"There's no time for cynicism anymore," declared design activist Bruce Mau near the end of the first day of the 2009 Design Indaba Conference. The spontaneous burst of cheering that his commitment to creative change roused, sums up the spirit of this year's event.
Running from 25 to 27 February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the event attracted more than 2 100 conference and simulcast delegates. The vision of a better, previously unimagined world was played out by a cast of more than 30 top international and creative thinkers.
From category killers such as the world's best chef, Ferran Adrià, to the compelling surprise offered by Mohit Jayal and V Sunil from the W+K Delhi advertising agency, the curation of the event was pinned on diversity and excellence.
Rapt with passion and stimulation, the marketers, executives, designers, architects, students and academics in both auditoriums, were provoked with everything from electric cars, low-cost housing solutions, future farms, laboratory meat products and automated graphic design to animals as medical devices, food that quantifies emotional value, innovation through crowd-sourcing and colour-hunting in the Amazon... Not to mention Nobumichi Tosa's nonsense machines and Javier Mariscal's live-action animation finale.
Indeed it would be hard to forget anyone with the 5.5 Designers, AdamsMorioka, Ferran Adrià, Marian Bantjes, BarberOsgerby, Stephen Burks, Commonwealth, Dunne&Raby, Li Edelkoort, Dai Fujiwara, Keith Helfet, Jannes Hendrikz, Luyanda Mpahlwa, Javier Mariscal, Bruce Mau, Keith Rose, Roger Smythe, Dwayne Spradlin, Frank Tjepkema, Nobumichi Tosa, Patricia Urquiola, Rick Valicenti, W+K Delhi, Marcel Wanders and Craig Wessels, each making the event unforgettable.
For a glimpse into the minds of the future's great designers, for the first time Design Indaba this year hosted the top graduates from design institutions across the world to share their work in Pecha Kucha format. Speaking at the conference were Jon Stam from Design Academy Eindhoven, Sandhya Lalloo from the University of Johannesburg, Revital Cohen from the Royal College of Art in London, Arno Mathies from ECAL Lausanne in Switzerland, Barbara Cilliers from the University of Pretoria and Lauren Mackler from Rhode Island School of Design in the US.
The Pecha Kucha spirit of bite-sized creative sharing spilled over into two events at the Design Indaba Expo, the largest multi-disciplinary showcase of South African creativity to date. Running from 27 February to 1 March in the Cape Town Convention Centre, the Design Indaba Expo played host to more than 29 000 visitors.
Compared to last year's 20 000 visitors, the 2009 Design Indaba Expo indicated significant growth despite the tough economic climate. With more than 90 new exhibitors and 39 emerging creatives included in the 260 exhibitor stand-count, an extra 20% floor space was secured to accommodate the increased interest. Further, more than 360 buyers registered, including 156 international buyers.
The Design Indaba Expo also expanded its scope to include a number of subsidiary projects. Adding to the existing offering of all-day fashion and film shows, the Bowwow Project saw South African designers pimping the Magis puppy, the launch of the Western Cape Design Route now offers tourist access to the expo exhibitors all-year around, and the SOUTH exhibition and film displayed a considered evaluation of the spirit of South African creativity.
Celebrating South Africa's inversion of hand-me-down Eurocentric aesthetics, and applying creativity to real world problems, the SOUTH exhibition and film also included an award. Winner of the R100 000 grand SOUTH prize was Doung Anwar Jahangeer for his Spaza-De-Move-On, a fold-up shop on wheels, conceived to give street hawkers convenience and dignity. In turn, the winner of the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa for 2009 was Michaella Janse van Vuuren for her Chrysanthemum Centrepiece.
"The overwhelming response to Design Indaba this year has renewed our mission to continue pushing for a better world through creativity," said Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo. "Imagination and creativity must meet implementation. We have more work to do — and our projects will now continue the momentum between now and Design Indaba 2010".