By Lizette Abeli

After a successful first-time exhibition in 2013, it was that time of year again for Open Design Cape Town to take centre stage. Showcasing some of South Africa’s predominant South African talent in the mother city at the Cape Town City Hall, the free design festival took place from 13 to 23 August 2014 and boasted a range of talks, workshops and exhibitions for the public to enjoy.


The Cape Peninsula University of Technology had a strong presence at the event with workshops and exhibition space which showcased some of the exciting World Design Capital 2014 recognised projects and other community engagement projects which students and staff have been taking part in.


Another aspect where CPUT was present was the Talk100 slots. These were short presentation slots, covering various topics where a panel of experts were invited to discuss their experiences and answer questions posed to them by the audience.
One such talk took place on 18 August 2014 which covered the topic ‘Designing a Better World’ included CPUT’s Professor Mugendi M’Rithaa, President-elect of ICSID, and guest Professor Ezio Manzini from Politecnico di Milano who, for more than two decades he has been working in the field of design for sustainability. Most recently, his interests have focussed on social innovation, considered as a major driver of sustainable change, and on what design can do to support it.


Professor Manzini’s main discussion centered on the notion that “decentralized, networked resilient systems have the potential to liberate human capacity and human values, such as sharing, caring, empathy, love and security.”


We cannot argue that the 21st century speaks of product design but not of complex design such as co-design. Co-design, according to Manzini, cannot be generalised, “it results from social conversations not a methodology. What kind of change do we look at with co-design?” He asks. “is it a radical or incremental change, service delivery or co-production change? It could most likely be radical because, yes, design does indeed support change but then again it is also incremental because design is growing. To make a change, work at a small scale.”


Professor Mugendi M’Rithaa, mentioned the “maintenance of high standards of quality” for transformative design to work. He spoke about how design education has changed and how the roles of designers has changed. Succinctly saying that design education is a big challenge and that it’s a great idea to send students outside for co-op learning or better yet practical’s in order to broaden their imaginations.  When asked why an African would be the last man standing, professor Mugendi answers “Africa is sustainable by default. They consume the least, litter the least and recycle the most per capita”


The panel left the audience with a lot to think about, having sparked some great ideas, new concepts and questions.


If you missed the chance to hear Professor Ezio Manzini speaking about Design for Sustainability, he  will be presenting at the Design Philosophy Talk, Cultures of Resilience,  scheduled for the 18th of September at the Cape Crafts and Design Institute from 12:30-17:00.


Cultures of Resilience is a Seminar proposed by CPUT in collaboration with DESIS Network (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) (http://www.desis-network.) The Seminar deals with the cultural side of the notion of resilience and poses questions such as ‘What does it mean to develop the cultural side of resilience?’ The seminar will be jointly presented by Prof Manzini, Prof  M’Rithaa and Prof Pieterse.