Design can either bring people together or separate them….
“Education, housing and our identity as a nation: those are the biggest issues that we face as South Africans, and design can be used to remedy them,” asserts Zahira Asmal, founder of Designing South Africa (D_ZA), an organisation that facilitates discussion between communities, government, designers and architects to solve challenges faced by disadvantaged South Africans. The disparities between the rich and poor are always astounding, but SA’s inequality ranks among the worst in the world, with the richest 10% of the population taking home 54% of our national earnings (Development Indicators 2009). So we have to ask: after 20 years of democracy, is design a tool that can help solve some of our problems as a nation? And what is design anyway?
According to Oxford Dictionary, design is a plan or drawing that shows the look and function of a building, garment or object before it is made. This definition seems limiting. The consensus from most designers is that design is a process and way of thinking that helps people find solutions. Whether talking about high-end fashion, interior design, the way a food garden is built, or how music is made – design essentially involves finding solutions.
Of the issues that plague our nations what solutions can we use to tackle and resolve these problems?
We are privileged to have initiatives such as the Design Indaba, World Design Capital 2014 and even Open Design Cape Town, however these should be a platform to discuss and find solutions for issues that really matter, not a platform for the elite to pat themselves on the back for another interestingly constructed leather couch.