Why did you decide to cancel Expo?
The Expo was created in 2004 to facilitate growth within the South African creative economy that could transcend our borders. This concept grew from strength to strength, and over its 11 years the platform grew from 40 exhibitors in 2004 to over 600 exhibitors in 2015
While our event saw this exponential growth, so too did design culture in the Western Cape. The Expo creates jobs. In 2015 alone, 465 people in the Western Cape owe their employment directly to the platform and 502 jobs were indirectly sustained. South African creatives were able to sell their wares to over 800 local and international buyers as well as the general public, which is why the Design Indaba Expo has been credited by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business with contributing over R2.1 billion to the South African GDP over the last seven years.
We have achieved even more than we had ever thought we could, and now the time has come to do what we do best: innovate. We need to include the entire country, and not just Cape Town. The limitations of hosting one event, in one venue, in one city have become more apparent and we want to drive our platform to become even more inclusive. We want to use our collective power to reach creatives in their own towns and cities across the country; whether they’re designers in Durban or makers in Midrand.
While this sees the end of the expo model in its old format, the team is brimming with ideas for projects and plans for how to drive this growth even further through the next decade.
What will take its place?
We still feel a strong responsibility to promote the work of South African creatives to our local and international database. But it is time to do what we do best: innovate. We have some exciting new avenues for taking local creative work to the international stage as well as other opportunities under our umbrella. We are in the final stages of fleshing out several opportunities and will announce them once all elements are finalised.
How can past exhibitors still work with you or tap into your audience?
Our online publication (designindaba.com) has grown at an exponential rate. We welcome over 100 000 unique visitors every month, making us the largest design-driven digital publication in the country. We have a large international following – and we want to continue showcasing South African talent to this market.
Design Indaba is also introducing our premium Designer Directory that we will be launching in the coming months. This is an opportunity to speak directly to our database of over 1000 local and international retail buyers from 58 countries and will be a platform through which we will share local creative work and product launches. In turn, we hope to generate new orders and exposure for South African businesses.
Will the Conference still continue?
The Design Indaba Conference will continue. We are going to be changing venues to Artscape for the 2016 edition, which will allow us the creative freedom to add more production-heavy elements to presentations. Design Indaba Conference has never been an ordinary talk-shop, and now we have a full theatrical stage to further enhance our audience’s experience.
Are any of the existing Expo programmes remaining?
There are elements of our Expo that we feel are a crucial part of our company's foundation. Our Emerging Creatives programme is one of our favourite projects and one we feel must absolutely continue. Our up-and-coming talent in South Africa needs that initial boost, more so than established designers. It is exceptionally difficult to start a creative business, and any young entrepreneur will tell you that they would love additional support and exposure. As a company, we have been providing a launchpad to emerging talent for the past decade. Creatives like Laduma Ngxokolo, Katherine-Mary Pichulik, Daniel Ting Chong and many more attribute Design Indaba with kick-starting their careers.
The Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) is also a brand unto itself. Every year thousands of South Africans cast their vote for what they feel represents beauty. While some may consider beauty an aspect of taste and others know it on sight, beauty becomes far more profound than a visual sensation when design attributes such as social significance, economic impact, usability, sustainability and even humour are thrown into the mix. The award has been an excellent gauge of the socio-economic landscape and our country’s perfection of design since 2007.
Is it a case of competition on why the Expo format is changing?
What was once a sparse design landscape has now flourished into a city full of inspiring and hardworking creative enterprises producing designs across fashion, jewellery, furniture, homeware, ceramics and more. Local designers have harnessed South Africa’s vibrant culture and entrepreneurial spirit to produce cutting–edge work that is now being showcased and exported to international stores across the world. And we are proud to have been the platform that has facilitated, nurtured and supported this growth for over a decade. It is not a case of competition, but rather a need to "share the love" and also a lesser need for support in Cape Town.
Will Design Indaba collaborate with any of the existing creative expos in Cape Town?
Design Indaba wants to expand its reach beyond the creatives that can pay to exhibit with us, which includes other creative exhibitions. Design Indaba enjoys over R21 million in guaranteed local and international media exposure and garnered close to R49 million of value in media coverage in 2015. The brand is a loudhailer. We now want to pass that onto brands, creatives and companies that want to collaborate with us.
What has the City/Province response been to the changes?
We are in further consultation with both parties. Cape Town has always presented itself as a creative and inclusive city. Design Indaba is of this place, and we want to leave a legacy that embraces the City’s vision.
Any global aspirations?
We have actually been a global company for a while now; with our long list of design heavyweights who come from over 60 countries across the globe and previously with our printed magazine, which received international awards and acclaim, and our current digital publication (designindaba.com). So much so that our international audience has overtaken our local audience in size, thanks to our huge global online following. We have now also begun looking for opportunities to potentially take some of our exhibitors overseas through various projects, partnerships and showcases, to extend the international Design Indaba experience and increase the exposure of our local creatives.
How will Design Indaba celebrate/embrace Africa?
Through designindaba.com we release a weekly African Report. It showcases the very best in African design as well as what is happening in terms of innovation across the continent. We also have an entire category of content called Africa Is Now, similar to the exhibition that we showcased at the Expo, which celebrates all forms of African creativity and garners awareness on a global scale.
When can we expect to have more information?
Here we would like to quote one of past speakers, Michael Wolff. Great ideas start with throwing away good ideas, says Wolff. We are currently under-going deep brand immersion and reviewing our current business plan. We will, as soon as possible, reveal how creatives can participate. Feel free to visit designindaba.com and sign up to our newsletter for more information.