Design Indaba 2011 Conference: Day 3 (Live Blog)
A Cultural Experience In Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 25 February 2011
Category: Culture > Features Comments View Comments


It's the last day of the Design Indaba 2011 conference, which is being held in Cape Town, South Africa. This is a live blog transcript of the day's events, with speaker information and talk highlights.

Welcome to the coverage of the last day of the 2011 Design Indaba conference. As usual, I will be working off my netbook using the Cell C Speed Stick and will update this page every few minutes, so bookmark it and/or refresh it throughout the day to see the latest coverage. Please also retweet the page link, along with the #designindaba hashtag, if you are able:

If the Internet has connection problems or the netbook battery dies I will take offline notes and post them once I get home or I might switch to Twitter and continue covering the event live. It will depend on what I feel will work better. Please keep an eye on @mandyjwatson and @brainwavez for announcements.

(Please excuse any typos. I'm cleaning up as I go but I'm working in a very dark room and can't really see the keyboard.)

Design Indaba Day 3: Official Welcome
* 09:08: We're starting. The simulcast room is not full today, presumably due to last night's party.
* Thanks to sponsors.
* No photography or filming allowed but tweeting encouraged.
* If you have a question you can SMS the speakers (include name). Send it to 34180.
* The questions will be answered live at the conference or on the DI web site next year.
* Tweet tag: #designindaba.
* The most insightful tweet will win a Kindle.

Design MBA: Mexico, Brazil, And Africa

Design Indaba Profile: Carla Fernandez (Mexico): Fashion Design/Craft
* Her father was a director of archeological sites so she used to visit indigenous settlements with her father. Her mother used to go on shopping sprees in the US. Carla became very aware of both styles - indigenous and US. She combined the two and made up her own style.
* She couldn't study fashion in Mexico (no courses), and couldn't afford to study in London. She asked the Mexican government for a scholarship but was denied because it's a "luxury industry", even though Mexico has a huge textile industry. Instead she studied {art history?} but focussed on the fashion aspects.
* They have a special way of making clothing in Mexico. We're seeing examples of designs.
* The clothing is very geometrical but can be worked into different shapes.
* Starting from the beginning: textiles. We're seeing a photo essay of the traditional way of making textiles in Mexico. "waist loom". Iconography in the textiles tell a story.
* After the Spanish conquest they picked up new techniques: folds, darts, tucks, pleats. "This evolved into a new textile origami."
* She decided to start a clothing label with a strong social commitment that also showcases the immense creativity of Mexican artisans.
* Result: the workshop Flora. It's a group of co-ops in different communities, and knowledge is shared between the communities.
* They don't tell designers what to do - they sit down and discuss it together.
* The younger designers didn't want to use waist loom because they wanted to make denim so the workshop figured out how to make denim on waist loom.
* It's very important that craftsmen are paid for their work and their ideas.
* We're now watching a video that shows some of the techniques they use.
* They needed a prêt-à-porter line to be commercially viable so we're seeing some examples.
* The project that they've just started is school uniforms for schools in one of the poorest states of Mexico. The new government is giving them away as a new policy (previously families had to buy them). One of the principles of the designs is that "the children feel pampered" - that someone is taking care of them.
* They developed a beautiful denim that has a zig-zag pattern. They need to make one million uniforms in six months.
* They took over abandoned factories in Oaxaca and employed 500 single mothers to create the uniforms, helping to uplift the community.
* Notable quote: "People are always concerned about endangered species, I'm concerned about endangered culture." * Question: is this difficult for you or do you find this natural. "My job is mainly about solving problems but if you love what you do [then it doesn't feel like work, but it is a lot of hard work]."
* End of talk.

Design Indaba Profile: Lowery Stokes Sims (USA): Visual Art/Craft/Design
* Topic: Invention And Remixing: Design In The Global Africa Universe
* Project: The Global Africa Project - exhibition "that privileges{?} the challenges and concerns faced by creators in their psychic space [...] and you end up with individuals who are zipping back and forth between the US, Africa, Japan, India [other countries]."
* {This is going to be hard to smumarise as it's filled with flowery jargon.}
* Update: It's an exhibition that attempts to break African stereotypes by showcasing the artistic works of people from around the world that are working in the contemporary African arts. It's much clearer once you've seen the showcase of works.
* We're seeing an example of Maker Faire in Uganda- The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind/William Kamkwamba from Malawi. The tinkerers and the creators. Ousmane M'Baye (Senegal); Olu Amoda (Nigeria/USA); Romauld Hazoué (Benin). The work is a combination of design with political messages that are implied by what the work addresses.
* Kossi Assou; Heath Nash (South Africa); Beverley Price (South Africa); Bibi Seck (USA/Senegal). Most of the designers use skilled craftsmen to assist with their work. Much of the work incorporates sustainability aspects such as recycling.
* Algernon Miller (USA) with Sanaa Gateja (Uganda) and the Kwetu Afrika Art And Design Development Centre (Uganda)
* {More info about The Global Africa Project: Hyperallergic}
* Zen Zulu (South Africa); Anggy Haif (Cameroon), fashion; Shombole Collection (Kenya), jewellery; Mud Studio (South Africa); Daniele Tamagni (Italy), photography
* {This is obviously just a sample list of what we've seen - Google the names to see examples of their work.}
* Question: Can you describe the reception that the exhibition has received from the press and the public in New York: "We have been totally gratified as this was unknown territory [...] so to do this with design, craft, and architecture [...] we've just been extraordinarily gratified by the response."
* "[People] think that we are going to have figures and masks and I say 'gotcha'."
* End of talk.

Design Indaba Profile: Pedro Reyes (Mexico): Visual Art/Architecture/Film/Activism
* {As an aside, he's Carla's husband.}
* "I didn't come from a family that had any connection to culture - both parents are chemical engineers. [...] My grandfather who used to school me in the evenings had two passions - mathematics and mythology - so he would propose problems to me [combining the two] for which I had to solve a equation. [...] All knowledge is transmitted through metaphors and no matter what you do creativity is available to everyone."
* "Creating relationships is something that I like very much." [We're seeing examples of this in his projects and designs.]
* Weapons are a huge problem in Mexico - they migrate in from the US. He collaborated on a project to encourage people to trade in their guns at the city hall for coupons that they could trade for microwaves and so forth.
* They broke the record for collection: 1527. They held a public event in which the guns were crushed with a steamroller and then the remains were taken to a foundry, where they were melted and repurposed into the exact same number of shovels: 1527. "We were mining out an agent of death and turning it into an agent of life". The shovels are now used at schools to plant trees and there's a psychological implication for a kid too know that this is made out of something that could have taken his life.
* "As designers and architects we don't just have to think of the 'hardware' but also the 'software' - what kinds of activities are going to take place in these spaces?.
* Urban Genome Project
* Baby Marx: a puppet series about the economy. "I wanted to understand the history of how the economy and politics have shaped the world in the last 200 years."
* We're seeing a video showing some of the project.
* End of talk.

Design Indaba Profile: Fibra (Brazil): Product Design
* "We believe that design is essentially a powerful tool that can create and promote new materials, new relationships, new processes."
* "The palmheart story". Brazil has been the biggest producer and consumer of the palm heart but it's resulted in the decimation of their forests. Environmentally aware people now won't buy and it's had an impact on the economy. Other countries are now taking the market share.
* Fibra has developed a pupunha plywood as a result of this [see this page for details]
* We're seeing a video of a skateboard they developed using the new plywood, which is a finishing as the product needs to be flexible, light, and stable. There's bamboo inside, as well as linen.
* The plywood has been used for guitars, furniture (tables, chairs).
* Pupunha produces other kinds of residues that they can use. They look for different processes that they can develop. They don't want to be the producers - they develop the technology and then allow other people to make "the real change".
* Brazil has many socio and economic similarities to South Africa (and other countries such as Mexico) so the big question is "how can we help each other?".
* They've brought one of their boards with and had Verve (South African skateboard company) paint it. They're going to raffle the board to the young designers in the simulcast room.
* End of session.

[break 20 minutes - please give us some link love and retweet the link to this page: ]

Mark Shuttleworth (UK/South Africa): Digital Media/Technology
Mark Shuttleworth

Design Indaba Profile: Mark Shuttleworth
* "We are perpetual students."
* "I don't know what life is all about but we all have this deep-rooted need for meaning."
* "It was an incredible thing to be part of a training environment that had brought space travel to the world."
* Ubuntu.
* "We think that innovation comes from large corporations because they have money."
* "I can tell you for the next four years which versions [are coming out when and which ones are enterprise versions] because Ubuntu is open source."
* "Design was virtually non existent in the open-source world. As a result we produced a series of Unbuntu every six months that looked ["uuuugly and slightly awkward"].
* They realised that they would need to inject design and make it part of the fabric but it would also require leadership as open-source collaboration is like herding cats.
* He realised he needed to learn more about design. He collaborated with IM Majic.
* Everything about Ubuntu is about real-time interpersonal collaboration but they didn't think they could do that with design.
* Designing for duality: enterprise and community/consumer; developer and end user.
* "We didn't design a system. We designed two harmonious interconnected rhyming counterpoint {something}{something}{something}."
* Typography. "We wanted to provide a font that would be instantly globally available and which consumers could change. [...] It needed to express our values as a company but also work in an interface." -- open font license, freely available to use, share, modify, redistribute.
* Approached Bruno Maag and his company took on the project. They provided a typographic leadership role, especially in Latin. In the other language groups they reach out to the community to get feedback about technicalities as well as artistic/creative feedback.
* Result: Ubuntu Monospace.
* Ayatana: your awareness of your environment while you're focussing on a particular thing.
* They've redesigned the interface so that things that require your attention (icons) are in colour while everything else recedes into greyscale so there's less clutter and attention-grabbing overload.
* The interface considerations that Mark is discussing are very interesting but impossible to explain without the visuals. There's a lot of effort to simplify/declutter but still keep the controls and notifications you need easily accessible.
* Chromeless: "chrome" is all the stuff in your space on your screen that's in the way of what you're doing. The toolbars, status bars, title bars, and so forth. They looked at ways to combine a lot of these aspects especially for small screens, and give back screen real estate.
* They moved to a world in which essentially the menu is hidden and only shows up when you need it. It's a change that will ship in the next version.
* We're now seeing some chromeless stuff that he doesn't want us to talk about yet - it will become available in a few weeks. They're testing it right now and have had positive feedback. It's taking into consideration touch-enabled devices/
* The desktop feels legacy compared to PlayStations and iPads. They've introduced a PlayStation-like feel to certain desktop interface functions.
* They want to move away from the files and folders paradigm, rather a full-screen presentation that's similar to (but predates) Apple's app layout. It's especially important for small screens.
* They're trying to introduce search everywhere to make it faster and easier to find things.
* Observations on designers: he believes that it's critical to the business and the community. "I sometimes meet designers that are convinced that they have all the answers but then refuse to have them tested."
* "I've never met a designer that could produce something quite as beautiful as this [shot of the planet from space] so let's take care of it."
* End of talk.

Oded Ezer (Israel): Typography/Graphic Design
Design Indaba Profile: Oded Ezer
* Inventor of the term "biotypography". "'Biotypography' is a term that refers to any typographical application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to create or modify typographical phenomena."
* He's just shown us an amazing typographical project that he did - a tattoo request. It hasn't been published, though, so I can't show an example. It involved incorporating the girl's grandparents' initials (both sides of the family) into a design that would look like a design, not the initials. The final design is a line that runs from her left index finger along the back of her arm behind her neck down her other arm to her right index finger, with the letters cursively incorporated into the line (think a piece of string, not calligraphy) in a very subtle manner.
* He's now describing a project that crowdsourced people via Skype to hold up a letter, which was incorporated into the poster that advertised the event. {I missed that the event was.} -- Face Type.
* Shoes. The numbers relate to sexual-assault statistics. {more info here}
* A Logo For Your City. CitID asked him to design a logo for his city. He went to their site and thought they were too trendy for him so he went back 3000 years to the times of King David. He decided to write the name in Ancient Hebrew and then give it a trendy look as a sort of personal joke. Result here.
* The typographic shaman. Related.
* Typoplastic surgery.
* Biotypography (typographic creatures): Typosperma -- have a look at the page, which summarises what he's saying (though he is really entertaining as he explains it). CoPro Embryos -- "I must say that this is the weirdest corporate identity that I have ever done." Typembrya.
* More information regarding his work on Neatorama.
* End of session.

[break (approximately an hour) - please give us some link love and retweet the link to this page: ]

Ben Fry (USA): Digital Media
Ben Fry

Design Indaba Profile: Ben Fry
* Computational information design.
* Live demo of Fugpaint (1988) - antagonistic design.
* He's discussing some of his projects and the interface designs and considerations (Arabic - needs to run right to left, not left to right).
* all streets (2008) - the whole of the US mapped out using road segments. The topography emerges based solely on the road data.
* Design And The Elastic Mind exhibition.
* isometricblocks.
* {I would suggest checking out all the links - many of the projects are interactive and you'll get more info than what I can type here.}
* "There's this battle between aesthetics and function [in representing scientific work]."
* Genome Valence, which was done as an installation.
* They use Processing.
* He wants to get more designers thinking about programming and more programmers experimenting with design.
* we're now seeing some third-party projects that were created with Processing.
* -- Magnetosphere.
* -- Nervous System - jewellery design.
* The Preservation Of Favoured Traces (2009) - the evolution of Darwin's On The Origin Of The Species with "track changes". You can see how his work evolved over the six editions of the book - edits, changes, and so forth. "The evolution of Darwin's thinking on evolution itself."
* Showcase of three student projects from a course he co-taught.
* {I missed the names/info because my view is being blocked by a tall guy who has spent half the presentation staring at his phone screen.}
* There are a bunch of questions for him that will go online as we're out of time.
* End of talk.

Jens Martin Skibsted (Denmark): Product Design/Sustainability/Transport Design
Jens Martin Skibsted

Design Indaba Profile: Jens Martin Skibsted
* KiBiSi is a new venture that's about product design. The logo is the three founders of the company.
* "Design is part of communicating who we are and it's also such a strong self expression that's part of our rituals when we get a mate that it's much more important to us than other things." [think bird mating dances] "Everyone is afraid of not being loved and not being adequate. Design is a cure to some of that. Expressing who you are alleviates some of that.
* * He works with urban mobility and getting people to choose bikes over cars. Negative connotations: pollute, congest, kill, cost
* "It's the moment that you have someone buying a bike instead of a car that matters. You have to look at format change."
* What makes Microsoft win over Linux? What makes iPod win over Sony?"
* He's going through some of the bike collaborative projects that he's work on.
* Redesigning urban bikes: visibility, drivability, integration, durability.
* His take on how a new bike should smell: Bubbles Flacon concept. Apparently he brought samples so the people in the main room are trying it out.
* Aesthetic sustainability - you need to have this, as well as quality, in order for people to hang on to a product. Otherwise they toss devices that still work perfectly because they have moved on due to an evolution of aesthetic taste.
* We're seeing some of the bike designs that he's collaborated on or the companies he works with have designed. (KiBiSi, Biomega, and Skibsted Ideation.)
* End of talk.

[break (30 minutes) - please give us some link love and retweet the link to this page: ]

Robert Wong (USA): Branding
Robert Wong

Design Indaba Profile: Robert Wong
* Creative director of Google Creative Lab.
* What does a better world look like? 3 meter/10 feet radius. A better world starts with how you can impact someone in your life at that distance. "The most important part of my three-metre radius is my family {two daughters and wife}."
* Secret to a successful marriage- 5:1 ratio: five positive interactions as opposed to 1 negative one. (Statistically proven - relationships that are 5:1 or higher will work and those with a lower ratio end up in divorce. This can be applied to all relationships.)
* You can only lose points for not living up to what's expected.
* "Designers are naturally good at this stuff [...] it's a way of living that's just totally awesome."
* S! = Em + Cr (Surprise = empathy plus creativity). "No one has seen this. This is the first time this formula has been seen by the world." {He's referencing the QuaDror announcement.}
* The notion of building a better world: you first have to determine, why do we do anything?
* "I think that whoever wakes up with the better motivation wins."
* Explanation of the origin of the name "Google".
* -- [That's what Google represents to me] "it's nine tenths awesome science and one tenth baby talk."
* We're seeing a video snippet showing how the Google Art Project was done (Careful photography, scanning, and digital work).
* Regarding briefs: he asks people if they would be proud of it if it was printed as a full page ad in the New York Times.
* What is Creative Lab?
* One of their first failures: stickers for keyboard shortcuts that you ca apply to your keyboard to help you save time. It went viral among senior management in the company, and then the stickers started to wear off, and take the letters of their keys with them, angering the employees. "This is reality by the way [...] people are usually more interested in stickers than more important things]". This was their first failure. They decided their next failure must be bigger.
* Next idea ("make a dent"): 10th anniversary of Google. They asked for $10 million for a proposal to give the world free bandwidth. The technology wasn't quite viable but some investigations took place, which blew Robert away.
* "My biggest challenge at Google is 'am I thinking big enough every day?'."
* Project: $10 million for Project 10^100 [winners]. This was a result of that original idea. The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town was one of the winners.
* Demo video: Google Search ad: How To Impress A French Woman -- Google internal ad project that they decided to show during the Superbowl.
* Video: Google Chrome Speed Tests
* The Arcade Fire viral video: The Wilderness Downtown. Incorporates Google technologies.
* Video: Google Docs capabilities
* Video: Life In A Day: collaboration with Ridley Scott, showcased at Sundance.
* Video: The Google "It Gets Better" video.
* YouTube is now the world's second-largest search engine. People just go to YouTube to search for a demo video to help with a problem.
* The Google "It Gets Better" video saved a life. Someone went to YouTube to find out how to make a noose, saw the Google video, decided to watch it, and it changed his/her mind. The person sent a thank you email to Google.
* Final comments about making a better world.
* End of talk.

"Mystery Speaker And Performance": Hugh Masekela (South Africa)
Hugh Masekela

Design Indaba Profile: Hugh Masekela
* We're being serenaded (trumpet).
* He's now in conversation with producer Stewart Levine.
* {This is going to be hard to summarise because they're in conversation, not presenting/Q&A.}
* Hugh originally went to New York because he wanted to see the Empire State Building.
* He grew up from infancy entranced by music. "Music attacked me like whatever attacked that girl from The Exorcist - but I didn't want it exorcised."
* On screen is a photography showcase of Hugh's early history. [Courtesy Drum and Getty]
* To leave South Africa [in the 60s] you had to have 400 GBP to prove that you wouldn't "be a nuisance" overseas. You also needed letters from your pastor, your school, etc.
* This is just a amazing stream of notable names and jazz greats that worked with him and helped him get to the United States and build his early career, via Miriam Makeba.
* Hugh and Stewart have collaborated repeatedly since soon after Hugh reached New York in the 1960s. They've been talking through how their careers progressed, what happened, who they collaborated with, but with an ease that shows they are old friends.
* Hugh and his band are now performing on stage.
* "OK, we've done enough talk, we're just gonna go and play for you now two more songs."
* {This is fantastic. I wish I was in the other room to see it live, instead of via a screen.}
* {Scratch that: via a tiny, tiny window on the screen, because the photo presentation, which has already scrolled through about three times, is using the dominant screen real estate. The live feed is a postage stamp.}
* Most of the band is from Cape Town. They're just been introduced.
* "We'd just like to finish by playing tribute to the people [...] of the country I am from."
* They're finishing off with Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela).
* Photo from inside the room: instagram.
* End of the 2011 Design Indaba Conference.

* 17:13: I'm signing off. Thanks to everyone who retweeted the links and read the posts (and excused the typos). I hope you enjoyed the coverage. It's been an amazing event.

Mandy J Watson is a media guest of the Design Indaba 2011 Young Designers Simulcast.

On The Internet
Design Indaba: Official Site | Twitter

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