dictate how products or designs will be used in the future (presumably through collaborating on platforms like OpenIDEO). It’s a fantastic platform for charity and grassroots initiatives as well as local problems, already achieving some impressive results.

Thomas Heatherwick – Cape Town development

The last talk of the day was from Thomas Heatherwick, who discussed several recent projects including the famed Olympic torch and cauldron (see image top of post), the new London buses, a university campus in Singapore and the UK pavilion for the Shanghai Expo.

Explaining the briefs set for each and the problems these posed, Heatherwick spoke about creating a campus free of monotonous lecture halls and long corridors (the Singapore building has 57 rooms with no corners) to create a university with a more inspiring human feel, and re-edesigning London’s buses to make them more enjoyable to use, putting user experience at the heart of every project.

He also discussed the garden bridge and a project he is working on in Cape Town, which will see an old grain silo on the V&A waterfront turned into a space showcasing contemporary African art: a challenging project given the tube-like structure of the building and lack of a central space.

Full details of this year’s Design Indaba are at

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