The Big Picture

At the beginning of a new year it’s always a good idea to take stock on what was achieved in the previous year and then cast a future vision onto the months to come.

We can proudly declare that 2014 was a momentous year for the Design Institute. All attention was focused on doing the necessary to start implementing its new strategy. This required brave actions of prototyping and co-creation with trusted partners. It also asked for repositioning, reconnecting and expanding relationships within a broader landscape.

Several in-house adjustments were necessary. The Design Institute moved to more fitting premises – still on the SABS campus, but more spacious and appropriate for fulfilling its new role. An internship programme for young design graduates was initiated with the aim of exposing them to the mentorship of industry experts through the Institute’s design sessions. During the year the personnel structure was updated which included some new appointments. The Design Institute’s staff compliment now stands on 11 excluding the interns.

The first major occasion of testing our wings was the launch of the Design and Innovation Centre through the 43 Challenge. The 43 Challenge allowed young innovators the opportunity to be mentored by experts on applying the Design Institute’s design process in building their products and businesses. The Technology Innovation Agency sponsored the 43 candidates.

Since the 43 Challenge, the SAB Foundation sponsored the finalists of the SABF Awards programme to go through the Design Institute’s design sessions with the aim of empowering them through the design process to create businesses that will grow in a sustainable way.  The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) sponsored young creative start-ups to go through the Design & Innovation Entrepreneurship Centre programme in preparation for exhibiting as part of the Emerging Creatives at the 2015 Design Indaba. A partnership agreement was entered into with Transnet to produce a new generation of business thinkers in science, engineering and technology.  To this end the Design Institute has established the Transnet Design, Research and Innovation Centre for school learners, youth, entrepreneurs and SMEs. Programmes will start to run in February.

The Institute also worked on positioning itself as part of the innovation and design landscape – locally and internationally.  It participated in several World Design Capital 2014 events through partnerships. It featured as the educational partner at the Open Design Cape Town, a design festival geared towards making design accessible for the man on the street and inspiring the next generation of designers, design thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators.

The Design Institute acted as the design partner at the 7th SA Innovation Summit focusing on presenting the Institute’s design process and creating awareness of the essential role that design plays in the innovation value chain.

The Design Institute formed part of the Advisory Team for the planning of the Design Policy Conference, Make a Plan, one of the signature events of the World Design Capital 2014. At the conference Director General Vuyo Jack of the Ministry of Arts and Culture (DAC) asked for design as a common approach running like a thread through all the country’s policies and strategies and hinted at the idea of a design champion in government to support that. This notion confirmed what was taken up in the National Design Positioning Statement generated by the Institute which acted as technical advisor to the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) in developing an instrument that will position design nationally as the organising principle of turning intent into action. 

In its endeavour to repositioning, reconnecting and expanding relationships, the Institute participated in several workshops and conferences within the creative industries and enterprise development arena.  Workshops were presentated as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, where entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers worked together to unleash innovative potential of young entrepreneurs. Gavin Mageni, head of the Design Institute, delivered a keynote address on “The role of design in economic development”.

The Design Institute’s value proposition was also presented (among other) at the Business of Design workshops, the cloudy with a chance of pixels creative symposiums, Anglo American’s Enterprise Development conference and in Brussels, Belgium at the EU’s Design Days.

The focus for 2015 and beyond will be to follow an innovative growth path that will see platform customisation, professionalising the Design Institute as a business entity, growing revenue and building collateral through prototyping in order to forge a sustainable operating model to take the Institute into the next five-year period.