Cape Town’s sustainability challenges

Posted by on Jun 25, 2012 in Design Capital 2014 | No Comments

I had an inspiring discussion with professor Mugendi M’Rithaa, industrial designer, lecturer at CPUT, and a member of the World Design Capital 2014 committee.

He spoke about South Africa as being in the “majority world” context, which is where 90% of the world subsists, and Cape Town is by no means separate from that. He says “Also has what I call pre-industrial society dynamics, people who are yet to join this info superhighway, they are yet to own products, they don’t even have the luxury of choice yet, whereas we have moved to the point where we have moved beyond the basic need now to basically exploring our preferences and our subtle nuances. So the industrial designer similarly has moved in some of these instances from what one would have called pre-industrial design situations to industrial design situations and to post industrial design thinking.”

“So if I was to use that as a parallel, the post industrial designer then is thinking about user experiences, usability, service design, interaction design which are more to do with putting the user as the centre of your thinking, and to find a way to make sure that the user is happy. In the pre industrial design and industrial design phases, we are really focusing more on the product and not so much on the person and the process, so maybe the challenge is in terms of sustainability is to find ways in which designers in our context can help entire communities leapfrog into this new happier post industrial setting by taking advantage of the best systems that are available technologically, and one of the examples that is often given is the one of the MPESA which is a mobile money art form? in eastern africa where people are moving from a state of not having formal banking, skipping through the institutional buildings and going straight into the technological age of doing it electronically and wirelessly.”

“So maybe in terms of sustainability I think our debate should also move in a similar fashion to ask, since if we take the route of building systems and services over many years its going to take a very long time, and its obviously going to challenge the resources we have, how can we as industrial designers, designers, secure that future by helping entire communities and societies leapfrog into a more sustainable way of being and doing.”