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Three ingredients for a design city

Monday, 20 April 2015   (0 Comments)
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Design is not limited to the aesthetics of product development. Rather, design today encompasses the design of systems, services and solutions. While these are less tangible, they are no less important. As both business and the public sector take a design thinking approach, the potential for design as a tool to change lives becomes ever-more apparent. But what are the ingredients that make a design city?

At its Design Indaba stand this year, the City of Cape Town highlighted the three key ingredients that make up a vibrant design city: design activity, public sector support for design activities and a healthy ecosystem. We look at each element here, to bring you a snapshot of where we are at.

1) Design activity:

A survey conducted in 2012 revealed that around 80 000 people work in design-related businesses in the Western Cape, contributing R14 billion to South Africa’s GDP of R3 trillion for that year. Over and above that, many people are engaged in design-related activities, who wouldn’t classify themselves as designers. Many of the official World Design Capital projects were initiated by people and businesses operating in fields outside the traditionally classified design spectrum.

When you consider the extent of this activity, it’s clear to see the strength of Cape Town’s reputation as a design city.

2) Public sector support for design activities:

The City’s support for design was demonstrated through its own official World Design Capital projects –
just over 70 in total – including the co-design workshops in each ward, the service design initiative at Ikhwezi Clinic and the My-Citi roll out to Khayelitsha, among others. We’ll be talking about those projects in more detail in upcoming newsletters.

To reinforce this commitment, the City established its own internal World Design Capital office to entrench design thinking into municipal projects, and show city officials how design processes can used effectively in city management.

3) A healthy ecosystem:

What makes up the third element in a design city: the healthy design ecosystem? The
Western Cape Design Strategy identifies five of the most prevalent design disciplines in the region:

  • Product or surface design (object making)
  • Systems design (system making)Communication design (image and message-making)
  • Environmental and spatial design (place-making)
  • Service or interaction design (experience making)

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, classifying design into these broad categories begins to tell the story of our design ecosystem. Together, these disciplines create an interconnected network of organisations, businesses and individuals who are using design to drive innovation and find solutions.

A robust design ecosystem exists when these traditionally recognised design disciplines forge strong connections between themselves and government, business and tertiary institutions. When companies use design processes to create better products and services; when government uses design to improve systems in state hospitals; and when tertiary institutions use design to help commercialise their research and intellectual property, then we have a thriving ecosystem.

What role do you play in the design ecosystem?

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