Every year by the end of February, creatives around the world start getting exited, knowing that the three-day Design Indaba conference will soon kick off. Like every year, the 2015 line-up featured exceptional speakers from across Africa and the world.
Design Indaba’s ambition of promoting creativity in all its forms makes those three days a highly inspiration experience. A mélange of speakers from various industries, ranging from visual arts, architect, technology and cuisine to name a few, were given the stage, resulting in a comprehensive overview of the latest trends on design and innovation across a wide range of creative sectors.
Big names such as Nandos’ founder Robbie Bronzin, Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy, Rosita Missoni co-founder of Missoni, Larry Harvey’s founder of Burning man, among many others, shared the ups and downs they have faced over the years in growing their business values. It was interesting to hear about how the rise of the internet had impacted their daily routines, by increasing their global impact through social media or by using crowdfunding to see new horizons.
One common belief highlighted by the different speakers, was how their lack of resources or knowledge might have been their greatest assets. Not only because it forced them to think creatively, but because it made them approaching things in a naive manner which made them fearless.
Other inspiring talks were given by Senegalese Fashion Designer Selly Raby Kane, Kenyan industrial designer Studio Propolis, LA based Korean chef Roy Choi, and G-star Global Brand director Shubhankar Ray. They introduced the audience to their approach and methodology towards design in their respective fields.
To me the most outstanding speaker was former scientist, Shubhankar Ray, who shared thoughtful insights about how brands should build up on a clear DNA. Flipping through the spreads of his “Molecular Brand Chemistry” book and revealing his branding formula, Ray took the audience through a journey on how to get consumer’s attention by breaking down traditional forms of advertising, and used concrete examples such as Camper or G-star to illustrate his thoughts. He argued that a modern brand should stop buying media, but rather own or earn it, and more importantly that a brand should be moved by “finding out what people give a shit about”.
Another impressive presentation was that of Chef Roy Choi, creator of Kogi, a gourmet food truck in Los Angeles. Using social design to change the way people eat on the streets, Roy discussed the challenges he faced towards transforming people’s perception about food trucks. Originally associated with low quality or unhygienic food. Kogi turned this perception upside down, starting by showing up in front of night clubs to get noticed, and making a powerful use of Twitter to communicate the location of his truck, without knowing who would be waiting for them on the other end. When Kogi arrived at destination the team often realised that customers were already queuing by hundreds.
Today, with Chef Roy Choi has the ambition to change the Fast Food industry, by collaborating with multiple restaurants’ top chefs, and leveraging his huge social network. He recently teamed up with Daniel Patterson to Create Loco, an affordable fast food using real ingredients.
Last but not least, the three-day ended with a talk by William Kentridge, one of South Africa’s most internationally acclaimed artist, addressing “the importance of margins” and the display of his latest work in progress: an installation combining dance, music, and video projections, designed to be staged at the Beijing Opera in China in the coming months.
Writing a short review of Design Indaba 2015 is a mission impossible. Although when looking back, I can easily argue that they really did an excellent job delivering on their moto: Make.Change. Not because the conference embraced creativity in all its forms by showcasing a wide variety of industries. But rather because of the format in which each presentation was given, including screenings, art performances, catwalk presentations, music etc. that definitely contributed to the quality of this three days event. Attendees didn’t get the expected “chalk-talk” presentations, and that definitely boosted the quality of the event.
As Pepe Marais and Xolisa Dyeshana, the duo behind Joe Public, said “It will never work unless you try it”. We often overlook the power of small ideas, although it is these small changes that probably make the biggest differences.