Designers who will challenge the norm at Design Indaba Conference 2019

From biotechnologist Markus Kayser to design critic Alice Rawsthorn, these designers have each taken their own unique approach on design and innovation.

From the Series


Every day designers find new ways to innovate within their fields of interest. In the decades that we've hosted Design Indaba Conference, we’ve seen designers turn industries on their heads by crossing the borders of creative disciplines and sectors in a way that has created boundary-pushing design. This year's Conference welcomes a lineup of design veterans and up-and-coming creatives to celebrate this way of thinking about design as not merely a product or blueprint, but a movement. 

From people like Dave Hakkens to Sound Designer Yuri Suzuki or Biotechnologist Markus Kayser, and Design Critic Alice Rawsthorn - design becomes interdisciplinary and multifaceted. 

Each of these designers have a taken a seat at the same creative table yet their work remains unique and different in function. Take Hakkens, the Dutch designer who explores ways to fix global issues. More specifically, he looks at the huge environmental effect of plastic waste.


One of his projects, Precious Plastics was featured in Our top five trending stories of 2018 and it looked at a machine that transforms plastic waste into useful objects. Its popularity comes from the machine he built that can be easily rebuilt and used within the comfort of your own home. 

When Hakkens takes to the Design Indaba stage in 2019, it will be his second conference appearance. After speaking 2014 as part of the Pecha Kucha programme, the designer will once again show the auidence how design for can influence the way we live. 

German designer Markus Kayser is founder Kayser Works and he is also one of the principal designers at the Mediated Matter group at the Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT).

Unlike Hakkens this will be Kayser’s first time on the Design Indaba stage. He is behind some of the most transcendent projects, some of which include his signature style of combining technology and biology.

One of his latest projects, FIBERBOTS looked at the development of a design system that controlled 16 small robots. This was designed to wind fibreglass filament around themselves to create high-strength tubular structures. When it was launched it created a 4.5m tall architectural structure that did not have to be constructed by hand, giving us a peak into the future of our built environment. 

Yuri Suzuki, who is known as a master in sound design, combines art and technology. He create playful sonic sculptures, and he does so from his acclaimed workspace, called Yuri Suzuki Design Studio.

In his work, he also looks at the relationship between people and music and how sound can affect our minds. A 2017 project by the designer investigated this even further. He developed sensors that were implanted in giant inflatables that would generate music according to people physical movements.

Suzuki was announced as a partner at Pentagram London last year. The global design consultancy has held within its walls a number of Design Indaba alumni, including forward-thinker Natasha Jen and graphic designer extraordinaire Michael Bierut.

Suzuki is currently heading the installation, interaction and product design department, where he will continue to create immersive experiences.

Lastly, we look at Alice Rawsthorn. Unlike the above speakers, who are makers, Rawsthorns is seen as a design critic and author whose success has made her a  leading public speaker and social media influencer on design.

Rawsthorn currently has a weekly column for The New York Times where she gives her thoughts on the current climate of the design world. She is also the founding member of the Writers for Liberty campaign where she champions for human rights and freedoms.

The design critic has also released critically acclaimed books called Design as an Attitude and Hello World: Where Design Meets Life.

These four designers are set to take the Design Indaba stage from the 27 FEB to 1 March. The conference will be taking place at the Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town, and will host over 30 speakers from different creative sectors, including business, technology and art.  

Find out more about the conference and get your tickets now! 

Read more: 

Design Indaba 2019 presents: Architecture driven by social responsibility

Design Indaba 2019: Where business and design meet

South African icon Thandiswa Mazwai joins the Design Indaba 2019 lineup


Watch the Talk with Alice Rawsthorn