According to some, the World Design Capital opportunity won’t help Cape Town’s creative economy much at all. Others argue that the award – along with its attendant spinoffs – is the silver bullet we’ve been waiting for. The truth, as usual, likes the middle road
Cape Town is a creative city. Curiosity, inventiveness, and delight in the discovery are deep in the city’s psyche. The flood of submissions that swamped the World Design Capital (WDC) implementation team last year was just the tip of the iceberg: every day, on every street corner, often by necessity, we see inventiveness. It’s to be hoped that WDC puts the local creative economy on a road towards solidity. Here are three thoughts from that highway. 1. A quick and dirty poll conducted on Cape Town streets a year ago firmly located design in a claustrophobic space of graphic art, furniture, fashion, expensive stuff for your home and something advertising types do. The repurposing of the word, “design” in the 80’s or 90’s created worlds ruled by gods of design, open to a few elite and those who could afford the benefits of its conspicuous consumption. That seems to have stuck.
The first benefit of WDC2014 for Cape Town, therefore, is that original, broader meaning of design will be reclaimed. 2. A study on South Africa’s creative industries, very recently completed by the Visual Art Network of South Africa supported by the EU, makes a pertinent point: that weak industry organisations are retarding growth within the creative industry sector. Government is keen to invest but cannot create the necessary traction due to weak membership-based industry support structures, associations and networks.
WDC appears to be exerting a gravitational pull on the creative industries, opening new conversations and partnerships, and developing a sense of association across these creative disciplines which in turn may create the industry body needed for future, accelerated growth.
WDC acts as the fixed point by which design-related projects that may not have been supported in the past are now levered into reality. Good examples include Open Design and the African Creative Economy Conference 2013. These projects and the many others that have benefitted from the good will and design appetite arising out of WDC have gained the kick-start needed to be potential game-changers in the broader design community. Three thoughts, when realised, makes the WDC2014 effort well worth it.