Top talks to catch at Design Indaba 2019

South African annual design conference Design Indaba is just around the corner and we’ve picked out some of the most exciting talks to look out for.

Keenan Wyrobek

Keenan Wyrobek is the brains behind Zipline, a drone delivery service which is supplying blood and medicines to remote communities in Rwanda.

As well as conceiving a well thought through end-to-end service design system, Wyrobek is also the designer of the drones and has a background in medical product design and robotics.

More than 10,000 delivery boxes have been successfully dropped from drones via parachute through the Zipline project, which has seen its planes cover one million km.

Challenges overcome include wastage from blood expiring and avoiding the need to tackle impassable roads by vehicle.

The success of the Rwanda project means that Zipline is going to be rolled out to other African countries and Latin America.

Freyja Sewell


Hush, by Freyja Sewell

Freyja Sewell creates furniture, which has been designed around privacy and mindfulness – a riposte to the chaos of the constantly connected world, where addictive tendencies are encouraged.

New technologies, traditional furniture making and sustainability are the main pillars supporting this exploration.

The most popular example of all this is her Hush chair, which is designed to be a private sanctuary like space, but is also adaptable to serve a number of functions. It’s made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Now based in London, she has also worked with architect Kengo Kuma and design studio Nendo while living in Japan.

Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez

It was as a Royal College of Art (RCA) graduate in 2014 that Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez first came onto our radar. His biodegradable Ooho packaging was made from algae and calcium chloride, which its designer saw as a viable alternative to plastic packaging. Now he’s on a crusade to perfect it and eradicate plastic packaging.

He is doing this under the banner of Skipping Rocks Lab, which is concerned with creating packaging with low environmental impact – using extracts from plants and seaweed in particular. He’ll be presenting with Skipping Rocks Lab co-founders, Pierre Paslier and Guillaume Couche.

Gonzalez – senior lecturer at Kingston University – is also the inventor of Hop, a suitcase, which can follow its owner around at a set distance by communicating with their phone. If the signal between the suitcase and the phone is lost, the case locks.

Yuri Suzuki

Yuri Suzuki, challenging the traditional monitor keyboard setup

We caught up with Yuri Suzuki ahead of his talk to find out more about the new Pentagram partner who works in the fields of sound design, electronics and interaction design.

Suzuki is hoping that some of his latest projects will come to fruition in time to share them with the Design Indaba crowd. One of these is a set of bold musical instruments which were designed in the 1970s but never created. Suzuki is working on finishing them.

He told us about his highly experimental approach, how it might assimilate with Pentagram work, the next generation of integrating voice activated connected products, the “psychology of sound” and much more.

You can read our interview with him here and watch a video of a 78-fingered robot guitarist Suzuki designed to show how machines create emotionally engaging music.

Also on the bill…

Living and working with your lover and life partner is probably not for everyone but graphic designers Leta and Wade will be sharing an insight into their unusual approach to life and work.

There are Two cyborg activists with separate billings. Artist Neil Harbisson has an antenna implanted into his skull. It allows him to perceive infrared and ultraviolet light. Meanwhile Moon Ribas has seismic sensors implanted into her feet, which means she can pick up tremors anywhere in the world, and even on the moon. We promise we’re not making this up.

The line-up is particularly broad this year and also includes directors, performers, poets, architects and urban designers.

Design Week will be heading out to Design Indaba to bring the conference to you as it happens. Design Indaba runs from  27 February – 1 March at the Artscape Theatre, D.F. Malan St, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa. For more information and tickets, head to:  

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