5 Key trends from the Design Indaba
And what brands can learn from Africa's most creative conference
To this 2018 Design Indaba trends special
The Design Indaba is a three-day conference, held in Cape Town, South Africa. Founded in 1995 by Ravi Naidoo, the gathering showcases the most interesting, innovative and cutting-edge ‘doers’. The festival includes a mixture of African and global speakers, who are encouraged to share their unique tales of creativity, innovation and, of course, design.
After being blown away in 2017 by the best-in-class production values and high quality presentations, TrendWatching decided to get more involved this year. Producing a mid-year Design Indaba ‘trends special’ was a no-brainer! And it’s fair to say that again we were enthralled by event’s inspirational content.
Now that the post-festival hype has long passed and the dust truly settled, this briefing digs deeper, beyond the bells and whistles, to offer you the five most recurring trends, themes and concepts, reiterated by various speakers at the conference.
Unable to experience it first-hand?
No worries! These Design Indaba-inspired trends will provide some insight into tomorrow's consumer landscape!
Powerful B2C innovations were presented over the course of the event and these concepts, products, services and campaigns, have been transformed into nuggets of actionable foresight, for you to take and apply to your businesses right now. Whilst perusing these innovations, it’s worth considering the following:
1. What are the fundamental human needs / wants / desires behind this innovation?
2. Is this innovation relevant today in Africa and if so, what are the key drivers?
3. What changes would you need to implement to make this innovation applicable or valuable to your customers?
Below are the five trends, inspired by this year’s Design Indaba. The trends are a mixture of old and new, some revived and making a comeback, since originally published.
- NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES
- EMOTIVE INTELLIGENCE
- IMPACT EMBEDDED
It's time to retire the clichés. Africans are rewriting the socio-cultural and economic rulebook!
‘Africans today are forming new identities and tribes based on their own definitions, interests, passions, aspirations and lifestyle choices.’
We spoke about NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES back in 2015 and yet this trend shows no signs of slowing down! As this global movement has grown, Africans living on the continent and in the diaspora are boldly celebrating all things Wakandan (read: black). In 2018, redefining the narrative is expected by African consumers but also by global citizens eager to connect with the continent beyond its dated clichés.
At the Design Indaba, NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES came in the guise of ‘Afrofuturism’, which was defined in a multitude of manners by opening speaker Sunu Gonera. The film director reflected on the term as ‘… merging the past and the present of African culture in order to birth a brighter future.’ This sentiment continued to be echoed by every African speaker that graced the stage, regardless of their specialization.
"Africa cannot afford decontextualized design. The stakes are simply too high"
UX designer Mark Kamau spoke about finding new ways to address the lack of connectivity for many Africans whilst emphasizing the very specific needs and constraints of the average African consumer. The result of his outside-the-box approach to these issues? BRCK education’s ‘digital classroom in a box’, a solution known as the Kio Kit, and one which garnered the young Kenyan a standing ovation.
One-day festival celebrates African creativity
March 2018 saw Swedish vodka brand Absolut partner with South African director Sunu Gonera and rapper Khuli Chana to produce One Source Live (OSL): a one-day festival celebrating African creativity. Announced by Goneru at Cape Town’s Design Indaba but held in Johannesburg, the event had multiple stages featuring live music and fashion. There was also the Absolut Art Mural, where attendees were invited to create artwork in exchange for a complimentary cocktail. According to Gonera, the event was an attempt to rewrite Africa’s story and change the way the continent is represented online.
Fashion label explores African identity
February 2018 saw Amna Elshandaweely launch her latest collection. The Egyptian fashion designer’s line was inspired by Afropunk, and focusing on what it means to be an African today. Elshandaweely travels around Africa examining cultural similarities and differences with the aim of inspiring her work. Her designs are available to buy from her own store in Giza, or via her Facebook page.
The challenge for brands? Discard outdated, economic-driven consumer classifications, and explore NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES.
As this trend continues to go from strength to strength, brands that continue to adhere to global strategies for local consumers, will be seen as out-of-touch, lazy and even disrespectful. Start looking at emerging segments, their lifestyles and evolving aspirations. Consider how your brand can enhance this mindset or at the very least positively reflect it.
Or take inspiration from Absolut and find fun ways to celebrate Africa. Partnering with young talent, upcoming creatives and savvy entrepreneur is just the beginning. Even if your brand is struggling to offer new narratives for African consumers, they surely won’t!
Artificial Intelligence gets 'humanized'...
The race to put the 'soul' back into technology is on!
Hyper-congested cities, increasingly hectic lifestyles and the over-abundance of new technologies are, for many, creating over-efficient yet under-fulfilled existences. The pressure to use technology to cram in as many tasks as possible has brought about a kickback from consumers worldwide, who believe that their emotional wellbeing is paying the price for convenience.
Thomas Heatherwick, a British architect who spoke at the festival, presented his ideation process and the connective theme behind his most successful buildings to date. He stated that ‘soulfulness’ was key to ensuring his buildings truly connected with people. Entrepreneurs too are responding to this demand by producing new, experience-based offerings that inject a ‘human touch’, tap into the ‘soul’ of the end user or even utilize emotions themselves to convey a typically inanimate output. So in 2018, as technologies progress, so will the enduring quest for brands to embed some EMOTIVE INTELLIGENCE.
The School for Poetic Computation promotes a free-spirited approach to learning creative coding by intertwining it with poetry.
Zach Lieberman creates artwork through writing software. He is a co-creator of openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding, and he also helped co-found the School for Poetic Computation, a school examining the lyrical possibilities of code. Beyond his poetry-inspired software programming classes, he also appointed his eight-year-old daughter as his art director, and introduced new playful, emotion-inducing apps and projects, that combine fine art and music with coding.
Device lets the blind 'feel’ emotions
Created by Netherlands-based designer Simon Dogger, the Emotion Whisperer is a product which has been created to help blind people ‘feel’ body language and sensory signals. Presented at February 2018’s Design Indaba in Cape Town, the product includes a pair of glasses with an integrated camera, along with an app and small handheld device. Employing facial recognition technology and algorithms, six emotions and their levels of intensity are detected – anger, sadness, fear, surprise, happiness and disgust. The app translates emotions into sensory signals, with the device generating corresponding vibrations.
Diabetes kit is designed with childrens' mental wellbeing in mind
Thomy is a kit for children with type-1 diabetes, created by Mexico-based Renata Souza Luque. The product designer’s toolkit features an insulin pen and set of temporary tattoos, devised to make the gruelling process of self-injecting a playful endeavor and a less unpleasant experience. The fun, illustrated tattoos ensure that children don’t inject themselves in the same site twice, with color simply fading after three days – when it’s time to move to a new space for injection. The insulin pens have been created to fit a child’s hand comfortably. Thomy was presented at Design Indaba in Cape Town during February 2018.
Don't forget that this trend isn't necessarily about reinventing the wheel, technologically...
Yes, super-futuristic EMOTIVE INTELLIGENCE products and platforms are impressive. But also consider how you could add an emotional touch to pre-existing services. Like Thomy’s insulin pen for kids, simple tweaks to bland offerings, will be more than welcomed in traditionally inhuman spaces.
And of course, beyond anything, remember that your role is to serve the millions of consumers who only really have a handful of deep-seated needs, such as connection, the opportunity for inner growth, self-actualization and other less tech-savvy, rudimentary needs ;)
Impact-driven businesses are reaching their tipping point...
Because in 2018, purpose precedes profit!
Consumers across the globe are increasingly weary of a throwaway consumer culture and the relentless pursuit of the Next Big Thing. They’re now seeking brands that are imbued with greater meaning, stand for something or are striving to bring about a positive social impact via their offerings.
Speaking on issues surrounding water scarcity, design researcher Shaakira Jassat emphasized that Cape Town’s recent water crisis is not just the city’s responsibility, but humanity’s too! Equally, ever-connected, informed and concerned citizens are looking towards institutions, brands and entrepreneurs to tackle such issues, in ways that feel genuine and have real impact.
Worthy social causes that sit at the forefront of a brand’s purpose will undoubtedly speak the language of tomorrow’s customers, who are all but exhausted by token CSR initiatives. Delivering solutions that benefit people, society and the planet will unlock profits that are sustainable in every sense.
Havana's extreme wealth disparity triggered a social housing project by Iwo Borkowicz.
The young architect outlined his concept to close the gap between Havana’s poorest inhabitants and Cuba’s ever-growing, lucrative tourism industry. Titled A Symbiotic Relation of Cooperative Social Housing and Dispersed Tourism in Havana Vieja, the project provides affordable tools that enable struggling Cuban residents to renovate their homes and rent those upgraded living spaces to tourists seeking more authentic, local experiences.
Debating kit helps homeless earn money
Presented at Cape Town’s Design Indaba conference in February 2018, Street Debater is a tool designed to enable homeless people to earn money. Created by Netherlands-based designed Tomo Kihara, the Street Debater kit includes a set of weights which are used to ask multiple choice questions. Passers-by are invited to cast their vote by placing a coin of their preferred side of the scales – leading to conversation and interaction. Street Debater is an open source product.
Platform facilitates peer-to-peer trading
CommCycle (Community Recycle) is a platform that facilitates peer-to-peer trading. Designed for the community members of the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, users can buy and sell second-hand items using the shop option or share items they don’t use anymore. The project was beta-launched in May 2017; co-founder and executive director Leroy Mwasaru presented the concept at Design Indaba in February 2018.
This isn’t about throwing money at a problem...
Go deeper and think about how your cause can become part of your brand’s identity. Could you partner with a local charity or another brand to really make a difference? Think long-haul. Commit to issues that are firmly aligned with your brand and be prepared to see it through.
It doesn’t have to be easy for your customers either. Challenge them to make real sacrifices or commitments in supporting your cause too (not just Facebook or Instagram ‘likes’). Get it right, and you’ll earn real respect!
Introducing 2018's biggest superpower: people power!
Another TrendWatching trend that just keeps on giving ;)
2018’s Design Indaba couldn’t get enough of open-sourced/crowd-sourced/crowd-funded… and it’s easy to see why! Of course, collective input can improve design, minimize risk, reduce costs, organize funding and increase the speed and robustness of decision-making.
The case for people power was eloquently presented in a case study by architect Alejandro Aravena, who spoke about bringing various stakeholders from local communities in Chile together in stress-inducing forums, enabling him to learn how to ‘ask the right questions’ and gather ideas on how to prioritize rebuilding their city after a natural disaster had completely destroyed it.
Consumers enjoy actively participating in and contributing to the products, projects, services and experiences they consume, and this desire shows no sign of waning. However, with the savviest of producers and entrepreneurs finding increasingly novel ways to tap into this ever-multiplying human resource, 2018 begs the question: how will your brand make the most out of CROWD-EXPRESS?
Urban garden will prioritize sustainability in water-scarce Cape Town.
Dutch landscape architect Peter Veenstra shared a proposal for Dome of Plants: an initiative that will transform the neglected Luthuli Plaza in water-scarce Cape Town. Made from sustainable bamboo, wood and plants known for their air-purifying qualities, the dome will form the centrepiece of an urban garden and provide a space for events. But the best part? The dome will be fed by purified urine from employees working in the Cape Town Civic Centre building (directly behind the dome’s proposed location).
TOM DIXON X IKEA
In February 2018, IKEA and British designer Tom Dixon unveiled DELAKTIG: a furniture collection inspired by co-creation (DELAKTIG means ‘involvement’ in Swedish). The collection includes three basic aluminum fames, and owners are encouraged to add various components to create furniture to suit their needs. Students at the Royal College of Arts in London, the Parsons School of Design in New York, and Musashino Art University in Tokyo submitted initial designs for the collection, with some students invited to be part of the final creation process. Prices for a ‘platform’ (essentially an armchair base) start at GBP 280. Dixon presented the collection at Design Indaba, exploring how constant copying of his work led him to create widely-available, ‘hackable’ furniture.
A WORLD OF SAND
Design project questions diminishing resources
A World of Sand is a project from Dutch designer Lonny van Ryswyck, aiming to raise awareness of the scarcity of sand – a diminishing resource. The initiative invites people across the world to send samples of sand, which are then melted into glass – revealing their unique colors – before becoming part of an archive. A World of Sand was presented at February 2018’s Design Indaba event in Cape Town.
With never-ending new platforms and technologies, CROWD-EXPRESS is truly open to all!
Social networks are an easy way to quickly access this creative energy and test new ideas and potential products. So don’t get caught up in having to engineer the crowd-sourcing process from scratch!
Equally, think about whether you can create a community from your crowd too – allowing people to contribute is one thing but facilitating interaction between like-minded enthusiasts, will take your brand to another level. And if your experience with crowdsourced efforts has been substandard, don’t fret. Try ‘elite-sourcing’: invitation-only networks that promise high quality contributions. This benefits consumers too, as making it past the velvet rope gives them a status boost.
Why 'nature' will be the active ingredient, for the most compelling products of 2018 and beyond
Being 'inspired by' nature won't cut it in 2018...
Truly eliminating negative environmental impact will require brands to go even deeper.
Recycling. Upcycling. Downcycling. We all know what that’s about but 2018 will be pushing the term ‘going green’ to an even more literal extreme. Probably the most avant-garde presentations of the entire conference were related to this next phase of eco-consciousness. Ensamble Studio’s architectural presentations emphasized the importance of going back to the roots, to learn, extrapolate from, manipulate and create from and together with nature.
This powerful trend in the seedlings of its existence, proves that cutting-edge visionaries worldwide are currently working on unraveling the potential of a truly sustainable planet. Consumers too, tired of negative information surrounding climate change, diminishing natural resources and the unsavory effects it continues to have on the environment, are not only ready but excited by these solutions. 2018 will usher in a new phase of eco-research/tech/progress and eventually products(!), where nature itself will be harnessed to provide better solutions and a brighter planetary future, for all of mankind! Amen!
'Material Ecology considers form generation, manufacturing, the environment and the material itself as inseparable dimensions of design.'
Neri Oxman, one of the most intriguing speakers on the last day of 2018’s Design Indaba, coined the aforementioned term. As a pioneer in this field, Oxman and her team at MIT are currently attempting to ‘augment the relationship between built, natural, and biological environments by employing design principles inspired and engineered by Nature, and implementing them in the invention of novel design technologies.’
Algae and kelp used to boost sustainable fashion
AlgiKnit is a New York-based biomaterials research group. Presented at February 2018’s Design Indaba festival in Cape Town, the group brings together scientists and designers, with the aim of looking at how the fashion industry can use biomaterials. Kelp and algae, which are turned into yarn and then textiles, are the focus of the group, along with how to improve the environment via renewable, sustainable products.
STUDIO SWINE: FORDLANDIA
Design brand focuses on sustainable materials
Presented at Cape Town’s Design Indaba festival in February 2018, Studio Swine’s Fordlandia collection of chairs are made from ebonite. The material is a plastic-style substitute for ebony, made from indigenous rubber sourced from the Amazonian forest. The UK-based design brand uses various forest sustainable products, such as fish leather, and creates accessories made from materials like ocean waste, human hair and aluminum foam.
Eco-awareness is at an all-time high. Any brand that thinks it can go back to old, wasteful ways, risks backlash.
Sorry to scare you but…
Even if you’re currently unable to implement such hyper-futuristic solutions, it’s imperative that you examine your entire supply chain and see how you can minimize your environmental impact, as a bare minimum.
What can you substitute with sustainable materials? Can you use more eco-friendly transportation? How can you offset any natural resources you deplete? Can you offer incentives to consumers to recycle, at least?
Last but not least...
Let's not forget the tear-jerking tribute to the late, great Hugh Masekela! #RIPBraHugh!
Also, thanks to Design Indaba and see you next year, for another great festival!
We only touched on a handful of great speakers that graced the stage during the event. Nevertheless, take these nuggets of inspiration and start creating sticky innovations of your own!
About Design Indaba
Design Indaba inspires and empowers people to create a better future through design and creativity. The organization has an online publication with an annual festival and a social impact, Do Tank.
Established in 1995 with its globally acclaimed Design Indaba Conference, the Design Indaba brand has evolved into a multidisciplinary platform that champions all of the creative sectors. The annual Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town now also includes the highly popular Emerging Creatives program, Most Beautiful Object in SA, Design Indaba FilmFest, Music Circuit, multiple Simulcast versions of the Conference in cities around South Africa, and other special events.
For more information visit: http://www.designindaba.com