The final day of Design Indaba featured some moving, funny and uplifting presentations rom Stefan Sagmeister, Alt Group’s Dean Poole and South Africa’s most treasured photographer, David Goldblatt. Here’s a look at some of the best bits…
89plus – art, post 1989
Following a talk from Ivory Coast architect Issa Diabate was a group of South African artists from new platform and research project, 89 plus. Founded by curators Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist, 89plus supports artists born in 1989 or later, after the birth of the internet and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This age group represents half the world’s population and for South Africans, it’s a generation that has grown up post-apartheid. The first 89plus exhibition, Poetry Will Be Made By All, was recently launched in Switzerland and will feature 1000 books by 1000 poets over two months, presented in displays designed by artists, designers and architects (more info here).
Images (top and above): Jody Brand
Among the 89plus artists speaking were Kyla Philander – a videographer and musician who uses film to address social inequality and racism and Jody Brand, a photographer and art director who captures South African street and club culture on her blog, Chomma (slang for friend).
Dean Poole – simplicity and constraint
After a talk from Danish designers, Alt Group’s Dean Poole delivered an excellent presentation on his love of language, simplicity – and holes. Beginning with a playful look at the letters of the alphabet (which those who attended AGI Open in London may remember), Poole explained the concept behind the studio’s award-winning identity for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.
Inspired by visual word play, experimental poetry and sculptors that work with language, Alt Group created a visual system based around the word art. By reducing the subject to three letters, Pool said he wanted to create a simple message that anyone could understand. The system has been applied to merchandise, wayfinding and communications and offers a flexible, playful scheme.
Poole also discussed condensing the story of an opera into one simple symbol when designing an identity for New Zealand Opera (see image, top) and the studio’s fantastic work for experimental theatre group Silo – for which they created ‘emoticon’ logo marks referencing tragedy and comedy theatre masks.
Funny, engaging and entertaining, Poole’s parting thought was to go out and do something different, or “give the world a bit of a wobble”.
Man building his house, Marselle Township, Kenton-on-sea, shot by David Goldblatt.
David Goldblatt – a life’s work
His talk was followed by photographer David Goldblatt, who discussed the stories behind some of his most iconic portraits and received a standing ovation from the audience.
Offering a fascinating insight into his 50-year career Goldblatt spoke about photographing victims of police brutality, township residents and political figures including Nelson Mandela during apartheid.
He also presented his work photographing offenders at the scene of crimes they were imprisoned for – including a victim of corrective rape who was jailed for 3 years after being falsely accused of armed robbery – and his close-up series of body parts from the mid-70s.
His work remains a powerful and poignant reminder of the country’s recent past and it was inspiring to hear Goldblatt’s insights on his images and their subjects.
Stefan Sagmeister – on happiness
The final speaker of this year’s conference was Stefan Sagmeister, who delivered an uplifting talk on happiness.
Showing examples of typographic installations, motion graphics and short films created with studio partner Jessica Walsh, as well as examples from his brilliant exhibition, the Happy Show:
He shared some surprising insights based on research into what makes us happy. Climate, age and life conditions play only a small role but marriage and religion can make us considerably happier.
Speaking of his experiences filming the Happy Film, his documentary on happiness which is now at rough cut stage, he also provided some tips based on what he had discovered from scientists, pyschologists and a trip to Bali. Singing in groups, making friends and taking part in non-repetitive activities will improve our happiness, but procrastinating and not doing the things we intended to will make us unhappy – some simple yet sound advice.