#TeamCerebra – Learnings from Design Indaba 2014

Anna-Belle Mulder Submitted by on the 4th of March 2014

Every year thousands of creatives from all over the world travel to Design Indaba. From inspiring talks at the Conference to beautiful South African designs at the Expo, Design Indaba really is one of a kind. This year a few members of #TeamCerebra were lucky enough to join the scores of designers, business owners, writers, architects, creative directors, photographers and everyone in-between, as the world’s eyes turned to the Mother City.

Each experience was so unique we’ve decided to give you a snippet from each Cerebran that attended the event.

Tanya Hirst, Designer:

Attending the Design Indaba will do one of two things for you. It can make you feel slightly inadequate, making you feel the need to set some enormous challenges that you will never take yourself up on, or, it will leave you so inspired that you feel the need to set some serious goals because there is no way that you are even slightly inadequate!

Somehow, I experienced neither of the above. I arrived at the Indaba without knowing what to expect or how I wanted to feel by the end of it. I left the conference feeling, for the first time in a while, that I am definitely on the right track with my life as a designer and that I am going to rock it!

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t felt as though I’ve been moving in the wrong direction, just a few degrees off course. I have been trying so hard to challenge myself instead of looking to complete the challenges that have already been set, as Naoto Fukasawa, Japanese Industrial Designer, emphasised in his lecture. Through the plethora of brilliant speakers, I also came to realise that great design and truly great designers aim to fulfill a need, and work towards a greater good. In the words of Marcello Serpa, “Just do good. Stop thinking about it”.

I just need to stop worrying about what I am doing and let the greatness happen, accept that it is going to be one hell of a task and “design like I give a damn” as Danish architect, Nille Juul-Sørensen, put it.

Design Indaba was really and truly fantastic. I left filled with excitement in knowing that these creative pioneers are doing the kind of things that are indeed achievable by all of us. It’s not that hard to try, it’s not that far fetched to believe in and it’s definitely not out of my own reach. I’m ready for the next step.

Craig Rodney, Managing Director:

I found that consistently, the people who did amazing work were the ones who were able to create the space to deliver on the vision. It’s not just time, it’s space – mental, physical, financial and time space to fully develop and deliver on their vision. We too often take on too many things without enough space and that leads to mediocrity.

Another absolute highlight was Jake Barton’s talk where I learnt about experiential design, which, as best as I can describe it, is a mix of behavioural science, and systems design. Understanding how people interact with and experience things, and designing ways to improve those engagements is fascinating.

Nicole Olwagen, Video Content Producer:

My week at Design Indaba was not what I expected.

I was working on behalf of one of Cerebra’s clients at the Indaba so most of my time was spent behind the scenes, giving me a whole new perspective on the event. Working behind the scenes meant that I was able to meet a fair amount of the speakers, which meant I was constantly surrounded by some of the world’s best creatives.

Although I only saw two full talks, they happened to be the two that were most relevant to me, Chris Gotz, Stephan Sagmeister, one at the start of the conference and one at the end – the perfect start and end to a whirlwind experience. The Indaba left me feeling positive and hungry to produce amazing content. Less talking, less doubting myself and more being awesome!

Anna-Belle Mulder, Writer:

The first time I heard about Design Indaba was in a school assembly about twelve years ago, so yes, you could say it’s been a childhood dream of mine to go. This year, when I was told I would be attending the conference, the teenager within me did a ‘jump on bed dancing’ scream for joy. The adult in me played it cool…until I arrived at the Conference itself.

As most people lurking outside Movida on a Saturday night would say, “it’s all about the vibe,”. And it couldn’t be truer for Design Indaba. Being surrounded by the greatest creative minds of my time was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences. I was lucky enough to be working behind the scenes as well as being able to attend a number of talks. At one point I was literally rubbing shoulders with the great Marcello Serpa…as he brushed passed me on the way to the buffet table.

It was Marcello’s talk that left me feeling most inspired. His two key messages were:

Be simple – have one message and say it.
Be unpredictable – stand out from the crowd, never stick to the norm.

Chanel Cartell, Creative Director:

“Design like you give a damn”
“Ok is not ok”

No, these are not heavy-set typeface postcards or t-shirts that were for sale at one of the amazing stalls at the Design Indaba Expo (which, as a first timer, left my lip hanging a little over my feet as I ‘ooooh-ed’ and ‘aaaaah-ed’ at the incredibly talented exhibitors). Nor were these quotes printed on the 20-page notebook I scribbled in, from cover to cover, during all 21 hours of genius lecturing I was able to experience.

These are two messages that are still ringing loudly in my head, even now, a few days after I left the hum of Design Indaba three thousand odd kilometres away. Both resonate with me as a designer, as a team leader and as a person.

“Design like you give a damn” was the underlying message from Danish Nille Juul-Sørensen, an architect who believes that design is the humane ability to mould and shape the environment for a better world. It put into perspective the impact designers have and how thinking differently can actually shape the future. It certainly made me question why I really started my career in design and where I should be focusing my energy in the future.

“Ok is not ok” stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb in the commencing talk Chris Gotz, Ogilvy Cape Town’s Chief Creative Officer, gave to kick off the Indaba. It got right under my skin as it is something I try to preach and practice with every bit of work I create and direct. Yes, the work presented sometimes may answer the brief given and it may “tick all the boxes”. But we are not going to change the world by pulling out a permanent marker to draw ticks. Our job as creatives, is to challenge every brief that is given to us and “see every opportunity that’s presented to us as a stage,” as Chris continued to say. ‘Ok work’ is simply that – ok. It isn’t life-changing and it isn’t going to leave goosebumps on those who interact with it.

I don’t know about you, but I like leaving people with goosebumps.

Brittany Preece, Account Manager:
Attending the conference as part of a sponsor’s project team and a delegate was both rewarding and challenging. For anyone attending on behalf of a client, thorough planning and the ability to think on your feet will be crucial to your success. Expect the unexpected because chances are good that talks will run over and connectivity will be limited. It’s important to remain focused and flexible when things get stressful.

As a delegate, Graphic Designer Stefan Sagmeister was definitely my favourite speaker at this year’s Design Indaba. The way he uses human behaviour and psychology to inform his work is mind blowing. To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard of him before the conference and now I’m obsessed with his TED talks, which anyone that’s interested can check out here: http://www.ted.com/speakers/stefan_sagmeister.html