Cape Town’s bid story

The City of Cape Town's successful bid for World Design Capital 2014 was coordinated by the Cape Town Partnership, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and supporters.

"Cape Town got 99 problems, but design aint one"

“What does design need to solve for you?” we asked at Design Indaba Expo, encouraging visitors to answer on a post-it note and stick it to the World Design Capital 2014 stand.

What did they say?

  • An overwhelming 46% of respondents called for design to address problems in the city of Cape Town.
  • More abstract notions of world peace, beauty and self-expression were highlighted by 34% of respondents.
  • Design advocacy was top of mind for 20% of respondents.

“Redesign Cape Town”

Of the 46% seeking to redesign Cape Town, 26% wanted more of a focus on environmental issues such as sustainable power solutions, viable recycling systems and urban farming initiatives. One post-it in particular called for “a move for awareness and involvement of the public in eco-friendly and sustainable ideas, not just isolated to industry professionals”.

Public transport solutions, including better infrastructure for cyclists, was highlighted as a concern by 15% of respondents. A number of fantastical suggestions stood out here, including inventing teleportation and flying cars, and building an underground superhighway between Simon’s Town and the CBD.

Reuniting a city divided by apartheid was another top concern for 12% of respondents, who mentioned not only geographical divisions, but also cultural and racial tolerance, and overall city accessibility. “Design needs to link our different economic sectors, cultures and living areas together in a fluid, functional way that beautifies and makes Cape Town the magnanimous, magnificent city it can be,” said one post-it particularly elegantly.

Public art, public spaces, social ills, poverty, housing, education, employment, health and food made up the remaining 47% of concerns that design can address in Cape Town. That the city is prioritising design in the wake of the WDC2014 acknowledgement is evidenced by Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille’s own humble post-it: “To solve how to use design to transform government to deliver services faster”.

“Note to self”

No one can deny the inspirational power of good design and for 34% of Design Indaba Expo, world peace, joy, ugliness, boredom, blandness, empowerment, self-expression, love and motivation are just some of the core human conditions that design can help address.

That 32% of these respondents wanted to redesign human behaviour and their own lives points to a deep understanding of the radical shift needed to achieve a completely sustainable planet. “Be the change,” one post-it quoted Gandhi, while many others said: “You are the ultimate design.”

“Turn post-its into ideas”

However, spreading the message of design as a means to improve the quality of life for all was seen as the first step for 20% of respondents.First get the message out there and everyone on the same page – or post-it in this case – said 67% of these respondents. “Creativity is not elitist,” surmised one post-it.

This 67% also included the 19% of people who wanted to use design to show off Africa, South Africa and Cape Town to the world, while forging a unique national design identity.

Once the message is out, the focus can turn to innovation and small tweaks to everyday objects – storage and clutter solutions, as well as affordable local fashion came up a lot.

Other wacky, poignant and inspiring post-its

“Design is inspired by people, the way we live and who we are. It’s about incorporating traditions of different cultures to bring new ideas.”

Art washes away the dust of everyday life.

“With great creativity comes great responsibility.”

Design a way to gently explain to people that you cannot solve anything by buying more stuff.

“Government needs to view civil engineering as design and not just a way to spend money.”

Loving design means loving the world you live in, means loving yourself, means love. And to love and be loved is the answer. Let’s clear our minds, we are a positive nation, let’s continue!

Rechargeable cushioning on your favourite running shoes.”

Something to devalue rhino horns.

“Transform Beach Road/Paarden Island into a walkway, arcade, hiking trail and public gym.”

To be able to buy a single ticket for a single journey on the MyCiTi Bus, on the bus!

“Design should inspire, bring people together and be a vehicle for social and climate justice. Design needs to transform our image of ourselves as Africans.”

Design a way for the homeless to clean and dry their clothes.

“Design needs to solve the problem of bad design.”

Design products that do not jeopardise the lives of future generations.

“The time of resistance art is over, it’s time now for acceptance art.”

To provide the ultimate option of choice.

“Create ways for people to accept change.”

Affordable housing that goes up not out, with great green spaces surrounding it.

“No ticking for races (white/black/coloured/Indian) on application forms.”

Transform the common structures that are bruising the face of Cape Town.

“Urban gardening movement to ensure no-one is hungry.”

Design education programmes in our schools to inform kids about great design and its benefits.

What does design need to solve for you? Leave your comment below.

Images of the World Design Capital 2014 stand at Design Indaba Expo 2012 by Anita van Zyl