Day One of Design Indaba 2013 was filled with lots of ideas around “what if”. Everyone from Paula Scher to our very own Paarl-born-and-bred Leandie van der Vyver explored ideas almost for the sake of exploring them.
Heidi Brauer from Halo summed it up best when she tweeted that for her, Design Indaba is about possibility. “To hear a speaker share their journey: I thought, I tried, I saw, so then, & next…is special.”
Today was also very much about embracing the process. In his talk, John Maeda said that creatives aren’t necessarily trying to do things the hard way, but rather to do it the right way. Invariably the right way usually turns out to be the hard way too, but doing things the right way also leads to great discoveries along the way.
A great practical example of this is Masa Kawamura‘s project on dancing sperm. He was tasked with creating a positively reinforcing message and rather than pictures of cute koalas or LOLcats, he opted to show that the citizens of tomorrow (kids’ kids’ kids, or in other words, sperm) are excited when great music is playing. They then created this thing of beauty:
He freely admits that they could easily have used CGI for it, but rather, they did it the hard way – getting sperm from everyone in the office, plotting their natural movements under a microscope and eventually translating that into a programmable dance troop of spermicide.
Throughout his talk, Masa also focused on how doing things differently will yield different results – often in surprising ways. One of the ways in which this happened, is that people are almost as much – if not more – interested in what the “making of” process on all his projects looked like as the final result.
Another speaker who focused heavily on the process is Oscar Diaz. He’s a product designer who literally goes through thousands of iterations and experiments in order to find the ideal match and solution to the specific problem he’s facing. It’s not a bad thing – it’s part of the journey. Joschua Brunn aslo touched on this, saying of his “legal squat” renovation experience: “I’m not going to show you the pictures of what it looks like now, because that’s not the point.”
The second main focus of today was on the often overlooked human element and its importance to great design. It was illustrated beautifully by Ben Terrett from the Government Digital Services. They’re literally redoing the entire UK Government digital eco-system to adhere to simple principles that are shared freely with the whole world. You can see them here. Again there was a focus on principle, Ben saying that you should be updating and optimising your website daily – not “every two years or so”.
The Pecha Kucha speakers, who’ll also be speaking at the Design Expo, all confirmed this point. When designing public spaces, humans and our needs should come first. It might sound simple, but it’s not often taken into consideration.
Lastly, there was a great focus on really, truly understanding the context within which you function. All the speakers gave the impression that in findig their solutions, they’ve read and explored much wider than the initial parameters that were oh-so-obviously set by the brief. The solution often lies (quite literally) outside the designated playing field you’ve been given to work with.
John Maeda ended off the day saying that design as a field that’s supposed to make things easier, failed to properly define what it is as an understandable element. Design is often seen as “drawing a picture”, which it obviously is not. It’s also seen as confusing – the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to achieve. His call to action, so to speak, to all creatives is to think wider and be braver in our solutions. To truly innovate when solving problems.
Check out our must-see list for Day Two and remember to follow along for live updates.