Design Indaba day one: 25 insights for 25 years

The Design Indaba conference will be 25 next year, and it’s mind-boggling to think of all the talent, creativity and insight that has illuminated founder Ravi Naidoo’s stage over the past 24 years.

The latest Design Indaba in Cape Town was exceptional, and here are some of the most thought-provoking comments from the speakers, in a three part series on WGSN.

Caroline Niebling, on how to reduce meat consumption, one sausage at a time:

“Mortadella with vegetables is a gateway product: it looks festive and reduces meat consumption by 20%. That’s a start.”


Keenan Wyrobek, from Zipline, the collaboration between California and Kigali that delivers blood and medicine via drone to save lives:

“To a geek like me, this means Wakanda is happening!”


Stephen Foster, global graduate on the problems of mass incarceration in the USA:

“The system isn’t broke, it’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do. An African-American person is five times more likely to go to prison than a white person.”


Nicole Moyo, architect, on how to create more toilets for developing countries:

“They need to be able to think about education, not where to find a toilet.

This is a global crisis, we need to disrupt this system that no-one cares about.”


Kye Shimizu, global graduate on using code to create “algorithmic couture” for perfectly-sized clothing:

“As designers we are confined by the tools we use. There is too much waste in fashion—we have created too much and sold too little. This process means no stock: custom-made fashion that matches your body.”


Dave Hakkens, creator of Precious Plastic, an open-source design service to reduce plastic waste:

“It takes a lot of steps to recycle. Currently only 9% of plastic waste is recycled. I wanted to open up the recycling process to everyone… If you put something in the hands of just a few decision makers, it can just die…”


Dong-Ping Wong, architect who works with Kanye West and Virgil Abloh, along with cities. “My philosophy is ‘Don’t f*cking wait… The ususal way to make things happen is policy, client, funding, site, team, design. On municipal projects, we start with the opposite, with design.”

And when Dong-Ping Wong called up Virgil Abloh, who is both a designer and an architect, to design a city together in 15 minutes, Abloh said: “I try to have an overarching construct and make a process. For me design is a process, a way of thinking. Each individual has value in their way of thinking. I want to give voice to those who may not have a voice in the traditional design community.”

Alice Rawsthorn, design critic, on bad design:

“Very little design is great, little is good, some is mediocre, and most is downright bad…

Designers are now tackling the major political, economic and technical problems of our time. The consequences of bad design will get worse and worse.”

Lucas de Man, creative director:

“Professionally you have to say that you need to follow your gut. I don’t know, nobody knows. We hate not knowing. The true hero is someone who accepts that they don’t know.”

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