Design Indaba: Day 2

Day 2 of Design Indaba featured talks from Pentagram designer DJ Stout, South African photographers Zanele Muholi and Nandipha Mntambo and AlmapBBDO creative director Marcello Serpa…

Day 2 of Design Indaba featured talks from Pentagram designer DJ Stout, South African photographers Zanele Muholi and Nandipha Mntambo and AlmapBBDO creative director Marcello Serpa….

DJ Stout – the importance of place

Stout discussed how his Texan upbringing has influenced his work: showing evocative imagery of cowboys, rural landscapes, horses and cattle – accompanied by music from Texan composer Graham Reynolds, who played piano live on stage – he discussed his family’s ranching heritage, common perceptions of Texans and writing and designing a book about baseball team the Alpine Cowboys, which his father once played for.

Citing examples of his editorial work for Texas Monthly and the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, he said he often played on perceptions of Texans in his design – such as a cover which featured Governor Ann Richards astride a Harley Davidson:



And one illustrating an article on big hair that featured a local woman who styles her own in the shape of a cowboy hat. He also showed a beautiful photography project with Mary Ellen Mark capturing small town rodeos, and a visual identity for Kentucky city Lexington, which he created with Michael Bierut. Rather than design a logo for the city, the pair created a giant blue horse sculpture (seen top) – a reference to a portrait by a famous Kentucky artist, and the city’s famous blue grass.

Interspersed with video footage of cowboy poets reciting verse and moving shots of damage caused by a wildfire in the state in 2011, it was a sentimental speech but an entertaining one. Stout is the only Pentagram partner based in Texas, but said he could see the influence of each of his colleagues’ upbringings and surroundings in their work, whether from Taiwan or New York and urged other creatives to embrace their roots: “A sense of place is so important to graphic designers and what we do. If we forget who we are and where we’re from and focus on being too global then something gets lost,” he said.




Marcello Serpa – the golden rules of advertising

Marcello Serpa, creative director of Almap BBDO also delivered a talk this morning on what he has learned from 30 years of advertising.

Serpa started with two golden rules: be simple and be unpredictable. Every ad should be reduced to one simple idea, he said, showing examples of simple but effective AlmapBBDO campaigns for Cesar, Havianas and the diet drink Guarana, which won the Grand Prix in Cannes in 1993.

He also showed more recent work for Getty and Volkswagen, including the charming 85 seconds and Love to Bingo:



And offered some professional advice for young agency staff and senior creatives, including:

“There are no 25-year-old generals”. Too many young people in advertising are aiming to be creative directors before they are ready. Good work should be rewarded with money and not with titles before they are due.

Never work for someone who isn’t better than you. Everyone should work for someone they respect, admire and can learn from.

Be hard on work – not on people.

Don’t ask from your team what your client asks from you – in particular, don’t make unreasonable demands or be vague about what you want.

Be wary of marketing intelligence – in particular, costly research and reports that can lead to clichéd campaigns or unnecessarily complicated concepts.

Not everything that’s new is good and not everything that’s good is new. Great work is timeless, and trends pass.

Always consider two questions when planning a campaign: ‘What am I trying to say?’ And ‘Is this relevant to the consumer?’



Caitlin and I by Zanele Muholi. Image: Muholi & Stevenson Johannesburg/Cape Town


In the afternoon session, three South African artists who consider themselves visual activists presented their work: photographer Zanele Muholi, performance artist Ati Patra Rugha and sculptor and photographer Nandipha Mntambo.

Muholi has won several awards for her work documenting South Africa’s LGBT community. After working as a reporter, she spent years documenting hate crimes in the country and set up not for profit organisation the Forum of Empowerment for Women and Inkanyiso, a platform that allows other South Africans to document LGBT life.

Muholi’s photography series also include portraits of gay weddings and intimate shots of same sex couples. Her aim is to raise awareness of gay rights and “produce art that pushes a political agenda,” she said.

Nandipha Mntambo’s work combines sculpture, fine art and performance art and explores female identity and the human body. In one series, she created cowhide moulds of her mother’s body to challenge ideas of attraction, repulsion and gender, and in others, she explores mythology and mythological creatures such as the minotaur. She also travelled to Europe to train as a bullfighter for project, Praça de Touros:




Rugha discussed his recent project, the Future White Women of Azania, which explores ideas of identity and nationhood through myth. It was a diverse selection of work but a fascinating look at contemporary South African artists who are producing experimental and thought-provoking art.



This afternoon also offered a preview of this year’s Expo (including clothing, homeware and art prints from African designers) and a talk from Stefan Scholten – one half of Dutch product and interior design team Scholten + Baijings. The pair deconstructed and re-built the Mini One for Milan furniture fair Salon del Mobile in 2012, and the resulting product, the Colour One Mini, is on display at the conference centre alongside process sketches and swatches.



Tomorrow is the final day of the conference, with talks from Stefan Sagmeister, David Goldblatt and Alt Group’s Dean Poole…

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