March 17, 2017

Wacom at Design Indaba 2017

Sponsored by Wacom myself (Caroline Vos), Carmen Ziervogel and Ree Treweek were delighted to attend this years premier design event, the Design Indaba 2017. We experienced a cast of the world’s best creative minds, sharing inimitable inspiration, new perspectives and universal solutions. 

Welcoming us at the entrance was SellyRabe Kane’s dream like installation of Dali’esque sculptures. Like a Burning Man installation - the mood was set for a creative get together.

No Heels of Fancy Outfits

The event was incredibly well attended. Lots of young folks and what seemed like a massive amount of students thronged at the breakfast stands lining up for their dose of coffee before the conference got started. The vibe was casual chic, everyone prepared for a day of hard workshopping - no heels or fancy outfits - people were here to listen and take notes. The conference was prompt and everyone was invited in for the start of the talks. 

Technology led the conference - everything well organised - fingerprint scanning for attendance, designer recycled bags for our goodies, charging stations, VR booths and the Red Room Photo booth ushered us into the main hall.

We entered the conference area quickly but the first floor of the conference area was already full and we took our seats on the upper level.

Conference Highlights

Non-caffeine Stimulation

The talks were fascinating and as the host, Michelle Constant explained, we would need our stamina. We were in for a long day with free coffee flowing and plenty of stimulation other than caffeine. We kicked off with South African designer Duo Dokter and Missus. This was, it turned out , our favourite event of the day. The Johannesburg design team blew us away with their slick co-ordinated dance and Video routine. Their presentation was abstract and perfectly in line with their ethos and product style.

Carmen Ziervogel: The husband and wife team presented their video with live dance collaborators reminiscent of a modern Bauhaus style with African inspiration. What I found interesting about their work process, is that they respond to personal and political climates, such as the Xenophobic attacks which happened in their home town, Johannesburg, a few years ago. Their response was to create products that made their customers feel peaceful, using cool neutrals and softer shapes instead of their usual bold, bright African colours and geometric lines.

The importance of creating products for their aesthetic value alone also stood out, not just catering for consumers needs, but their own creative needs too.

Sensory explorations in South Africa

Kaja Dahl (Norwegian product and funiture designer) presented next. Her product spoke for her - a stunning design created from organics and inspired by her sensory explorations in South Africa, was selected as the event gift for all the speakers. I was more than jealous as it looked absolutely gorgeous. The applicator is natural sea sponge with solid perfume cast onto it, which softly transfers via the wearer's skin temperature.  This physical, ritualistic application and ancient natural applicator speaks visually of her process as well as making the sensory feeling tangible.

Taputti and the Sea is her bespoke fragrance: She uses intuitive sensory research to choose her scents, which have the ability to mix and match according to mood,  based on natural objects such as local seaweed and rocks. 

Dialogical Design

Arjun Harrison-Man London-based designer and activist, co-founder of Studio Hyte) introduced the audience to "dialogical design", a way in which human interaction online can make a difference to the lives of differently abled people, especially in the context of activism. His philosophy is to make the subject and the audience as important as each other, as he says "systems can't feel compassion, humans can", creating more ethical ways for the viewer to interact with the system. His project "Rights not Games" embodied this spirit, allowing differently abled people to speak up for themselves online and be heard.

We took a quick lunch break, charging our phones and Wacom products. We had Wacom Smartpads with us that we used inside of the conference hall to scribble notes. We were sponsored lunch packs and took a break to refuel before heading back in for the second half of the day’s talks.


What3Words is an amazing little app that brings an address to everyone, everywhere via 3 words. If you are wondering why this would be necessary, well, 75 percent the world suffer from poor to non-existent addressing. The world is divided into 3  by 3 square metre cubes by founder Chris Sheldrick  - assigning each cube to one unique 3 word combination. This allows emergency access and deliveries to rural communities without an address and even has the capabilities to pin down a mid ocean location - which makes me think nautical rescues could be easily aided by this app. It was also mentioned that the app was found to be useful, in case of emergencies, for festival goers attending large events where exact location in a sea of people is difficult for medical teams. Through the app you are able to pinpoint and communicate your exact position more succinctly than any other method. We have all downloaded it already. My home address is quite strange - you should definitely check it out!

Ayse Birsel - Design The Life You Want to Live

Using design as a tool to conquer whatever challenges life throws her way Ayse suggests we do the same. She gave a unique and interactive talk that I found very inspiring. I loved watching her doodles unfold on the screen as she talked  through her holistic approach in using design to live life uniquely and successfully. Challenging the audience to share their role models, I  was able to question who my heroes are, and how I am in more ways than I realise, similar to them.

Cycled Vintage Furniture

A playful yet emotional talk was given by Nigerian Artist Yinka Ilori. This was by far one of my favourite presentations. He makes beautiful art work from up cycled vintage furniture.  I really felt connected with each of his designs as he talked about the inspiration and lifestyle behind them - as though I was physically connected - by my derrière on each chair!  Inspired by Nigerian parables and fabrics from Africa he brings his aesthetic to the world stage, with long list of impressive accolades. His talk was really fun, colourful and emotive.

Grand Finale

The grand finale for the talks was the launch of "Little Diamond”, the big brother to Danish/Icelandic Artist Olafur Eliassson’s “Little Sun”. An art piece that translates as light for those without the facilities to pay for kerosene lighting in poverty stricken areas throughout the world.

At the end of the talks we strolled outside to enjoy some socialising before heading off to have a look at the “Most beautiful object in Africa” and “The Emerging Creatives” exhibition. The vibe was festive and Mumm Champagne was served with a side of Chilli Tacos! 

Emerging Creatives and Most Beautiful Object in Africa"

After a short break we made our way to the Emerging Creatives exhibition stopping to admire the collaborative work of South African ceramicist Andile Dyalvane (his collaboration with fellow speakers at Design Indaba, gt2P). gt2P ( Great Things to People ) is a Chilean design group that spoke at the Festival of their projects inspired by their local culture and traditional materials and techniques.

We were shown impressive furniture and decorative pieces constructed from stone and Volcanic rock as well as a technique for casting ceramic bowls shared with Andile Dyalvane and brought to our own shores in Andile's creative instalment at the Artscape theatre entrance to the Emerging Creatives exhibition.

The emerging creatives exhibit was a showcase of young designers recently graduated from art institutions throughout South Africa.

Here we found a number of artists very excited by wacoms products. Some young designers that caught our eye were Jack Fox (Keya Murphy) , creating black and white line art and participating in street art, music and video concepts.

Robin Erispe creates punks skater art by with a powerful punch, vibrant and entertaining tattoo and comic inspired lines and colour.

Embossed illustrated work by storyteller Lauren Nel creates stories and and art work for the blind and equally for those with sight as the stories are entertaining and visually captivating for all.

Ink inspired art by young creative Mario Nobrega, a young Graphic Designer as well as photographer, caught our eye with his booth.

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