What we felt at Design Indaba

Submitted by on the 26th of February 2016

This is not a listicle about the ‘10 things we learned at Design Indaba 2016’.

Sure, the conference lived up to its reputation as a truly world class event, and we were educated about some useful trends and ideas, explored some new ways of thinking, and heard the experts’ views on how to be like them, but there’s no point in trying to convey any of that here.

Instead, we can tell you about three urges that emerge when you attend an event like this.

  1. You will want to create and collaborate

As creatives – or people who work in a creative industry – there is nothing more exciting than seeing the work of the world’s very best. Illustrators, architects, musicians and many more graced the stage at Design Indaba and brought wide-ranging insights into the creative process.

The overarching lessons from all of them were to keep it simple, be brave, don’t be afraid to mess up, and work with people from different worlds as much as possible.

With every passing hour, our urge to create and collaborate more than ever grew to a bursting point. By the time we left, we were not only driven to do more – but obliged to. How could you walk out of that place and not pursue greater creative goals?

  1. You will want to make a difference

While some of the greatest work we saw at the Indaba came from hardcore marketers, a remarkable amount came from people from completely different backgrounds. Whether they were designing advertising, road signage or buildings, these people set out with one simple desire: improve the lives of those affected by this design.

Design – and marketing as a whole – does not need to be a purely aesthetic, selfish or profit-driven venture. It can be used for good, and so it should be.

One man we heard from was completely re-thinking the RDP housing model, suggesting cheaper, safer and more effective ways of housing the world’s poorest urban dwellers. The team that designed the latest logos for the Olympics found a way to give blind people a way to interact with the design, putting incredible thought into the meaning and purpose of the branding. People like that – people who use their skills and passions to add value – are the ones doing it right.

  1. You will want to quit your job

Yes, it’s true. By the end of Design Indaba, even Cerebrans (some of the most loyal people in the world) were thinking about how to break out and try something completely new. The event actually began with a talk from our former Creative Director, Chanel Cartel, and her partner Stevo Dirnberger, who quit their jobs, sold everything and embarked on a life-changing working sabbatical around the world. The effort and passion that went into their experience – which is still not over – would inspire anyone to rethink their status quo.

Throughout the conference, we also heard from the likes of Eric Kessels of KesselsKramer and the crazy Swedes from Snask who make staying at work seem even more exciting than a trip around the world. The energy and creativity they put into their work is incredible to behold and there aren’t many of us who weren’t tempted to pack up and beg to work for them.

However, while we may have flirted with the idea, what we really left with was a burning desire to transform our existing worlds into better ones. If there’s something you admire about someone else’s job, life, or experience, you don’t need to jump the fence or become them – you need to re-create the environment for yourself.

And that’s really the most important lesson of Design Indaba – no one there was more special than you or me, they’ve just been brave enough, mad enough, to go for it.