20x20 Design Democracy Initiative is an initiative that aims to bring together the design and related disciplines to activate against twenty design ideas that support nation building and social upliftment through design.

20x20 is a celebration of twenty years of democracy in South Africa, led by design for greater good.

The 20x20 Design Democracy initiative will be presented on various open fora that will allow designers to put forward ideas for debate. Ideas can be discussed and suggested for inclusion on the 20x20 Facebook page


Celebrating 20 years of democracy with 20 design interventions

Identifying 20 design ideas to celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa.

This was the aim when designers, SABS clients, members of the public, design stakeholders and other interested parties met in Sandton at the annual Standards Convention of the SABS on 10 October to launch the 20x20 Design Democracy Project.

The SABS Design Institute, in partnership with Morning Star Design, Gamatong Design Enterprise and Bluprint Design stands at the helm of the 20x20 Design Democracy Project that aims to bring together the design and related disciplines to activate 20 design ideas that would support nation building and social upliftment through design.

The design breakaway session at the Convention was structured around Good Design = Responsible Design = Social impact and included a talk by industrial designer and Design Institute adviser, Tasos Calantzis on the design process and responsible design.

The 20x20 process

After framing 20x20 by posing the question, what are some of the key priority areas where design can be activated to support nation building and social upliftment?, Jacques Lange of Bluprint Design led a panel of distinguished design and social activists in identifying potential areas and design interventions which were then put out to the audience to debate. Lange emphasised the fact that 20x20 was not just about celebrating 20 years of democracy in 2014, but encompassed a longer term vision for the social impact of design.

A panel offering ideas
The plan was that panel members should come up with some suggestions and not necessarily concrete design ideas. They introduced their selected broad priority area(s), addressing the question at hand. These entailed issues such as education, youth engagement, job creation, health and welfare, the environment, cultural enterprise, design as a catalyst to ensure democracy, traditional knowledge, fostering African partnerships and more.

Panellist identified their one or two related areas of passion and came up with three to five potential projects that could be pursued under the 20x20 banner. Each panellist argued why his /her selected areas of passion applied to the question at hand.

The panel members included Bongani Ntombela, design specialist at the SABS Design Institute, Fehmida Jordaan, executive manager of the South African Institute of the Interior Design Professions, Gavin Mageni, group manager of the Design Institute, Ithateng Mokgoro, director of Gamatong Design Enterprise and creative director of TEDxSoweto and TEDxJohannesburg, Mohammed Jogie, creative director of Morning Star Design and founder of Creative Week, Suné Stassen, creative director of Rock City Foundation and design education specialist and finally, Tasos Calantzis, CEO of Terrestrial and opening speaker.

Suné Stassen’s ideas centred on teaching creativity in schools. She also touched on health and welfare, as well as transport and mobility. Ithateng Mokgoro’s idea was to build a digital repository of knowledge and wisdom to help guide adolescent girls towards adulthood. His argument was based on the fact that if women were okay, then society would be okay. He also suggested at looking at ways to make education more fun.

Bongani Ntombela put out a plea to have people speak and others to listen to them. He visits jails and listens to criminals who have never had the opportunity to speak their minds. His idea is that if people who are isolated from society can be given an ear, they would not necessarily have to turn to violence to make themselves heard.

Mohammed Jogie’s suggestions focused on education, harnessing innovation in Africa and eradicating poverty through focussing design on informal settlements. In terms of education, Jogie proposed that instead of giving kids from disadvantaged community books, they should be given entire libraries by opening up access to information via technology.

Gavin Mageni made an impassioned plea for a process or programme that would amplify the value of design across all sectors of society. He also focussed on using design thinking to redesign the innovation value chain and he stressed the role the Design Institute could play in this. Finally he proposed to design a process to bring the design community to speak with one voice.

Fehmida Jordaan based her ideas on community engagement, education, including transfer of skills, and transformation in the industry, including recognising skills. She explained a project called 10% that could form the basis of her design ideas.

Tasos Calantzis came up with three ideas, all to do with education. His first focus was on school management because great principals make great schools. His second question was how to create equitable labour relations at schools. His third question was raised by a previous panel member, and that was how to make it interesting for children at school.

The road ahead

The intention with the 20x20 launch was not to finalise a framework but rather to spark innovative thinking and facilitate engaging discussions. The audience broke up into design scrums to debate the potential areas and later came together in a collaborative feedback session.

The 20x20 initiative is on-going and will be continued at TEDxSoweto in November. In order to bring the first batch of ideas into the public domain, they were placed on the 20x20 Facebook page. In February 2014 the 20 most viable ideas would have been identified and will then be taken further towards execution.