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Seven key design takeaways from #DesignIndaba #dayone

Here are seven key design takeaways from yesterday, Wednesday, 23 February 2011, the first day of this year's Design Indaba conference currently being held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre in Cape Town. [view twitterfall]
Seven key design takeaways from #DesignIndaba #dayone

Design insight #1: one great idea can blind you

Having one great idea is probably a block to more ideas and can blind you to other design solutions, says Michael Wolff, co-founder of design company Wolff Olins and currently of Michael Wolff & Company. Wolff opened the Design Indaba conference by urging delegates to keep rejecting single ideas to come up with many great ones.

Experience is not necessarily your friend as it allows you to assume you know, when really you should be out there investigating what you don't yet know. Dare to be curious, Wolff challenged delegates, you might be more that you think who you might be.

Design insight #2: rebel with a cause

Design is about breaking rules to liberate messages. Even corporates ones, says Dana Arnett, CEO of Chicago-based VSA Partners, whose client list includes Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola and Nike. Charlie Todd from Improv Everywhere reminded delegates that humour (in this case often using improv) allows strangers to interact with one another in a non-threatening way.

Design insight #3: anything goes

In Abu Dhabi.

Design Insight #4: collaborate

Collaboration, co-design, co-authorship - call it what you will - the idea of sharing work with others was highlighted numerous times by most of the speakers who took to the stage on Wednesday. Work with other agencies to become an agency of agencies, Arnett urged delegates.

David Kester, chief executive of the UK-based Design Council, showcased private/public design partnerships and how that collaboration is saving lives and contributing to economic growth in the UK - using simple design solutions to essential issues such as hospital hygiene.

Deborah Szebeko, founder of thinkpublic, reminded designers the people they are designing for often hold key insights and answers to design solutions.

Burkina Faso architect Francis Kéré draws on the community to fill in the canvas of his buildings by allowing them to paint and decorate his structures, giving them a sense of ownership.

Design Insight #5: simple is beautiful

Luke Pearson, a partner in PearsonLloyd, said "design simplifies the world around us." Kéré pushed this home with simple, relevant and sustainable architectural solutions that embraces local solutions. Designer Dror Benshetrit drew inspiration from four identical L-shaped pieces to create his new interlocking frame technology.

Design insight #6: be relevant to your environment

The key message from Kéré was to stay relevant to your environment. Use local skills, materials and solutions appropriate to the economic and social outlook of the region. He builds under mango trees, not in factories, to pull together communities, develop skills and give people ownership of their buildings.

Design insight #7: beauty inspires us

A key insight drawn from the portfolios of director Karin Fong, designer Richard Hart and the work of hat-trick duo Jim Sutherland and Gareth Howat is that beautiful work inspires. Hart calls it the poetry of design. We should make an effort to see more.

Seven key design takeaways from #DesignIndaba #dayone

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About Herman Manson: @marklives

The inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011, Herman Manson (@marklives) is a business journalist and media commentator who edits industry news site His writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines locally and abroad, including He also co-founded Brand magazine.
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