What can design do for you?

Imagine you are a product designer trying to come up with a ground breaking new concept that will revolutionise the way people live and work. Would you know where to begin?

When designing digital and mobile products, there are a number of factors at play, but the first is always to work out what the problem is that you are trying to solve.

Are you looking, for instance, to increase conversion for a particular product, raise brand awareness or build a community? Whatever the aim, the design of the actual product needs to take the end-goal in mind for it to work.

At the Cape Town Design Indaba conference, there were plenty of examples of function and form coming together. Designers from all over South Africa showcased their solutions to different problems: solar powered lighting to address environmental concerns; recycled plastic bags made into colourful vases; laptop bags made out of discarded cement bags: not just to protect your machine but to make you smile.

16 800 pencils; one question

However, the burning question for the city that has recently been nominated World Design Capital for 2014 is to identify what the clear issue is that it needs to solve. For the Cape Town Partnership, the organisation leading World Design Capital 2014, Indaba was the perfect place to ask this.

And so, a mass of pencils and post-it notes encouraged visitors to answer the question: ‘what does design need to solve for you…?’

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, Managing Director of the Cape Town Partnership overseeing the project, explains what the 2014 proposal is about. “We want design to be about transforming lives… apartheid was designed, it didn’t happen by accident. And integration also needs to be designed. Once you get the infrastructure right you are one step closer to social cohesion”.

To date, some of the themes that have been coming out are around sustainability, transport infrastructure and social cohesion post-apartheid.

One bid; multiple solutions

The projects that formed part of the bid illustrate how design can be used to solve some of these issues. For instance in order to tackle violence in the townships, streets are designed with clear visibility and signage that helps prevent people getting lost. The question of overcrowding in low income households has been alleviated by stackable bunk beds and the Integrated Rapid Transit System (IRTS) aims to increase social mobility by bringing different people to and from different areas.

Each project has clear, identifiable goals. So for Cape Town as World Design Capital for 2014, the first step, as with any design project, is identifying the problems that need solving, and that’s just what the Cape Town Partnership is doing.

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