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Young Cape Town designer wins international design award grand prize

Wednesday, 05 February 2020  
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Cape Town based designer Emma Strydom (31) has won the Grand Prize for the 2019 Shenzhen Design Award for Young Talents competition (SDAY 2019). The competition is open to young designers under 35 years old, who are part of the 180  cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), within which Cape Town is the first African city to be designated a UNESCO City of Design.

Cape Town achieved its UNESCO City of Design designation in 2017, and works closely with cities in the network to share ideas, challenges and successes related to the use of design in building sustainable and resilient cities. The City of Shenzhen (also a City of Design) shared the SDAY 2019 competition opportunity through the UCCN network and Cape Town put forward 10 entries from locally based young designers who pitched designs in various competition categories under the theme of “Inclusive Design”.


Announcing the award, the SDAY 2019 organising committee said that Strydom’s entry was selected from 21 competition winners. In topping the list with her creativity and professionalism, she scooped the overall Grand Prize with a cash value of over R200,000. Strydom impressed an international panel of seven judges who reviewed 224 competition entries, before selecting 21 winners and then the final Grand Prize winner.


Strydom, who is Partner and Designer in Chief at MAL Foundation and Head of Design at Net#workBBDO, submitted her entry in the competition’s Communications Category. Her project, Sifunda – We learn by talking together is designed to create opportunities for learning by focussing on environments where children and their guardians are naturally together, such as in the supermarket. Her design personifies alphabet characters in the supermarket.

In congratulating Emma on winning the SDAY 2019 Grand Prize, Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Assets Management in the City of Cape Town said, “The UNESCO Creative Cities Network has an objective to foster international cooperation with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy in line with the New Urban Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals”.


Alderman Vos noted that “The City plays an active role in the local design eco-system by supporting the Craft and Design Institute, Cape Town Fashion Council and Wesgro’s Film and New Media Unit; partnering with design driven events such as the Cape Town International Animation Festival, Design Indaba and Open Design Afrika; supporting Film Cape Town, a joint initiative by the City and the local Film and New Media industry; acting as the focal point for UCCN Cape Town activities; and incorporating design thinking within the City to drive innovation. Cape Town has a positive international reputation for being an Innovation and Creativity Capital, which is definitely supported by our excellence in the design sector.”


“We are delighted that the talents of a young Cape Town designer are now being recognised internationally through this award, and we heartedly congratulate Emma on this fine achievement”. 


Strydom expressed her delight at receiving this award, “This is totally insane! To be able to compete against crazy talented people across the globe and win, is just mind blowing. I’m utterly humbled and honoured to receive this award. It is double fabulous to see creativity get awarded for trying to improve human lives and real-life problems.”


“Being a South African is an honour to me. I think of our country, our past, our struggles, our accomplishments and the power of hope amongst our people and I become emotional. There is a feeling of pride that lives in me for my country and my countrymen. I want every South African to feel that. The only way I can actually do this is through my creativity. I am deeply passionate and convinced that through good creativity, innovative design, functional or non-functional, we can better the lives of others. Designers have the very rare privilege to paint a picture of the world for others. It is our responsibility to make sure that picture is always inspiring and damn well looks good. That’s why whatever I create needs to give back. To help the under-resourced, the stressed and weary. And I am just too lucky and privileged to be able to do it with freedom of creativity. So to be recognised for my hard work on a project so loved really gives me gees to work harder.”


Cape Town’s membership in the UCCN, as a City of Design, recognises its contribution to local and global design, and its commitment to promote and develop cultural and creative industries.


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