Design firebrand Ravi Naidoo has lit a spark with the Design Indaba’s Your Street Challenge, which we predict will spread like wildfire. The competition was announced at Monday night’s Pecha Kucha-styled event hosted by the Cape Town Design Network, where Ravi’s commitment of R150,000 for the winner was matched by architect Luyanda Mpahlwa, who leapt out of the audience to add R50,000 to the pot, and industrial design firm …XYZ Design, who added another R50,000’s worth of their services to the winner. And less than 48 hours after launching, the first entry came in.

The competition’s brief is simple: design something that enhances street life in Cape Town. ‘Your street is your target market, your theatre for doing amazing things and the community is your customer,’ says Ravi. Kelly Berman chatted to him to find out more…

So break down the prize money for us. With all the excitement on Monday night it got a bit confusing… Design Indaba is offering R100,000 as the ‘uber’ prize, which will combine a  design solution with a business solution. Ideally, the winner brokers relationships with collaborators and business partners so the idea can be rolled out in more than one place. We want to incentivise designers to do that. Then there are three 2nd prizes of  R50,000: one each from Design Indaba, MMA Architects and … XYZ Design.


How did the Your Street design competition come about? We wanted to do something exemplary. Frankly, you don’t have to look too far. We’re asking designers ‘What would you do to enhance your community at street level?’ We all have a responsibility not just to present a frothy glam version of design. The world is going through pressing times. A lot of us are so underwhelmed by our politicians. How can we use our savvy and skill sets, some cash and access to production processes to make a difference to quality of life on the street? It’s about taking charge, not waiting for your municipality to take charge. Design Indaba has always believed in design as a force for good and a lever for social impact. For example, we created the 10 x 10 Low-cost Housing Project a couple of years ago.

What does this mean for designers and their place in the market? It’s important that business starts to acknowledge that ideas from the creative community can be put to better use right now. And also that creatives begin to realise that they can escape the tyranny of the brief and create their own opportunities. The creative industry is somewhat becalmed right now. You can’t really wait for the phone to ring, wait for your next commission anymore. We’re telling people ‘Go out there and be a creative entrepreneur. Create things for yourself.’

And for business? We have the B-B (business-to-business) relationship and the B-C (business-to-consumer) relationship. We’re saying let’s invoke another B-C: business to community. How can we take on communities as a whole new client base that hitherto we couldn’t get access to?

Tell us about the judging process? Entries close the end of August. The Design Indaba staff will judge the entries – we’re keeping it that way because we want it to be non-partisan. We also don’t want to preclude any of the other funders or their staff from entering. We’re going to be very decisive because we want people to put their designs into action immediately. This is not something we have to overly cogitate upon. We’re expecting the winner to be fleet-footed and nimble.

What makes you most excited about this competition? It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to make a difference to your street. We always talk about the fact that design is not given the platform it deserves. We’re giving you the opportunity to put design front and centre. And it’s also a chance to show the man on the street who may not have caught the design bug what it’s all about.

Want to enter the Your Street Challenge? Find out more and submit your entry before 7 September.