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Creating a design thinking capital of South Africa

With Cape Town having been awarded the title of World Design Capital 2014, can it be titled the design thinking capital of South Africa?
Creating a design thinking capital of South AfricaDesign thinking is a proven and reputable problem-solving methodology that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results. Successful organisations around the world have embraced and implemented it to help them succeed in ever-changing and complex socio-economic environments. Design thinking champions have an empathetic approach to solving problems by truly understanding the requirements of the target audience and developing human-centric solutions.

“In terms of design, there is much happening within the design community and Capetonians do a very good job at showcasing design through events, such as the Design Indaba and the hosting of the World Design Capital in 2014,” says Robert Bloom, founder and managing partner of DesignThinkers Group in South Africa. “I would venture to say that the penetration in terms of what design thinking is about is higher than anywhere else in the country."

According to Bloom, design thinking plays a role when it comes to ‘social impact'. World Design Capital Cape Town bore the slogan ‘Live Design Transform Life’. Having won the right to host World Design Capital is to bring about transformation and awareness on how design can affect the quality of human life. Many projects were run in and with communities to identify projects and solutions to social problems. Design thinking is now being used by many NGOs, government and corporates to look at how to sustainably produce positive impact.

“What sets Cape Town apart is that we are a very strong design community. Institutions such as the Cape Craft and Design Institute are very strong players within the design ecosystem, as they are responsible for implementing the Western Cape Strategic Plan to catalyse economic growth through design led innovation.”

“Cape Town, over the last couple of years, has demonstrated its leadership in design thinking applying to a variety of social, health and business challenges,” said Patrick Collings, South Africa MD of Idea Couture, a strategic innovation consultancy and global leader in the development and application of design thinking. "As far as South African cities go, Cape Town has a strong claim as design thinking capital of the country.”

However, despite our strong design culture and community, Bloom says that Johannesburg is a strong competitor by virtue of it being the economic capital. “The design industry around Gauteng is very strong and organisations such as Standard Bank are starting to embed design thinking along its innovation ecosystems."

“Therefore, if Cape Town wants to be the leader in design thinking, corporates will need to get on board and start embedding design thinking along their innovation ecosystems,” concludes Bloom.

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