Our Man in the Design Seat

Having a nice relaxing break from it all, our friend and regular guest Andrea was with visiting this past weekend to have a small break from the preparations that go into  Cape Town World Design Capital 2014. Andrea is one of the curators of the project and we hope that one day he can bring some of that know-how to Swellendam for a small project or two…

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Andrea, moved to Cape Town 9 years ago from Turin in Italy, he is a graphic designer and art director and has worked in social co-operatives and development agencies for more than 15 years.  He has extensive experience in developing communication projects and has produced documentaries, magazines and multimedia exhibitions. He has also worked as a project manager for the DOTSA IT Co-operative and as a volunteer for NGO working with refugees. Now is work as a CEO for the Communication agency Slowdesign.

Here are some comments by Andrea in a recent House and Leisure article:

We’re profiling six of the 38 World Design Capital 2014 curators, as well as the curator convener. Up until now, the curators have been sifting through the first wave of submissions and they’re hoping to see more creative entries between 1 July and 31 July 2013. To submit your design initiative, visit

What, for you, are the most significant and/or exciting implications for Cape Town as a World Design Capital?

I have been following the selection of Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014 with great interest. I believe that the WDC2014 program represents an awesome opportunity for the city to reinforce its international exposure, to showcase at an international level what Cape Town can produce in terms of design, to unroll projects aimed at fostering social inclusion and to re-design its future in deep and innovative ways. My personal keyword for this event is sustainability. In particular, I am interested in social and environmental sustainability.

What is your interpretation of the theme, ‘Live Design. Transform Life’, and how would you like to see it unfold in the months ahead?

This theme offers great opportunities to develop activities and tools aimed at activating participative and inclusive paths, in particular promoting the involvement of communities in the exploration of problems, issues, potentialities and solutions. Good design for me does not mean envisaging great solutions, but ideating effective tools and methodologies to activate participation. The solutions to problems need to be found collectively through a process of vision sharing that has to involve institutional players, as well as local communities. We now have an awesome context to make it happen.

The events linked to WDC2014 may offer us the chance to deepen our understanding of design tools and methodologies on the subject of environmental sustainability (for example, green buildings and recycling). All over the world there is great attention on this theme, and now we have the opportunity to produce something really interesting. I believe that this aspect should be linked to innovative ways of looking at social sustainability. Imagine if, alongside easy-to-use tools to measure our carbon footprint, we had the means to immediately measure and make visible the Gini coefficient (a tool highlighting economic inequalities): we could then monitor how Cape Town changes and how fast (or how slowly) it becomes more sustainable and more inclusive.

What are your thoughts on the general quality of submissions thus far?

We have been flooded with proposals – about 600 – and the overall quality is good. I have however noticed that there is a great deal of fragmentation amongst projects. There are many good proposals that only see one player and very few projects make an attempt at keeping different players together. I personally believe that the future calls for proposals that incentivise co-operation between different subjects and at different levels.

As a curator, which of the four sub themes resonates most with you personally?

‘Bridging The Divide’ – design that reconnects our city and reconciles our communities. This is the theme I am really passionate about. I strongly believe in the power that co-designing and participatory designing have to transform society. A few years ago, I was working in Turin, Italy for a public-private partnership that was created to assist with the rolling out of an urban regeneration project. While the core of the project focused on building renovations, many resources were also spent in improving citizens’ direct participation, promoting the creation of grassroots organisations in the area affected by the project, guaranteeing long-lasting benefits for the community, benefits that stretched beyond practical renovations. I witnessed the process and its results, and I am deeply convinced that we should explore ways to reconnect communities and increase participation on matters that touch the lives of us all.

Are there any particular (or types of) projects or events that you would especially like to see come to fruition in 2014?

I am particularly keen to see actions tackling the issues of economic sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Integration and change cannot ignore economic factors.

What do you hope will be the lasting impact on the city and/or the country post 2014?

My vision is for institution to recognise the potentiality of design as a tool to promote participation to democracy. I hope that this opportunity will help public institutions such as the City, the Province and the National government to recognise the value that design has in contributing towards development on a local and national level. On a local level, I hope that this experience may lead to the draft of an official document, a policy in which the City of Cape Town defines spheres, ways and resources that communities have to impact on decision-making. I believe that participation does not mean simply casting a vote and delegating someone else to make decisions; no-one knows the problems of a community better than the community itself, and I believe it’s crucial to recognise it and involve them directly in the decisions that impact them. I am not talking about simple consultations; our communities deserve tools that empower them in discussing and facing the city’s issues. Design can do it.

Relocating from Italy nine years ago, Andrea likes to ‘make things happen’. He has extensive experience working for social co-operatives and development agencies. He is adept at communicating these ideas in different formats, ranging from documentaries, magazines and multimedia, putting to use his knowledge as project manager, graphic designer and art director. Andrea, who has done voluntary work with refugees, now heads up the communication agency Slowdesign.