Cape Town - With just hours to go before the Mother City takes on the responsibility of being the World Design Capital (WDC) for 2014, the City of Cape Town is preparing to showcase design – in the broadest sense – as a tool for bridging divides and changing lives.
The mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, Grant Pascoe, says the year ahead holds many exciting challenges. He believes 2014 will be the year that sparks Cape Town’s transformation into an innovation and design hub.
“The City of Cape Town has used the WDC 2014 opportunity to take a critical look at how well we employ design and design thinking in our everyday operations.
“What has emerged is that design thinking has been and is used very effectively in many projects and processes.
“During 2014, the administration will be showcasing about 70 projects that will demonstrate effective design thinking. But what we have discovered is that there are many more ways in which design thinking can be used to improve service delivery.”
But what does WDC 2014 mean for the ordinary person on the street?
A city that works better for all communities, says Pascoe.
By building design thinking into the way it functioned, the city would be able to adopt improved methods of tackling complex challenges.
Pascoe predicts 2014 will be a seismic year for anyone working in the design field as Cape Town is transformed into the world’s design epicentre.
“WDC 2014 affords local design practitioners the opportunity to showcase themselves to one another and to the world,” he says.
After a long public process, the World Design Capital implementing agency, Cape Town Design NPC, has identified about 460 projects that will make up the official WDC 2014 programme.
While most people tend to think about fashion or architecture when they hear the word “design”, Pascoe, pictured, says that there is a lot more to it.
“Design is not only about how something looks or works, it is about the thinking process, or design thinking, that enabled us to get to the end result.”
The city sees design thinking as having three main elements.
“It puts the end user right at the centre of all our thinking. It is highly collaborative, which means we consult broadly – users, experts, other interested parties – to inform our thinking. It follows a specific creative process that reflects the first two points and a process of developing and testing prototypes and improving them.”
By being identified as a World Design Capital, Cape Town is not only underscoring its attractiveness as a top destination for tourism and business, it is defining itself as a centre for design and innovation.
“The city is home to most of the design schools in the country and the country’s creative industry.
“We are also thought leaders when it comes to the application of design thinking in the way in which the city is managed.
“With the spotlight on Cape Town as the WDC 2014, the regional and international community will look to the city for new and innovative design ideas.”
Looking at other cities that had been World Design Capitals – Turin, Seoul and Helsinki – holding the title was likely to boost visitor numbers and business opportunities for the city and the region.
Pascoe said WDC 2014 would also pave the way for long-term changes.
“This is the fourth time the title of World Design Capital has been awarded, but it is the first time that the city managers have had the vision to establish an inward-looking team of designers and design thinkers, to leverage all the design activity the year will bring.
“The city’s internal WDC team is specifically tasked with exactly this: to make sure that what the City of Cape Town learns during 2014 is integrated to become business-as-usual, beyond 2014. We see 2014 as the beginning of a journey.”
The biggest challenge would be to make sure Cape Town did all it could to take advantage of the opportunities heading its way.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn, and to grow, as an administration and as a community. Design is not superficial. It is intrinsic to innovation, to growth, and to our competitiveness as a city.
“The biggest challenge will be to make sure that we take full advantage of this, and that we – individually and collectively – don’t look back and consider that we didn’t use the opportunity well enough.
“There’s a call to action for all Capetonians, to get involved, share their design ideas and make things happen.”