When I got home last night I was exhausted. I’ve spent 3 days in Cape Town at this years Design Indaba.

It was the first time I’ve been privileged to go, and it’ll probably be the only time I’ll get to go too… so I made the most of it. I was saying on Twitter last night, that unusually for me, I didn’t spend my time tweeting my way through the speakers. Instead, I sat and listened and absorbed as much as I could.

I found some of the speakers strange, but hey I was there to stretch my mind. Some clearly needed to have a bit more of a clue about what they were going to say, and that irritated me, but other than that it was absolutely incredible.

Although I’ve had terrible FOMO in the past few years, watching the tweets from Joburg, I surprisingly didn’t have many preconceived ideas about what we were going to see. I hadn’t looked up the speakers, and I think that was a good idea.

The theme running through most of the talks was one of re-use. Using local talent, artisans and materials to build things to help communities in some way. Most of the speakers had that thread somewhere in what they spoke about.

Six highlights for me were:

  1. Margaret Calvert She was introduced as someone who is nearly 80! Amazing amazing woman who is responsible for designing the road signs and fonts you see on road signs! And the Calvert font… well that’s hers too. How incredible! And she’s still redesigning signs… she works on paper and draws it all, so beautifully and so precisely, and passes her designs onto her partner who digitises them.
  2. Christian Beniman the first architect in Rwanda. This man has designed the most amazing buildings in Rwanda, Malawi and Haiti to name a few, and I think what stuck with me is the way that he uses local materials and teaches local artisans new crafts which allow them to start new businesses. This hospital’s facade is volcanic rock which the locals were taught how to use…
  3. Elena Arzak is a chef in San Sebastian at her family’s restaurant, Arzak. She works with her father. Arzak has got 3 Michelin stars and has been ra. I just love how they’re reinventing old style traditional Basque food into such beautiful art. It’s definitely a place I’m adding to my bucket list
  4. Thomas Chapman is a local architect who’s latest project has been been completed. It’s the Trevor Huddlestone museum in Sophiatown. I could write about this for hours, because I was so impressed with what they’ve done, but I think I’m going to go and see it for myself.
    The highlight of his talk was when Hugh Masekela arrived on stage, because Trevor Huddlestone gave him his first trumpet. Wow what a treat to hear his life story first hand and to listen to his beautiful music.
  5. Chanel and Stevo from How Far from Home. This one made me want to travel, and dream about just following dreams. I’ve been following their Instagram accounts for months so their story wasn’t new to me, but it was amazing to listen to their story about their travels. I would LOVE to go mushing with huskies like they’ve done!
  6. Cecilia Martin from Lava Lab in Amsterdam. Oh man, I’d love to work with them! I loved how they approached innovation, and found the way they interpreted millennials very interesting. It really made me long for working in UX again… I did enjoy doing that.

That was harder to shorten the list, than I thought it would be! I could really add more.

Other than being in absolute awe of the cleverness of people, and in love with their creations, my main takeout was that you’re never too young or old to make a difference or to learn new things.

Maybe because it’s something I’m struggling with right now, but the speakers that had the biggest impact on me were the older speakers. The ones who haven’t ended up where they initially envisaged they’d be. The ones who adapted and moved and changed so much, and are so much richer as a result.

I’m not saying that the students we saw weren’t incredible, in fact, they made me excited for my boys possibilities and the technologies they’ll be studying and working with, as they grow up. And I want to work with them! I want to learn from those students I saw this week.

You can morph and change and grow, no matter what age you are. There’s no need to be so stressed about the ebbs and flows of a career because it’s going to happen no matter what, and it’s how you adapt and take hold of that change that makes you special.