WDC 2014: How the Public Programme was Developed


In February 2014 we had the pleasure of having guest bloggers from Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 write for the PIVOT Dublin blog. We invited them to write about their city and the impact World Design Capital has had on promoting appreciation for the transformative role of design. In this post Nicky Swartz looks at how the public programme was developed, and discusses design’s problem-solving capabilities potential to improve every aspect of life in Africa.

There are more than 460 projects, activities, exhibitions and events on Cape Town’s World Design Capital calendar.

Cape Town is home to most of the design schools in South Africa; and home to the country’s creative industry. So when the call for submissions went out, it was as if a floodgate had opened. The central principle of World Design Capital is that it is a spotlight into which all who are engaged in design are invited to jump. It’s a time and a light which draws all who are curious about design in its many forms, who are exploring the power and potential of design-led thinking, or who are interested in social innovation and other outputs of design. So, partly, it’s a year-long party to which all are invited.

But underlying that is the very serious matter of the impact design-led thinking can make on our everyday lives. It’s a particularly resonant matter in Africa, where basic survival challenges and societal problems are an everyday reality. Here, design’s problem-solving capabilities have the potential to improve every aspect of life. It is for that reason that Cape Town’s World Design Capital promise in 2014 is: Live design. Transform life.

Call for Submissions

Cape Town Design NPC, the not-for-profit company established as the implementing agency for World Design Capital, put out two calls for submissions in the lead-up to 2014.

The four evocative, provocative categories were:

  • African Innovation. Global Conversation.
  • Bridging the Divide.
  • Today for Tomorrow.
  • Beautiful Spaces. Beautiful things.

By the time the second call for submissions had run its course by the end of July, more than 1 200 submissions had been received. Assessing the projects was a volunteer team of 38 curators; and heartily engaged in the process, too, was an International Advisory Committee. Over a 10-month period, painstakingly discussing and revisiting, grouping and analysing submissions, they brought the final figure down to around 460 items on the official World Design Capital.

Final List

When that final list was announced, there was mass jubilation on social media, random acts of fabulousness throughout the streets of the city, and a palpable rise in energy. And now, as the first evidence of that work rolls out (an extraordinary Renewable Energy Festival in one of Cape Town’s favourite outdoor locations, Green Point Park, last weekend; pitching sessions this week at which selected people behind design-driven projects pitch their ideas to entrepreneurs and investors in an effort to achieve lift-off) we’re settling into it: it’s a World Design Capital, all right.


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