Ogilvy at #designindaba 2014 – Day 1 Recap

In The Beginning There Was Blinding Light

By Michelle Mckenna


The 1st day of Design Indaba always leaves you feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck. It’s the Dazzling 18-Wheeler Inspiration Truck mind, the kind that leaves you a little dazed with thoughts like “OMG, what have I done with my life?” Alternating with “OMG, how can I do that, any of that, with my life?”

So let me get into a little of what the ‘that’ of the day was.

Opening speaker of the Design Indaba in Cape Town this year was, quite fittingly, Ogilvy & Mather South Africa’s Chief Creative Officer, Chris Gotz.

It’s always a pleasure listening to Chris, who today described with his easy wit how he had his Grade 2 dream of becoming a cowboy “brutally scooped out to make space for the 9 x table”. But although I’ve no doubt Chris would’ve made a fabulous cowboy, it’s probably best that that horse galloped off into the sunset, because he’s become, as host Michael Beirut quite rightly put it, the ‘winningest’ ECD in the country, and to illustrate this fact, his talk featured some of O&M SA’s most iconic work for VW (“Street Quest” and “Goodbye Citi”) and SAB Carling Black Label (“Be the Coach”).

On the topic of winning.

I’d like to give out a few awards.

MY WTF AWARD for the day goes to one of the ‘Pecha Kucha’ students/graduates: a batch of supremely talented but in this particular instance, fairly cooked, young creative minds from across the world, talking about their various works of young genius. Agatha Haines led the audience through a theoretical but alarmingly graphic representation of what it might look like if we modified babies to become an ultra efficient future work-force. If we cut off a toe, for instance, that would encourage a hookworm infestation which produces some chemicals that could help the asthma-sufferer baby and keep them at work in future (I think – I was too horrified to listen properly). Or we could grow gill flaps on the sides of a baby’s head to keep them cool as global warming takes its toll, increasing productivity. And further, we discovered how society is truly wasting its time genetically modifying crops when really they should be focusing their energies on crossing jelly-fish with kittens to produce extremely energy efficient kiddy nightlights. Trundling along in a fairly distant second place comes Joy McKinney, an NY photographer, who overcomes her own identity issues by walking up to people and randomly touching their faces and photographing their mostly WTF responses.

BALLS-OF-STEEL AWARD goes to Dave Hakkens, Design Academy Eindhoven Graduate, who developed the idea for the “Phone Blok”, a phone with replaceable and modifiable components to mix and match to suit your needs, instead of tossing it out onto the global e-Waste pile when it becomes outdated. This guy cleverly net crowd-sourced support for the idea using Thunder Clap, gaining 900 000 supporters and capturing Motorola’s attention, who are eager to produce it. Motorola is owned by Google, and they offered him a job. To which he flicked the bird. Truth.

THE STANDING OVATION AWARD goes to Thomas Heatherwick, who revealed that, since his last visit to Design Indaba nine years ago, he’s been working on a breathtaking plan to transform the old Cape Town Grain Silos into the first Museum of African Contemporary Art. Truly freaking spectacular. They’re still crowd-sourcing funds for this project but boy, when this comes to pass, Cape Town-Design-Capital-of-the-World, you will see how your design gods smile upon you.


There is a device called “The Mosquito”, designed to deter kids from loitering in malls by emiting a high frequency sound inaudible to people over age 25. But once kids figured out that adults couldn’t hear it, one of them recorded it and sold it to his friends as a ringtone that their teachers couldn’t hear. One friend even remixed it into an Eminem version. His point: we are all designers.

So, designer, go check out and contribute to his very worthy Open Ideo project: crowdsourcing to solve social problems at openideo.com.

A toss up for PERSONAL FAVE SPEAKER OF THE DAY AWARD is between Heatherwick and Jake Barton, a media and interaction designer. It’s hard to explain what this guy does without launching into an essay, but basically he organizes people’s digital interaction with information with such incredible thought and sensitivity it could bring you to tears. Especially in the case of his design for the work-in-progress 911 Memorial and Museum. Check out some of his work: http://localprojects.net/projects/


On building a new London River Crossing: “We thought, it shouldn’t just look like we went to the bridge shop…”

On choosing a material to use for the London Olympics Flame Cauldron: “We figured gold, silver and bronze were busy those two weeks… so we used copper.”


“Get your nose out of your phone”, to Chris Gotz. And Ije Nwokorie, Brand Guru who has actually designed a cute little gadget to make two phones hug together and block the signal so you can look your friend in the eye while you chat and actually taste the chicken salad you’re lunching on instead of Instagramming it.

“Ignore the brief. As long as you’re doing what should be done”. Awarded to Thomas Heatherwick and his 1000 moving part London Olympic Flame extravaganza (on a no-moving-parts brief), and… Chris Gotz.

“Stop talking about what will work and what won’t and how you should make it, when you eventually make it. Just bloody make it. Make a prototype. Get your Client (and yourself) excited about it.” (Paraphrased) from Jake Barton.


Juliana Rotich for “Ushahidi”, a non-profit tech company that develops open source software and builds tools that allows on the spot, geographic crowdsourcing of news in times of crisis in Kenya and across Africa.

Experimental Jetset: Thank heavens that there are still graphic designers who are so passionate about pure modernism-inspired graphic design (and who still ardently hate Helvetica).


Awards appropriately um, awarded. Let me go get some shut-eye so I can stare down the Day Two Inspiration Truck with more wide-eyed wonder and live to preach the gospel again after.

About Michelle Mckenna
Senior Copywriter and Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg