The way forward for Design Indaba Expo

The most important part of design is innovation, and now is our time for change.
The most important part of design is innovation, and now is our time for change
The most important part of design is innovation, and now is our time for change

Over the past few months, Design Indaba has been debating the future of Design Indaba Expo in its current format. We wanted to evaluate every aspect of the platform to see what was working and what wasn’t.

Design Indaba’s platform was established in 1995 and the Expo was launched in 2004, when the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) first opened. Our mission was to facilitate growth within the South African creative economy that could transcend our borders. At the time, there was no strategy for design in the province, there was no opportunity to showcase creative work through the year, and South Africans were not buying locally designed product. The 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.

The Expo created jobs. In 2015 alone, 465 people in the Western Cape owe their employment directly to the platform, while 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.

These numbers are a clear indication of how powerful the creative sector can be. 

This success should not be restricted to the Western Cape or include only those who have the means to afford travel and stand space. The limitations of hosting one event, in one venue, in one city, have become more apparent and we want to drive the Design Indaba 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 are designers in Durban or makers in Midrand.

For this reason, Design Indaba has decided to stop hosting the Expo in its current format; the model as we know it has come to an end. We are making way for a fresher, more creative way of showcasing the entire country’s design. Some elements from the Expo, such as the Emerging Creatives programme and the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa award, will continue in renewed forms under the Design Indaba umbrella.

We are proud to have been the platform that has facilitated, nurtured and supported this growth for over a decade. While this sees the end of the expo model in its old format, the team is brimming with projects and plans for how to drive this growth even further through the next decade.

Design Indaba’s online publication ( 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 will continue to showcase South African talent to this market.

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