A visit to Cape Town soon shows why designers are drawn to the city. The 2014 World Design Capital is home to a number of flagship global industry events, including the annual Design Indaba conference and festival, as well as a high number of design-led organisations, events, networks and publications.
Inspiration is everywhere. Influenced by Zulu, Xhosa and other African tribes – as well as Dutch, British, German, French and Indonesian settlers – distinct neighbourhoods with diverse histories and architecture offer cultural stimulation, while breathtaking landscapes, an agreeable climate and a relatively low cost of living add to the appeal. Statistics from Numbeo.com show that the cost of living in Cape Town is 55.45 per cent lower than in New York and 46.38 per cent lower than London. Wages are lower, too, of course: according to Ad Talent’s 2016 salary survey, graphic designers with two to five years’ experience earn on average between R168,000-300,000 per year (versus R192,000-R360,000 in Johannesburg).
However, while South Africa has made significant strides since 1994 to reduce extreme poverty and crime, Cape Town ranked within the 10 most violent cities in the world in the most recent report from the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. Nevertheless, creativity is a key driver of growth. The Design Indaba Expo, for example, contributed more than R2 billion to the South African GDP over the seven years in which it ran.
Pure Creative founder Andrew Burke returned to South Africa in the 1990s after 10 years living and working in the UK. He watched a new energy develop after Mandela’s release in 1990: “This energy passed over into the world of design and was simply electric,” he recalls. “From typographers to product manufacturers, fashion designers and artists, creatives are no longer ashamed to be African. We have embraced our unique history, taking inspiration from the geographic colours, landscape textures and the many tribes of Africa to develop an entirely new style that can stand proudly on the international design stage. It’s an exciting design hub,” he says.