Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Design Indaba Expo: 10 ways to drive a revolution

Design Indaba’s reach and reputation in terms of global awareness is cemented by over 20 media partners, including highly esteemed publications such as Axis, Icon, Novum, +81, Modern Media, Creative Review, ID, Dezeen, Design Week and Surface. This vote of confidence is accentuated by the fact that the very editors of these publications deem the event worthy of their personal coverage. Yes, heavyweight design writers including Laetitia Wolf, Katsutoshi Ishibashi, Justin McGuirk, Lynda Relph-Knight, Marcus Fairs, Julie Lasky and Patrick Burgoyne are all Design Indaba regulars.

Design Indaba’s potency is reinforced by having an assembly of leading multinationals and some of the largest companies in South Africa as corporate partners to the initiative – including Vodacom, Absa and Coca-Cola. The presence of these corporates is essential in terms of augmenting large-scale commissions. While creatives can certainly get by among themselves, the industry can grow much larger by speaking to and inspiring the commissioners. After all, designers are commercial artists, earning their living off corporate clients.

Design Indaba has established partnerships with two of the most significant media levers in terms of reaching the domestic market. The SABC, which has the biggest media footprint in the country, is dedicating substantial broadcast airtime to the event. Avusa Media’s newest daily publication, The Times, which also hosts the fastest growing online South African news portal, will be reporting live from the event through vodcasts, podcasts and blogs. The Times is setting up a full editorial team of five people right on the Expo floor. The new Design Indaba Journalism Workshop will also see 30 of South Africa’s design journalists doing hands-on workshop reportage of the Expo, under the guidance of leading international design critic Susan Yelavich.

The number of buyers that are pre-registering for Design Indaba 2008 is just astounding. Already we have confirmed more than 200 registered buyers – double last year’s headcount. Representatives of Walmart, Anthropologie, Gap, Globus, the Conran Shop, Galeries Lafayette and the Rainbow Gallery establish the calibre of the buyers. The Department of Trade and Industry is further sponsoring another 20 buyers. Two dedicated buyers’ mornings have been set aside to allow exhibitors one-on-one time to get their products exported. Indeed, Beverly Price sold earrings to someone in Tromsø, Norway – as close as you can get to the North Pole – through a buyer she met at Design Indaba last year.

Design Indaba has stood firm in upholding the highest of standards. Featuring only original, contemporary and innovative products made and conceived in southern Africa, there are no derivatives or imports. An advisory panel of the best South African designers, stylists, critics and industry experts approves each exhibitor. It is significant that this process is not a legislative directive, but based on peer-review, which is the most mature way of establishing any standard – as is done in academic journals.

To our knowledge, Design Indaba is a world first in terms of its multi-disciplinary nature that showcases 13 sectors of the creative industries alongside each other. Straddling product design, fashion, film, jewellery, graphic design, architecture and more, Design Indaba’s eclecticism and diversity is really what South Africa is about. The inspiration that is available on tap through this juxtaposition and sharing of ideas is paramount to the constant generation of fresh ideas. Having contributed this approach to the global creative discourse, increasingly we find that other international platforms are starting to emulate it.

Discerning customers that demand high-quality local design are essential for pushing design products into our leading retailers. With more than 20 000 visitors stepping through the doors of Design Indaba Expo last year, our mission to educate and entice local consumers is clearly paying off. Since its inception, the amount of visitors has annually grown by more than 30% – which means that we’re expecting almost 30 000 this year. To these ends, an extra day has been added to the now four-day Design Indaba Expo and a dedicated fashion arena is being launched. The last day of the Expo also corresponds with the conference registration, ensuring that local and international delegates and speakers are sure to spend the day at the Expo. Further promoting this awareness, 2008 sees the first step in ordaining the South African Design Week.

Ensuring that the design industry in South Africa is constantly flooded with new talent is essential in a long-term strategy of sustained growth. Design Indaba has always supported new young designers and 2008 sees 40 Emerging Creatives showing their products at the Expo for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture. The Woolworths Making the Difference Through Design (MTDTD) programme also provides a hands-on educational opportunity for school learners.

In an emerging economy where there is still no policy framework for development of the creative industries, let alone a mapping study, nor even a national design council, Design Indaba has become the de facto reference point. Bringing the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Arts and Culture and the Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism on board, the design message is reaching the decision makers. Our advocacy activities also include drafting the “Creative Industries: The Sleeper in the South African Economy" document, which was briefed to cabinet ministers and the Office of the Presidency, resulting in the creative industries being highlighted as one of nine sectors to form part of an accelerated growth strategy.

Design Indaba is more than an event, it is a socially conscious drive for the local creative industry. Besides the conference, expo, quarterly magazine, workshops, educational initiatives and proactive advocacy, Design Indaba is constantly looking for new ways to grow. This year will see the first phase of the 10x10 Housing Project come to life, as well as the announcement of the Creative Alliance, the African Carbon Standard and a venture capital component. Design Indaba thrives all year round, all decade round and paves the future for creativity in South Africa.

Cape Town International Convention Centre, Halls 1a, 2 and 3

Public opening hours:
23 to 26 February 2008 Saturday – 10am to 6pm Sunday – 10am to 6pm Monday – 11am to 6pm Tuesday – 11am to 6pm

No pre-booking is necessary, and tickets are available at the door at a cost of: R45 – adults R25 – students and pensioners R15 – children under 12 Children under 5 are free

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