Art, design and creativity transformed to attain ‘Afrikan sweet spot’
The STEAM age is slowly, but surely, taking shape and form in many parts of the world
THE OLD is giving way to the new. Our world is being disrupted by developments ranging from globalisation to new technologies and climate change.
We are being challenged to be more innovative than ever in order to survive and thrive. But what type of innovation should we be seeking as we approach what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Until recently, innovation has been associated with science, technology, engineering and maths, the so-called STEM disciplines.
Professionals in these disciplines have been trained to think analytically and the innovations they have brought to our world have been based mainly on improvements to their technologies.
They have tended to work within the box, but in a fast-changing world the need to think outside of the box by developing multifaceted skills is becoming imperative.
STEM is now becoming STEAM, with the “A” in the new acronym represented by art and design. These are the critical creative elements that we need to embed in our thinking in order to meet our new challenges.
Art and aesign and the creativity they bring to us are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.
The STEAM age is slowly, but surely, taking shape and form in many parts of the world, with the Open Design Festival staging Africa’s first STEAM Symposium in Cape Town today as part of its aim to explore how creative and innovative solutions and sustainable design can benefit society and our economy.
Aurecon consulting engineers has already embedded STEAM into our strategy to make our company future-ready.
We have developed Afrikan Design Innovation (ADI) to lead our response to the challenges facing the continent. Interestingly, all languages on the Afrikan continent refer to Afrika with a “k”, so it’s us as Afrikans taking ownership of our future and adopting an inward looking-out perspective of the continent.
As an example of ADI at work, we recently collaborated with photographer Yasser Booley to undertake a journey from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam using only public transport. The Afrikanist in Motion project has captured the unique transport challenges that confront the majority of people in our continent.
It provides a glimpse into the dayto-day lives of public transport commuters, offering valuable insights to help inform better infrastructure design and transport planning and provide relevant solutions tailored to the Afrikan context.
The objective of an initiative such as this is to transform our projects from being technology-driven to becoming people- and community-driven. This is far removed from the traditional public participation process in which a project is first designed and then presented to communities.
Our priority now is to engage with our clients and the end-users of their projects before we begin the design process.
Creativity is a fundamental building block of innovation. When you fuse the creative and technical worlds, the pay-off is a sweet spot where innovation can flourish. Our engineers will increasingly engage with creative people to find that sweet spot.
Jamie is Director for Innovation and Transformation at Aurecon, the largest engineering consulting and advisory business in Africa.