I was only able to make some of the afternoon sessions of the Design Indaba conference yesterday, but even just a few talks left me brimming with inspiration.

15:30 – Stephen Burks
Firstly, I saw industrial designer Stephen Burks of readymade projects inc. While his talk wasn’t particularly well-presented, it was great to hear about his collaborative projects, linking real unknowns with massive companies like Artecnica, Cappellini, B&B Italia. The project we’re most familiar with in South Africa is his collaboration with wireworker Willard Musarurwa on the TaTu series (below) for Artecnica.

Another of Burks’ local collaborations is with Kunye African Trends, who came up with the handmade Love Seat for Cappellini, 16:15 – 5.5
The exuberant Parisian design team, 5.5 was up next. The four young industrial designers regaled us with images of their amusing projects that aim to play with the position and function of design within the lifecycle of an object. The project I’m most familiar with is their recent Sponge House for ScotchBrite.

One of their earliest projects, Réanim, really tickled me. In order to inject Design right at the end of the cycle, they set up a furniture “hospital”, where people could queue with furniture on its last legs, get a diagnosis and a prescription for cure. Here, for instance, what’s clearly needed for this chair is a crutch.

Et voila! Take two tablets and call me in the morning. Check out the 5.5 website to see more of their fun projects.

17:00 – Bruce Mau
Bruce Mau’s talk was practically a call to arms, taking the view that the momentous events of the last year, including Obama’s election and the global economic crisis, are all events to view with energy and optimism, as they’re reasons to wake up and engage with the world and ourselves.

Mau’s Massive Change and Institute without Boundaries projects look at the possibilites of Design to be a force that can change the way we operate on this planet. I came away from the talk infected with Mau’s optimism and willingness to DO something. Below this post you’ll see the YouTube video for Mau’s 2010 Denver Biennale that’s currently in planning. “In Good We Trust” is something I can get excited about.

So, a common theme amongst all the speakers I saw yesterday was the need for sustainability, cooperation and an insertion of human relationships into the world of design and production. Let’s see what comes up in today’s talks. See you at the Design Indaba!