Open sesame

WORDS Debbie Loots

Have you been down to City Hall lately? It’s getting spruced up for Open Design Cape Town, a festival from 21 to 31 August that hopes to ignite the enthusiasm for the World Design Capital 2014. We asked the brains and passion behind the festival, Y Tsai from Tsai Design Studio, a couple of questions about the event. He is an architect and product designer, and a committee member of the Cape Town Design Network.

What is Open Design Cape Town?

It is a citywide cross-disciplinary celebration and sharing of design and design-thinking. Cape Town will play host to this festival, an 11-day annual event where design practitioners, managers, media, students, educators and members of the public are encouraged to be open and collaborate to share their design with each other, highlighting the significance of design today.

Who are the people involved?

Open Design Cape Town is initiated by the Cape Town Design Network, sponsored and supported by the City of Cape Town, and in partnership with the Western Cape Furniture Initiative (WCFI) and Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI).

What inspired you to initiate Open Design Cape Town?

The team from Cape Town Design Network has been discussing the idea of a design festival for several years. Cape Town’s World Design Capital 2014 status was the catalyst that propelled the idea of Open Design forward as an inclusive platform that aims to galvanise Cape Town’s design community to talk about the value of design. 

What is the future of Open Design Cape Town?

Open Design Cape Town is set to become an annual design festival that raises design awareness and encourages cross-disciplinary collaborations between designers. 

How does it relate to World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014)?

We are working with the WDC2014 team to create a platform in the City Hall, among other exciting events, to showcase some of the shortlisted WDC14 projects. For next year, we are already building partners to bring a bigger design festival that hopefully will include the other cities of South Africa.

The power of design lies in its ability to turn a negative problem into a positive situation. Open Design is an independent project that looks to create a long-term legacy for Cape Town around this positive potential of design.

How can readers, designers and kids respectively, get involved?

One of the cornerstones of the festival is that it is open to all and, therefore, most of it is free. The Open Design team has been working hard to create a comprehensive programme of events, talks, exhibitions and workshops that speak to different types of audiences.

  • For the man off the street, the Design Is For All exhibition talks about the everyday use of design in health, education, mobility, sustainability and communication.
  • The school learners and parents can drop by the One-Stop-Design-Shop Expo, where various design schools will showcase the best they can offer.
  • Design students can attend Talk100, where they have an opportunity to hear professionals expand on their career insights and industry experiences.
  • The professional designers, for example, are invited to join Design Storming, a two day co-design workshop in Khayelitsha, or the Designing Our Democracy seminar, where topics such as housing and service delivery will be discussed with some of the country’s leading thinkers.

Anyone can get involved with Open Design and submit an event, but it is important to have a design component to the offering. It will up to the person submitting the event to host, invite and organise his or her own event. The important thing is to take part and in doing so, creating a truly distinctive design festival for Cape Town.

For more information about Open Design Cape Town, visit

VISI has gotten involved with Open Design as official media partner and we will be bringing you updates, live reporting and recommended events. So sign up to our daily newsletter, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us on Google+ and connect with us on Linkedin to stay in touch!

Did you see how Tsai turned the Moyo at the V&A Waterfront into an urban farm? Watch the video here.