Design Indaba Conference 2013: Day 2

Rose and I could not wait one more day to tell you all about our AMAZING Design Indaba Conference experience this year. I will be sharing my thoughts on Day 2 of the conference with you first, as Rose is currently quite busy with some urgent design work and has not find the time to scribble down her impressions of Day 1.

Steven Heller:

Day 2 of the conference kicked off with Steven Heller – an art director, journalist, critic, editor and author who served as art director at the New York Times for 33 years.

Heller has also written a whopping 150 books (…and counting) on graphic design and popular culture themes! His wife, designer Louise Fili, even joking said that when she entered the industry years ago she struggled to find graphic design-related info as “there were no reference books on design history because Steve Heller hadn’t written them yet!

A small view into Heller’s collection library – a “cave” his wife refuses to enter! | Image via Visi

An avid Collector, Heller passionately gathers everything from razors to triptychs, posters, letterheads, rare books & magazines, propaganda material, figurines, and other period-based symbols of pop culture and counter-culture. In this, he attempts to chronicle the history of Graphic Design.

“I like to think of my collection as an archaeological dig and I’ve discovered the remnants of commercial culture,” Heller said. “I collect because I am, because it’s there, and because it will lead to things that would hopefully have an impact on other people”


Louise Fili:

Raised in an Italian household where most, if not all, social activity and conversation revolved around the kitchen table, the transition to food packaging and restaurant identities seemed the perfect fit for graphic designer Louise Fili. To this day Italy still serves as her greatest inspiration – not only in typography but also in gastronomy.

Fili has authored and co-authored over a dozen books, many of them with her husband, the design historian Steven Heller – jeez, talk about a creative power couple!

She was art director of Pantheon Books from 1978 to 1989, where she designed over 2000 book jackets. She even added her own creative touch to boring copyright pages – a practice that was frowned upon.

Fili prefers the graceful charm of vintage typography in eras-passed and uses letterpress wherever possible stating that it offers a tactility that is appetising.

“You do not have to shout to be noticed. A design can be quietly beautiful and still grab attention. I prefer subtle and elegant typographic solutions to more boisterous graphic displays.”


Jeanne van Heeswijk:

Jeanne van Heeswijk calls herself a visual artist specialising in interaction design… yet she is so much more that that. She is a social cheerleader, a catalyst for community transformation and change. She enters struggling communities and neighbourhoods, gets on her soapbox (sometimes literally), and asks the hard questions – often creating a public brainstorming session with local passers-by. So doing she motivates inhabitants to take action and become a shaping force in their own neighbourhoods.

I was immediately reminded of South Africa’s own community upliftment and social involvement initiative, LEADSA. Like VISI commented: “(Jeanne) spoke directly to something South Africans could identify with: how to inspire communities to take back their neighbourhoods.” We must be the change we want to see.Jeanne van Heeswijk

“The artist / designer has to decide: ‘Who do I serve? Can I be an instrument? What can I contribute to society?'” ~ Jeanne van Heeswijk (Design Indaba Conference 2013)


Alex Atala:

Alex Atala is an acclaimed Brazilian chef whose work is concerned with traditional Brazilian cuisine, using native ingredients. It is his desire to capture the flavours, colours, textures and even smells of what it was to eat in Brazil (he even travelled into the Amazon rainforest to source traditional ingredients and do research).

Atala’s restaurant, D.O.M. in São Paulo was rated the 4th best restaurant in the world in 2012. He often includes burnt flavours or carbonized herbs to his menu as he thinks the delicious burnt smells and flavours of grilled meat (‘n lekker ou braai!) is a traditional base culinary flavour – not only in Brazil but all over the world.

Atala also went on to say that one of the main problems with the current food production industry is waste. “Your grandma used to kill and used every last piece of a chicken – now that is sustainable!” he said. Today we just pick up the phone and order ten beef fillets… what happens to the rest of the cow? – this is waste.Alex Atala

“The best way to be GLOBAL is to be LOCAL” ~ Alex Atala (Design Indaba Conference 2013)


Martí Guixé:

I think whilst multi-talented Catalonian designer Martí Guixé had the floor we all enjoyed a bit of design comic relief. His out-of-the-box design ideas had the audience teetering between amazement and giggles. Let me share one or two of his ingenious ideas with you…

Martí Guixé - GAT Fog
Martí’s GAT (Gin and Tonic) Fog

Whilst designing a fashion retail store, he convinced the owners to give him the budget they were going to spend on stock images for the store walls as he thought it to bland and commercial. Instead he took money and threw a massive party in the store a day before the launch, asking all party-goers to paint a wall. The result: a totally unique store interior… and everybody had a smashing time.

Martí Guixé

Tired of juggling your drink, food and conversation at parties or launches? So was Martí! What did he do? He hired some kind of agricultural machine that evaporates liquids, filled it, and fogged up the whole room with a mist of gin & tonic. Now you can breath in your drink instead of carrying it…

Another brilliantly funny idea – hijack a public fountain, fill it with ice, stick bottles of champagne in it, put out some tables and chairs and serve drinks to the public “until the cops come!


Daan Roosegaarde:

The most exciting speaker of the day would have to be innovator and interaction designer, Daan Roosegaarde. Daan, who describes himself as a “hippy with a business plan”, calls what he does “Techno Poetry” – a fusion of innovation and imagination.

A perfect example of this is Dune, a project which encourages visitors to be participants instead of observers. Dune, a collection of futuristic reed-like structures, consists of  hundreds of fibres, microphones, sensors and speakers which lights up and responds intuitively to the sounds and motions of the passing public.

Other AMAZING Studio Roosegaarde projects include a sustainable club dance floor which generates electricity by garnering the energy created by club-goers dancing on it, and a wondrous a high-tech fashion garment that becomes more or less transparent in response to your heartbeat;.

Daan has also partnered with Heijmans Infrastructure to build the world’s first “Smart Highway” which will feature sustainable concepts like glow-in-the-dark road paint, interactive and wind-powered lights, and even an induction priority lane that will charge the electrical cars that drive on it! What?! Amazing…Daan Roosegaarde

“We make things, but making also makes us…” ~ Daan Roosegaarde (Design Indaba Conference 2013)


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