Get it on at Design Indaba Expo

A condom applicator, designed by Cape Town product design consultancy, is a finalist in the Most Beautiful Object in SA award.

A condom applicator, designed by Cape Town product design consultancy, is a finalist in the Most Beautiful Object in SA award.

Already selected for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, the condom applicator is just one example of hundreds of innovative local designs to be showcased at the Design Indaba Expo this month.

The Design Indaba Expo will be attended by at least 112 top retail buyers – 66 from overseas. They will be sourcing stunning SA furniture, lighting, jewellery, fashion, ceramics and other products for their stores. About 20 000 members of the public are also expected to view and buy local designs at the Expo, which runs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 23-25 February.

The condom applicator, designed by Roelf Mulder of …XYZ Design, has been nominated by Bernard George Smith of the CSIR in Pretoria as a finalist for the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa award.

Design indaba Expo content manager Lauren Shantall explains: "A high-profile curator panel made up of leading South African designers, critics, stylists and editors evaluates all exhibitors before they may show their designs at the Expo. Each curator was asked to name the particular object at the Expo they considered the most beautiful."

The condom applicator will be one of these 15 objects exhibited in the central area of the Design Indaba Expo, carrying Department of Arts and Culture branding. Leading Dutch designer Jurgen Bey, a speaker at Design Indaba, will choose the most beautiful object in South Africa from this collection on 22 February at the opening function.

Smith, an Expo curator, says the condom applicator is "one of those rare products that bridges the divide between social, cultural, economic and international barriers by solving a problem common to all."

"The sexual act – that of love, copulation, intercourse, procreation or simply carnal expression – or however one wishes to describe it, is arguably the most fundamental right we as humans have. Yet this 'beautiful act' has been ripped apart by the scourge of Aids. Africa and South Africa has the greatest numbers of reported deaths and people infected with HIV and Aids.

"Although use of the condom is promoted for 'safe sex' to prevent being infected with Aids, the wrong practical application of the condom before intercourse may actually result in 'unsafe sex'. In many cases, in frustration of how to correctly apply the condom, the condom is discarded and 'unprotected sex' takes place, increasing the risk of infection.

"The ingenuity of the condom applicator is the simple 'intuitive' design that simply makes the application of the condom to the penis 'simple'. This is a small product that could have one of the biggest impacts on our social, cultural and economic future. It could also contribute to the sexual act being restored to a beautiful thing."

Designer Roelf Mulder says: "It has taken years of work to develop this product and I am really gratified that it has been chosen. Many people have been enthusiastic about the idea, but developing a design that fulfils all criteria and attracts investors has been a lonely road.

"This accolade reflects a mature response to design – it acknowledges that not only the physical appearance of a product is important, but also takes into account its social and economic potential. These are all vital parts of the mix that add up to a beautiful product."

He adds that the initial design for the condom applicator is already in production, and is confident that the second, more refined model – which will be on display and demonstrated at the Expo by an anti-Aids educational forum - will shortly also receive financial backing.

The retail price is R28-R30 for a package of three condoms and applicators.

...XYZ Design also has extensive experience in electronics packaging design and is a preferred design consultancy for a number of tier one mobile phone companies through the consultancy’s work with global player Flextronics, the largest electronics contract manufacturer in the world.

Two other …XYZ products, the wind-up radio and wind-up flashlight, are also in the permanent collection of MOMA. The wind-up radio is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo says: "The condom applicator is a fabulous example of local design that can really make a difference to peoples' lives, as well as being a lever for job creation, export and wealth generation. The Expo is committed to growing demand for and production of innovative, evolving and excellent South African creative products."