Report back: 4 of the most dynamic talks at the 2019 Design Indaba

Couldn't make it to this year's creative conference in Cape Town? Here's what you missed

17 March 2019 - 00:00 By Mila Crewe-Brown


1. NEIL HARBISSON AND MOON RIBAS
This powerful talk by two of the world's most prominent cyborgs (or cybernetic organisms) delves into the new notion of "designing oneself".
The prospect of merging ourselves with technology to gain extra-sensory perception is daunting but, as Neil puts it, "we've been changing the planet for thousands of years already", so why not advance our own capabilities?
Thanks to the microchip in his brain and the permanent antenna emerging from his head, Neil, who was born seeing only in greyscale, can now hear and feel the vibration of colours through their frequencies.
To demonstrate, he says: "I can hear colour, so I can dress in a way that sounds good. I can wear a song, paint what music looks like or listen to a Picasso."
Equally fascinating is choreographer Moon's elbow chip, which allows her to sense seismic activity all over the world.
Through vibrations that are wirelessly transmitted to a seismograph, she creates dance in unison with earthquakes.
If developed, "night vision would negate the need for street lights and we wouldn't use heaters if we could regulate our own body temperature", says Neil.
Vist comcyborgarts.com
2. NM TYPE X ANDILE VELLEM
Dynamic typeface designers Noel Pretorius and María Ramos of NM Type use art and history to conceptualise their designs.
Their talk revealed the poetry in typeface design and answered the question "what does movement look like in type?".
Their first font, the award-winning Kinetic, was inspired by Alexander Calder's signature play on organic forms, translating the softness and geometry of his work into type.
For Design Indaba, they developed Movement, a collaboration with South African Andile Vellem, a deaf dancer and artistic director of Unmute Dance Company.
Movement is a variable font typeface inspired by the movement of Vellem's body when tracking letters. Their hypnotic video reveals the transformation of letters from thick and curvy to angular and direct, based on the unique way Vellem forms the letters with his body.
3. RODRIGO GARCIA GONZALES
This architect-turned-inventor and co-founder behind Skipping Rock Lab is taking on packaging. As he tells the audience, it takes 700 years for the average plastic bottle to decompose - and uses a staggering seven litres of water to manufacture.
Rodrigo is developing an edible water bottle that does away with the need for packaging.
Ooho is a membrane made from seaweed extract that acts as a vessel for water, or any liquid.
If not eaten, Ooho takes an impressive six weeks to break down. Think of the benefits to the fast-food industry, where tomato sauce and mayonnaise sachets rely on plastic.
4. ANE CRABTREE
Ane Crabtree is arguably the most powerful costume designer today, this double Emmy nominee and Costume Design Guild Award-winner for The Handmaid's Tale spoke about her journey and the role of emotion in costume design.
"I'm a Brando kind of designer . mumble, sing off-key and don't fit in." Since creating the red cloaks and white bonnets for The Handmaid's Tale, women worldwide have taken to wearing the "uniform" in the fight for women's rights.
Of the psychological power her costumes possess, she says: "The costumes I design have less to do with the external and more to do with the marrow and bones."

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