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Design Indaba 2019: HL's Day 1 Highlights

From Rwandan drones to fashion in Paris, these are the House and Leisure team’s top five notable moments from Day 1 at Design Indaba 2019.

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
Överallt collection bag by Egyptian designers Mariam Hazan and Hend Riad for IKEA.

From the get-go yesterday morning, Design Indaba 2019 served up a brilliantly varied, inspiring and thought-provoking set of speakers to this year’s delegates. The first day of the planet’s premier design conference-cum-festival in Cape Town touched on just about every aspect of what’s current in the world of design.

Our Day 1 Design Indaba Highlights

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
Andile Vellem performs on stage during NM Type's presentation of their new dance-inspired typeface, Movement

1. NM Type x Andile Vellem Create Typographical Beauty

It’s always wonderful to be reminded that there are people in the world who spend their time designing fonts for a living. Typeface designers NM Type – a boutique firm made up of Noel Pretorius (who is based in Sweden) and María Ramos (who is based in Spain). Working together virtually has not prevented the duo from creating award-winning typefaces, including the seriously beautiful Kinetic, which was inspired by US sculptor Alexander Calder’s mobiles, and a custom font Meister, which they designed especially for Jagermeister.

When asked by Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo what their dream project would be, Pretorius and Ramos responded that they have always wanted to design a typeface inspired by the movements of dance. And thus began a project in which they worked with Andile Vellum, the renowned deaf South African dancer, to create a new font, Movement. Not only is the resulting typeface gloriously lovely, it’s also a variable font design. This means that it is designed from Thin to Black ‘extremes’ and can be used (both digitally and in print) at any weight between those two ‘end points’. As an added bonus, Design Indaba delegates were offered the chance to download and make use of the new font, free of charge.

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
New York-based architect Dong-Ping Wong.

2. Dong-Ping Wong and Virgil Abloh Generate a (very) Live Stream

New York-based architect Dong-Ping Wong highlighted a few projects by his architecture studio, Food, then thrilled the crowd by Facetiming his design buddy, Off White and Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh, for a session in which the pair chatted while also completing a concept design of ‘a city [designed] in 15 minutes’. 

Eat your heart out, Andy Warhol… while Abloh gave the audience a quick tour of his Paris atelier some 40 hours prior to his Autumn/Winter 2019 catwalk presentation, Wong casually sketched out a concept drawing for the ways new public spaces might be created – in ways that compelled billionaires to give up some of their privileges in favour of the wellbeing of the rest of us – in a 21st-century urban environment. In short, it was uber-cool 21st century design, perfectly attuned to the CAD/Snapchat generation at its finest. 

The audience went directly into the same mode too: around us, several fellow conference delegates held up their own phones, recording Abloh on screen from Paris and live-transmitting their own feed of the feed they were watching unfold. And we couldn’t help noticing that in addition to the live audience’s applause, those heart emojis and ‘likes’ came pouring in… 

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
Virgil Abloh and Dong-Ping Wong live-design a city via Facetime


Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
International design critic Alice Rawsthorn.

3. Alice Rawsthorn Issues a Timely Warning About Bad Design

Alice Rawsthorn is a noted international design critic and one of the earliest proponents of the notion that design could help change the world for the better. She was also the director of London’s Design Museum, one of the world’s key design-supporting institutions, from 2001 until 2006, and is an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Art. She also has an OBE and is the author of a number of books. 

So when Rawsthorn takes the time to explore just what makes ‘bad design’ bad, it’s time to sit up and take notice. Having wittily outlined eight ways in which design can be bad – ranging from being ‘lazy’ to ‘thoughtless’, ‘untrustworthy’, ‘ominous’ and ‘offensive’ – she got to the key point of her presentation. If design has especially ambitious aims, she declared, whether those happen to be increasing social justice or solving some of the key challenges faced by humanity in the 21st century, its practitioners need to be aware that the consequences of getting it all wrong might well be severe. 

A sobering thought, indeed.

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
Zipline founder Keenan Wyrobek.

4. Zipline Leads the World in Rwanda

Design Indaba delegates are not always easy to please… but a feel-good presentation from Zipline founder Keenan Wyrobek about the way Rwandans and Californians have come together to create the company – which is the world’s largest drone delivery network – brought this year’s audience to its feet.

As a live crossing from Cape Town to the Rwandan capital of Kigali vividly demonstrated, Zipline uses a network of small autonomous aircraft to deliver blood, vaccines and other crucial medical supplies to remotely located hospitals across the country. (We watched in awe as blood and medicines were launched towards those in need, a mere 30 minutes after the much-needed supplies had been requested by a doctor in a rural area of Rwanda.)

‘We got the design details right in the end,’ said Wyrobeck, ‘because our customers [read: rural doctors and patients in need] were pushing us there.’ It was the sort of inspiring, change-the-world-for-the-better story that makes such a refreshing change from the doom and gloom we all deal with on a daily basis…

Design Indaba 2019 | House and LeisureDesign Indaba 2019 | House and LeisureDesign Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure

5. IKEA Launches its Collaborative Överallt Collection

Three years in the making and featuring the work of 10 African designers hailing from seven countries across the continent, Swedish furniture giant IKEA’s Överallt collection is made up of a range of furniture, decor accessories, cooking and eating utensils, and more. 

South African designers Renée Rossouw, Sindiso Khumalo and Laduma Ngxokolo created a range of covetable patterned blankets, quilts, scatter cushions and rugs for the collection, while Senegalese designers Bibi Seck and Selly Rabe Kane both produced unique iterations of their key pieces and interests – Seck's rocker chair and Rabe Kane's graphic yet tactile storage baskets both got loads of interest at the launch. Egyptian designers Mariam Hazan and Hend Riad's recycled textiles also look set to be a hit, while House and Leisure editor Tiaan Nagel's favourite pieces were the cookware and serveware items by Kenya's Bethan Rayner and Naeem Biviji.

Design Indaba 2019 | House and Leisure
The 10 African designers who created IKEA's Överallt collection present their work on stage
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