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Design Indaba Conference 2014

Running over three days, the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town brings together speakers from a wide range of specialisms - we look at the Dutch contribution. 

By Katie Dominy / 06-03-2014

On the morning of the first day graphic design studio Experimental Jetset took to the stage. Composed of Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen, the trio’s presentation was entitled ‘An Alphabet of Influences'. We asked them - why the alphabet? 

“The point is, in contexts such as these (talks, lectures, conferences), we always feel a bit awkward (a bit vain or self-satisfied, perhaps) when we only talk about our own work. Showing the things that have inspired and influenced us throughout the years allows us to talk about our work in a more indirect way, which makes it so much easier for us. We tried to talk about our work via a detour, so to speak. The talk could last only 30 minutes, so we thought an 'alphabet-ordered' format would work well. That way, we could talk about each influence for one minute, and we would have 26 minutes covered instantly. A short four-minute introduction, and voila - there's your lecture. To give you an idea of the lecture – in this slide (see left) we are pushing our luck a bit, trying to file the film 'Blow-Up' under the letter U...”

And Experimental Jetset’s favourite speaker?  “For us, the most impressive speaker was the South-African photographer David Goldblatt (born 1930), who, through his work, chronicled the years of Apartheid. It was a very basic presentation – he showed a series of portraits, and talked about it. But the way he talked about it was incredibly impressive – names, dates, facts, details, stories of torture but also humorous anecdotes. At a certain point during the lecture, we looked around, and noticed a lot of people in the audience were actually crying. We think it's quite brave of Design Indaba to invite a person like Goldblatt. Usually, design conferences desperately try to project a very optimistic, positive (and positivist) image of the world. So it's quite courageous that Design Indaba also allowed some of the tragedy, some of the trauma of history, to seep through.”

The second day of the conference saw Amsterdam-based Scholten & Baijings, alias designers Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings, take to the stage. Scholten gave us an insight: “During my presentation at Design Indaba, I spoke about our personal method of working. The way we work in our workshop is special. By making paper models, we arrive at new forms. We call this ‘constructive thinking’. In fact we taught this way of working between 2006 and 2011 at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the ‘Atelier’ department. Within the design process we combine this method with colour, material, texture and tactility. People now refer to this as typically ‘Scholten & Baijings.’ Using various projects, I gave examples of the development of edition design through to mass production.’

And which were your favourite speakers? “The new project by Thomas Heatherwick for an art gallery at the V&A Waterfront museum in Cape Town was very impressive and Tom Hulme's talk about his engaging online community to help improve women's security in slums was also very inspiring.”

Designer Dave Hakkens also picked the same two designers as his favourites. “I liked Thomas Heatherwick for his modest way of presenting and Tom Hulme because I really appreciate what he is doing with OpenIDEO” (OpenIDEO is a social innovation platform for social good). Hakkens formed part of Design Indaba’s Pecha Kucha session alongside six other talented 2013 graduates from around the world. The designer was mentioned recently on ( ) as one of the nominees for London’s Design Museum’s Designs of 2014 with his project Phonebloks. A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Hakken’s project has led to him working with Motorola, part of Google, to turn his prototype into a fully working modular phone.


1 - Experimental Jetset at Design Indaba 2014

2 & 3- Stefan Scholten at Design Indaba 2014

4 - Dave Hakkens at Design Indaba 2014

5 –Thomas Heatherwick at Design Indaba

6 - David Goldblatt at Design Indaba 2014

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