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Design company news

Interview: Gavin Mageni, SABS Design Institute

Gavin Mageni is the group manager of the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) Design Institute. When appointed in 2013 Gavin set out to put ideas into practise, which is exactly what the SABS Design Institute stands for. They takes fresh design ideas and help develop them into sustainable enterprises, which creates socio-economic value for local designers, the design industry and the country. Gavin will share his thoughts on how design can bring about social change at Cloudy with a Chance of Pixels Creative Symposium in Cape Town on the 15th of May. He shared the significance of his work and his cue cards for his Creative Symposium talk with 10and5:
Gavin Mageni - SABS Design Institute
Gavin Mageni
What is your background and how has this led you to where you are now?

Before joining the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) as Group Manager of the Design Institute last year, I held the position of Head: Citizenship, Africa at Absa and Barclays where I focussed on consumer education, community investment, sustainability, stakeholder management and government relations. These areas groomed me for my position at Design Institute.

I consider design to be a catalyst for economic growth and these areas are some of the pillars on which economic competitiveness rests. I believe the competiveness of any economy depends on its ability to innovate for economic sustainability and global relevance.

What does it mean to be the head of design at the SABS Design Institute? Why is this an important position, and how does your job affect the average Joe?

My leadership philosophy is based on the following: My success is dependent on the success of those I am entrusted to lead. Irrespective of title or positional power, in whatever it is that we do, we need to focus on fostering sustainable economic growth; drive activities where social and commercial value are aligned through responsible and ethical business practices. In this manner we demonstrate how we add value to the economy and society. To this end it is important that we set explicit objectives against that ability, and then measure and report our progress against such morally obliged objectives. My job might not affect the average Joe today, but will definitely make an impact if design starts making a difference to sustainable economic growth in our country and continent.

What do you do on a daily basis? Give us a glimpse into a day in the life of Gavin Mageni.

A great number of my daily tasks are focussed on creating meaningful human interactions and forging partnerships - interaction with the great team of staff that I lead, with stakeholders and management within the SABS, in industry and in government.

Which skills are essential to your job?

I believe that the goal setting and a bird's eye view on the bigger picture are essential.

How do you think design and innovation could improve issues like unemployment, poverty and inequality, specifically in South Africa?

I see design as a national change agent; helping to improve South Africa's competitiveness tackling unemployment, poverty, inequality and the like. Design can be seen as a problem-solving process or an improvement process that can be applied to business, to civil society and to government.

What are some of the greatest challenges local designers face, and how can these challenges be overcome?

Local designers face the same challenges as designers across the globe. They must remember that design is a disciplined process that combines creativity and rational thinking. If their hearts are in the right place, they will make a meaningful difference to society as a whole.

What is the topic of your Cloudy with a Chance of Pixels Creative Symposium talk?

"Design thinking for social change". I will discuss Design Democracy - rights come with obligations.

Interview: Gavin Mageni, SABS Design Institute - SABS Design Institute
Interview: Gavin Mageni, SABS Design Institute - SABS Design Institute

Find SABS Design on Twitter @SABS_Design, or visit for more information.

Read more about Cloudy with a Chance of Pixels Creative Symposium here.

Gavin's TedxSoweto Talk on Design Innovation

Interview: Gavin Mageni, SABS Design Institute was first published by 10and5.


SABS Design Institute's press office

SABS Design Institute
SABS Design Institute
The SABS Design Institute is the official national design promotion body of South Africa with the mission to be a centre of knowledge and a catalyst for the delivery of design.
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