Multiplying by Design

Issue I - 2012

How can the SABS Design Institute respond to the urgent needs of the design industry and at the same time support the country’s economic development plans by improving industrial innovation, commercialisation, job creation, competitiveness and growth?

This was the issue that kept the SABS Design Institute busy the past months. The process, which was informed by wide-ranging research and numerous stakeholder consultations, culminated in the development of a new strategic framework to pursue the development of transformational national design capability.

A new direction for design

A broad conception of design has been adopted in order to utilise it as a powerful resource for industrial innovation and development at many levels. The basic theory is that design – broadly conceived – can multiply the jobs and GDP multipliers that form the basis of the government’s economic policy target sector identification. Therefore our design promotional activities are focused on government’s identified economic growth policies.

The Design Institute has already started exploring and testing possible design interventions in specific industry settings to be able to demonstrate the efficacy of design’s multiplication potential in more concrete terms. We believe that smart investments in design will complement other aspects of industrial strategies and incentives.


The new approach places great emphasis on working collaboratively with partners and stakeholders in design, business, education and the public sector. Calls for support in these endeavours will go out regularly.

Previous Design Institute initiatives have demonstrated that South Africans are inventive and resourceful and able to respond to changing technological, economic and social demands through innovative design thinking.  We invite all our stakeholders to work with us to initiate national gains in an increasingly competitive global economy. 

New Endeavours

A new design platform for South African design dialogue

This new South African design web portal –  - was created as a connection point for the South African design community and as a key channel for direct stakeholder engagement. The portal is positioned as a voice for the South African design agenda by presenting a platform for information-sharing, dialogue and debate by all stakeholders.

The Design Directory of local design capability needs to be built. Please register and present your work and available services to potential clients. Or register as requiring specific design services. 

Use the Design Calendar to publish any event, competition, award scheme or design activity and become involved in activating the local design community.

Items highlighting design as a window onto the world we live in, as a cultural manifestation, and as a creative expression of some unrecognised need, are made available with the intention to spark conversation and debate. Information on design careers and local training institutions is available. The Link section provides access to design support services, design promotion bodies, magazines, blogs and portals and design-related websites.

The portal is a platform to interact with fellow designers and role-players in the design value chain. We will appreciate feedback on how to enhance the portal with meaningful and valuable contributions.    

Other Projects

A number of projects were initiated during the set up phase of rolling out the new strategic framework. The approach has been to explore the strategic space, to engage a broad stakeholder community and to set up projects across the strategic framework.

An interdisciplinary panel of experts, to assist with design projects in various sectors, has been appointed as part of a pilot project to promote design in the country. A panel of design interns has also been put together and will gain practical design experience by working with design experts on the design projects.

The mapping of available national incentives schemes within enterprise development agencies, established to support small businesses, was done and the report is being finalised and will be made available as soon as it is finalised.

In an effort to gain insight into design’s relation to prevailing economic policies and the national system of innovation, a project was initiated to establish the current status of the national design registration system and realities in South Africa. This project aims to find ways to integrate design data in local innovation metrics.

To open a wider debate on the matter, the issue was addressed by a panel of experts at the 5th Innovation Summit at the end of August 2012. The panel was made up by

  • an Intellectual Property expert (Prof. Tana Pistorius, UNISA);
  • an independent analyst working on the measurement, monitoring and evaluation of science, education and innovation policy (Prof Michael Kahn);
  • a design educator and researcher (Prof. Mugendi M'Rithaa, CPUT);
  • an established industrial designer (Roelf Mulder, ...XYZ Design); and
  • the Director of CeSTII (Centre for Science and Technology Indicators), HSRC (William Blankley)

Read the report on the discussion HERE

News on how we are planning to award design excellence, how to use smart ways to support SMME’s to make valuable design investments, to present on-the-job design training courses and manage design interventions in specific industry settings will be made available as details are finalised. In some instances pilot projects are running to test the concepts. News on the final format and availability of the projects will be communicated as soon as the pilot phase is concluded.

Current Activities to look out for

Visit the DESINGSA Calendar for current and upcoming design events and activities. Abstracts for the agIdeas 2013 Design Research Conference can be submitted until 30 November 2012 and nominations for the Index:Award 2013 will be accepted until 17 December 2012.