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The 'design economy' is a growth catalyst

Design and creative-based businesses are out-performing their peers and offer huge potential for creating jobs, generating wealth and growing local and export markets, says Interactive Africa MD and founder of Design Indaba, Ravi Naidoo.
Creative industries include graphic design, advertising, film and video, music, performing arts, fashion design and product design, new media such as the Internet and cellphones, publishing, radio and television, visual art, architecture and crafts. Other traditional mainstream industries such as financial services are also tapping into the benefits of innovation to ensure their products and services stand out.

Research by the UK Design Council in Design Index: The impact of Design on Stock Market Performance shows that the share prices of 63 design-led companies outperformed key stock market indices - the FTSE 100 and FTSE All Share Indices - by a full 200% over 10 years from December 1993 to December 2003.

The upbeat performance of these design-led companies persisted throughout the five-year bull market, the three-year bear market and the beginning of the recovery from March 2003.

Creative industries are now the second biggest job generators in London, after financial services. They are also one of the most productive users of staff and management, largely due to developments in digital technology. Operational costs are contained as the major raw materials in this sector are creativity and ideas; many consultancies that lead current design trends and influence consumers globally employ less than 20 people.

Prof. Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says the design economy has emerged as the successor to the information economy, which in turn succeeded the manufacturing and service economies.

But while more companies now recognise that creativity is essential for growth and competitive strength, Naidoo says many remain hampered as they know little about innovation and how to generate it within their companies.

Reaching the marketers


While the audiences at the first Design Indabas mainly consisted of design and creative industry practitioners, the event is now in its ninth year and corporate commissioners, such as marketing teams, make up 40% of the audience.

Official sponsors are Woolworths, SAA, Sappi and the SABC.

"Sappi has been one of the official sponsors of Design Indaba since 1997 and we've watched it grow from small beginnings to become one of the foremost design conferences in the world today," says Sappi brand communications manager Simon Grose.

Recognising the vital role design can play in creating a prosperous economic future for South Africa, Woolworths, together with the Western Cape Education Department, has launched an innovative educational resource guide to be used by teachers in the new FET (Further Education and Training) Design course which has been introduced for Grades 10-12 this year.

The resource guide, called Making a Difference Through Design, is a collaboration between Woolworths, the Western Cape Education Department, Sappi, Design Indaba and leading SA designers and creative professionals It covers 23 design disciplines ranging from ceramics to theatrical set design and will be piloted in a number of schools in the Western Cape in 2006.

This year's Design Indaba Conference runs under the banner of Design: The New Economy from 22 - 24 February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). Up to 2000 international and local corporate, government, creative industry and media leaders will be shaken and stirred by 45 foreign and local speakers.

Presenters include the award-winning product design team Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck, who work with companies like Hewlett Packard, Target and Renault to bring innovative solutions to the market; and Stefano Giovannoni, an industrial and interior designer and architect specialising in plastic products, whose client list includes Alessi, Nissan, Oregon Scientific, Seiko, Siemens and 3M.

Specialist indaba's and expo


Specialist jewellery, fashion and architecture Indabas run concurrently.

In addition a three-day Design Indaba Expo - which attracted 12 000 visitors last year - will showcase the best of local fashion, jewellery and film to local and international buyers and the public from 24-26 February. Exhibitions range from sustainable rural design prototypes to the biggest contemporary jewellery exhibition in SA. A selection of 20 of the most beautiful objects in SA, chosen by a panel of 20 curators, will be on display.

"The Expo is now in its third year and efforts to gain international recognition for local design stars have exceeded industry expectations," says Expo Content Manager Lauren Shantall. "The boost to the export economy should not be underestimated, with local producers just starting to reap the benefits of valuable new contacts - contacts that they would otherwise be unable to access.

To find out more about the Design Indaba Conference and Expo or to attend the next event from 22 - 24 February 2006, visit: www.designindaba.com or email: . Contact: Shamielah Edwards +27 21 762 8600.

 
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