$67million profits last year but you haven’t had a raise in two years. They did mention that they saw backstage and all is cool and actually, kudos to him for starting his own business. It’s working for him.
By Michelle Mckenna
Allow me to trade in the Inspiration Truck metaphor I’ve been using. And exchange it for the Inspiration Freight Train.
The third and final day of Design Indaba rode over me with maximum impact existential angst, the kind that prompts you to seriously reconsider your life-choices and see if there’s not some more meaningful way to do what you do that actually makes a difference.
It kicked off with a rousing burst of song by Yvonne Chaka Chaka, homegrown singer and Goodwill Ambassador for ‘Goodbye Malaria’. The anti-malaria organization’s fundraising pyjama pants have been a hit at the Indaba: Michael Beirut sported a pair on Day One (what a brilliant MC he has been), and I was impressed to see Rosario Hurtado and Roberto Feo (from El Ultimo Grito design) appear on stage in theirs today for their talk. (This quirky Mexican design duo’s work includes the MICO Magis kiddies chairs (below) featured in a permanent exhibit at the V&A Museum and at MoMA).
High on my list of people who are making a real difference to their world, is Issa Diabaté, Kenyan architect. His firm Koffi-Diabaté, is tackling the urban-planning nightmare that is Abidjan, by introducing sustainable upmarket cluster apartments, pre-empting the future densification of the city with gorgeous green design. These guys win my USE-OF-INITIATIVE Award with their notion that if their government won’t provide infrastructure and leadership in urban planning matters, they will. And the clincher is that, while their river clean-up project waits for countless layers of approval, they while away the time by starting the region’s first architecture school. Idle, these men are not.
My own personal, RETHINK-THIS Award goes to “89plus”. This project, founded by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets, investigates work by artists born in the age of the world wide web. Now, yesterday, I couldn’t quite fathom the young performance and conceptual artists’ work. But today, watching this panel, I realized that perhaps it is I who need to make a shift in my perceptions. And that ‘art’ means something different to the next generation, who are grappling with a whole new socio-political context, and that I should not be so hasty to judge, but rather, listen. Raising another Indaba theme, which has been ‘empathy’. And we could all do with a little extra helping of that.
By far the most emotion-wrenching, profound presentation of the Indaba for me, was that of South African photographer-icon David Goldblatt. His work tells some of the most painful and poignant stories of Apartheid. He greeted the dumbstruck audience with the words, “I’m not a very creative person”, and told how he had planned to use the excuse of geriatry (he’s in his 80s) but that actually he would just have to tell the truth. And that’s what his photos have always done. They shine a light into the dark corners no one wants to look, with such aching beauty, that much of the audience were in tears by the end.
A couple of SPECIAL MENTIONS for the Danish Designer Panel:
• Wille Juul-Sørensen, who said, “There are enough chairs and white coffee cups”. To illustrate his thinking, he contrasted the idea of an expensive handbag as a ‘luxury product’ (relevant to 1% of the global population), to the notion of a glass of clean running water as a ‘luxury product’ (relevant to the remaining 99%). And then charged the audience with the responsibility to henceforth “design like you give a damn”.
• Vinay Venkatraman, recipient of the USELFUL-THINGS-TO-MAKE-WITH-AN-ALARM-CLOCK Award. This interactive designer showed how a simple, cheaply mass-produced item had been modified to become a medical screening tool. It checks your pulse, respiration rate, body temperature and oxygen saturation levels. One thing it can’t yet do, and his challenge to the audience to solve: how to check blood sugar levels.
• Hendrik Vibskov – fashion designer and recipient of the SMALLEST BLADDER Award, greeted us from his chair and very frankly told the audience that he desperately needed a pee. And if it was alright with us, he’d rather stay seated. Perhaps his brain has been pickled over time, as his exhibition pieces included 2000 latex-looking boobs suspended on sticks, and a giant, unidentifiable mint coloured thing (a caterpillar? – shot in the dark) which he inflated live on the stage with a jumping castle blower, and the assistance of 7 dress-wearing gentlemen.
• Naoto Fukushawa (product designer) for some mind-opening thoughts I don’t have space to really do justice to here. But also for winning the BEST-BANANA-IMPERSONATION Award and for this milkshake packaging.
Come on, that’s cool.
Now, a toss-up for MOST ENTERTAINING PRESENTATION OF THE DAY is between a Kiwi Creative Director, Dean Poole and Graphic Designer, Stefan Sagmeister.
Dean Poole is one of the most fascinating wordplay artists I’ve ever seen, and his presentation was filled with humorous examples of his craft. These were sometimes visual, e.g. the design identity for the Auckland Art Gallery, where the word ART is laid out and used as a central structure around which to build any word cluster you can imagine.
Another highlight was a genius story that began with the wordplay that results when you see:
and read: THIS over THAT. Poole proceeded to tell a hilarious story that was easily 5 minutes long, with what felt like over 100 examples of this (SO over YOU, VICTORY over DEATH, ACCOUNT over DRAWN)
Sagmeister, in response to Vibskov’s bladder predicament, greeted the audience and informed them that he had just had a most spectacular pee, and that he was therefore: (1) ready to talk and (2) happy.
He then led the audience on a delightful journey through his work relating to happiness, and the resultant travelling exhibition.
The presentation ended with the audience on their feet, singing karaoke with uncharacteristic group gusto.
And thus, Design Indaba was ended on a joyful, and fittingly celebratory note.
By now I’ve said enough.
But to end, I’ll slightly misquote an M People song (as almost sung by Chaka Chaka). It’s actually a question, one that you can’t help but leave Design Indaba with, and one we should never stop asking ourselves: “What have you done today, to (really, really) make you feel proud?”
By Michelle Mckenna
At the outset of Day 2, the Inspiration Truck raced towards us with ferocious speed, all audience members firmly in the tractor-beams of awe, steered with the precision and grace you’d expect from one of Van Damme’s Volvos. (Watch this if you haven’t seen it).
This continued happily for some time, after which the truck was tragically hijacked by a learner driver who spent the rest of the day flicking the lights onto bright, over-correcting and switching them off completely and then switching on the windscreen wipers before ploughing through a herd of dozing cattle, before finding the brights again. Sorry audience, I just referred to you as livestock.
But that said, those bright moments were again pretty darn dazzling, and I am proud to present a few more accolades under the broad category of My-Opinion-Only-and-What Do-I-Know-Anyway.
I’ll kick off with the prize for BEST ORIGINAL SCORE for an AV presentation, which goes to opening speaker, DJ Stout. This may seem like an obvious award, until I point out that DJ Stout is a stetson-wearing Texan, who is as much like a DJ as Margaret Thatcher. What he is like, however, is a graphic designer and art director at Pentagram (the world’s biggest stand-alone design consultancy) who seems to have lugged a piano across the Atlantic for the occasion.
From said piano came some of the most poignant, soul-stirring piano music I have ever heard (and that’s saying a lot because usually I find piano music-bowel stirring only), played by a mysterious long-haired fella called Graham Reynolds.
This soundtrack, (created at times by pulling at the keys from the INSIDE of the open piano and at others by drumming hoofbeats on the piano’s exterior), formed the aural backdrop for the haunting imagery of 350 000 acres of prime Texas ranchland ablaze in the wake of the devastating Rockhouse Fire of 2011.
I forget the actual relevance of this but it was a spectacularly mesmerising intro, and when my brain switched on again, DJ Stout was introducing the audience to the very offbeat phenomenon of the Cowboy Poet, which bears a little google-lookey-into-ing, off you go.
Of course he had some pretty cool work to show as well, but his main point, which became a common thread for the day was: be from somewhere, (him: Texas, obviously) and make your work like you’re proud to be from that somewhere.
Picking up that theme, (and along with it, the drumsticks idly lying on the stage for the lunchtime performers) was the winner of the IMPROMPTU DRUM SESSION AWARD: Michel Rojkind. This cool Mexican Architect gave an interesting talk about overcoming (brilliantly) the challenges of building amazing things in a country where, from one election to the next, presidents seem to abandon the previous guy-in-charge’s sanctioned projects, causing architects and everyone in general, much pain and anguish. Rojkind’s technique for finishing pyramidal-proportion projects before the next presidential election-rejection? “You have to be creative enough to deliver on time.” Which for me is a refreshing spin on the usual “there wasn’t time to be creative” technique in much more common general usage.
Rojkind is incidentally also the recipient of my INTERESTING BEARD OF THE DAY AWARD. Find some of his quirkily interesting work at rojkindarquitectos.com. But sadly, you’ll find no beard there. The Hashim AmIa style creation sports two silver-grey stripes down either side (all natural, I believe) – and a varietal perhaps grown only for the occasion.
The OPEN-MOUTH-EXCHANGE-FOOT Award goes to David Higgs, chef at the Saxon Hotel’s Five Hundred restaurant, for using the word ‘cowboy’ to describe bad chefs who take shortcuts. And who then, (after catching DJ Stouts’s raised eyebrow) good-naturedly tried to back out of it, in much the same way as you might back away from a bully into the crossed arms of his much-bigger brother. But despite his amusing blunder and slight Tourettes tendency (his co-speaker, chef Margot Janse, seemed to be keeping tally in a virtual swearing jar), his shared talk eloquently conveyed the message that staying true to your passion with dogged determination can ultimately overcome any lack of education, formal training or financial obstacle.
The ‘FROM-YOUR-PICTURE-AND-QUOTE-I-THOUGHT-YOU-MIGHT-BE-A-WANKER-BUT-ACTUALLY-YOU’RE-A-REALLY-AMICABLE-DEMIGOD’ Award, ah yes. This goes to Brazilian-born Marcello Serpa, partner and creative director of AlmapBBDO, whose work is of the type that every self-respecting ad person knows and wishes they had made. Like all things Havaianas, the VW ‘double checked’ TV ad, and one of my faves, the VW Spacefox “Whatever you can imagine, fits” dog-fish TV ad. Serpa had an awful many worthwhile things to say, but I’ll highlight just one very pertinent piece of advice for South African Design-Problem-Solvers, who are often faced with the challenge of communicating to a very broad and often uneducated and unsophisticated audience.
Or, put another way: Be obvious. But be obvious for the first time. Fancy that.
Some HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
• Clive Wilkinson (LA architect and strategist), for his “Barbarian Group” workspace design amongst others. See the video here.
• Zanele Muholi (South African photographer), for her passion in championing anti-violence, respect and tolerance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals.
Then, the TRUCK-DRIVING-WITH-THE-LIGHTS-OFF-AWARD must be shared between:
Athi-Patra Ruga and Nandipha Mntambo – to be fair, maybe this type of performance and conceptual art is just not my thing and I’m too simple-minded to get all of that higher-purpose meaning. But I think I’m okay with please not seeing that again.
And for the closing speaker: Lauren Beukes. Although I highly respect the lady’s literary genius, and found her talk very slick, polished and deliberately unconventional, I couldn’t help feeling the joy sucked out of the day by her violence of potential talk.
Excellent. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this award bestowing business is exhausting and I need some intensive zedding to prep for that one last glorious dash into the floodlit brilliance that is Design Indaba Day 3.
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS BLINDING LIGHT
Whew. The 1st day of Design Indaba always leaves you feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck. It’s the Dazzling 18-Wheeler Inspiration Truck mind, the kind that leaves you a little dazed with thoughts like “OMG, what have I done with my life?” Alternating with “OMG, how can I do that, any of that, with my life?”
So let me get into a little of what the that of the day was.
Opening speaker of the Design Indaba in Cape Town was, quite fittingly, Ogilvy & Mather South Africa’s Chief Creative Officer, Chris Gotz.
It’s always a pleasure listening to Chris, who today described with his easy wit how he had had his Grade 2 dream of becoming a cowboy “brutally scooped out to make space for the 9 x table”. But although I’ve no doubt Chris would’ve made a fabulous cowboy, it’s probably best that that horse galloped off into the sunset, because he’s become, as host Michael Beirut quite rightly put it, the ‘winningest’ ECD in the country, and to illustrate this fact, his talk featured some of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa’s most iconic work for VW (“Street Quest” and “Goodbye Citi”) and Carling Black Label (Be the Coach).
On the topic of winning.
I’d like to give a few awards.
MY WTF AWARD goes to one of the ‘Pecha Kucha’ students/graduates: a batch of supremely talented but in this particular instance, fairly cooked, young creative minds from across the world, talking about their various works of young genius. Agatha Haines led the audience through a theoretical but alarmingly graphic representation of what it might look like if we modified babies to become an ultra efficient future work-force. If we cut off a toe, for instance, that would encourage a hookworm infestation which produces some chemicals that could help the asthma-sufferer baby and keep them at work in future (I think – I was too horrified to listen properly).
BALLS-OF-STEEL AWARD goes to Dave Hakkens, who developed the idea for the “Phone Blok”, a phone with replaceable components to mix and match to suit your needs, instead of tossing it out onto the global e-Waste pile when it becomes outdated. This guy crowd-sourced support for the idea using Thunder Clap, gaining 900 000 supporters and capturing Motorola’s attention, who are eager to produce it. Motorola is owned by Google, and they offered him a job. To which he flicked the bird. Truth.
THE STANDING OVATION AWARD goes to Thomas Heatherwick, who revealed that, since his last visit to Design Indaba nine years ago, he’s been working on a breathtaking plan to transform the old Cape Town Grain Silos into the first Museum of African Contemporary Art. Truly freaking spectacular. They’re still crowd-sourcing funds for this project but boy, when this comes to pass, Cape Town-Design-Capital-of-the-World, you will see how your design gods smile upon you.
A toss up for PERSONAL FAVE SPEAKER OF THE DAY AWARD is between Heatherwick and Jake Barton, a media and interaction designer. It’s hard to explain what this guy does without launching into an essay, but basically he organizes people’s digital interaction with information with such incredible thought and sensitivity it could bring you to tears. Especially in the case of his design for the work-in-progress 911 Memorial and Museum. Check out some of his work: http://localprojects.net/projects/
TOP TAKE-OUTS FROM TODAY AWARDS
“Get your nose out of your phone”, to Chris Gotz. And Ije Nwokorie, Brand Guru who has actually designed a cute little gadget to make two phones hug together and block the signal so you can look your friend in the eye while you chat and actually taste the chicken salad you’re lunching on instead of Instagramming it.
“Ignore the brief. As long as you’re doing what should be done”. Awarded to Thomas Heatherwick and his 1000 moving part London Olympic Flame extravaganza (on a no-moving-parts brief), and… Chris Gotz.
“Stop talking about what will work and what won’t and how you should make it, when you eventually make it. Just bloody make it. Make a prototype. Get your Client (and yourself) excited about it.” (Paraphrased) from Jake Barton.
Awards appropriately um, awarded. Let me go get some shut-eye so I can stare down the Day Two Inspiration Truck with more wide-eyed wonder and live to preach the creative gospel again after.
About Michelle McKenna
Senior Copywriter & Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg
An astonishing 79% of the top 50 free iOS and android apps are harmful to your devices. That’s just one scary mobile fact about downloads. With #MWC2014 commencing this coming Monday we’re hoping that key-learnings and insights will be shared. Topics of discussion include industry perspective, challenging the state of play in mobile, social impact of mobile and more. Take a look at the infographic below for some key-insights into malware and general mobile application use such like that of the illusive “Snapchat”.
We’ve become so accustomed to the #Hashtag over the past few years that it’s now used in every day conversation. In this infographic, we take a look at the purpose of this social function and the part it plays in populating conversation.
Infographic via The Huffington Post.
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