Six global trends in 2014 that are changing how we design in Africa

Africa is a landscape ripe for innovation in technology, architecture and design. Jon Pittman, a global architectural thought leader and vice president of corporate strategy for design software company Autodesk lists the six key global trends that will shift African design in the immediate future.

1. Democratisation of tools to design and make. The software and tools required to design have become more affordable and more accessible. This affords everybody with the opportunity to design and innovate. Innovations in financing software allow access to capital and fewer resources needed to start up. With more people able to design, more fresh ideas will be generated in order to solve global design challenges.

2. Cloud computing. The almost infinite computational resources available through the cloud allow us to let the computer generate solutions rather than having to explicitly specify them. This also creates conditions for global teams to collaborate and for teams with diverse skills sets and tasks to manage complexity.

3. Digital manufacturing. 3D printers, Numerical Control (NC) machines, robots are all controlled digitally. This allows us to take digital designs and easily bring them to fruition. In tandem with this, manufacturing techniques are becoming increasingly democratised while simultaneously becoming both more powerful and cheaper.

4. New materials. We have a range of new materials, created through 3D printing and synthetic biology that allow for new ways of making things.

5. Sustainable design as necessity, not privilege. Sustainable design is increasingly being recognised as something that changes and improves the world. It doesn’t need to be expensive, it only needs to be effective, with cost as just one of many variables. If one views sustainability within the context of a project’s lifecycle, it is able to reduce the cost of a project in the long run.

6. A shift in business size. Globally, there is a trend toward aggregation to large enterprises and disaggregation to small artisans. Both have the ability to contribute positively to an innovative design environment. Large organisations will produce scale and consistency but, in doing so, may dampen innovation. Alternatively, artisans and entrepreneurs can produce quality and innovation but have difficulty scaling. The magic comes from joining them symbiotically.

Jon Pittman, Autodesk vice president of Corporate Strategy, is one of the prominent industry personalities descending on Johannesburg for the annual Autodesk University Extension event being held on 4 September 2014 at the Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg. 


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