Design is the unifying thread that links innovation, education and community as the building blocks of a sustainable, inclusive, prosperous society. The Open Design Afrika Festival brings these concepts together in a 10-day of inspiration, discussion and discovery.

The programme comprises two components:
Five days of Open Design Afrika at the festival hub in Cape Town
Five days of the Open Design city-wide programme, taking place at venues across the city and in various communities.

OPEN DESIGN FESTIVAL: Contributing to the revolution of change-makers and putting Afrikan talent and design innovation on a world stage


Since its inception in 2013, the Open Design Festival embraces a systemic approach to facilitate and bring about change across Afrika* through design. Open Design views design as a unifying thread, one that links its core pillars – education, innovation and communities – in creative and constructive ways. Moreover, design provides big picture thinking to encourage social innovation from the bottom up, thereby building more resilient and socially-just communities.

With regard to its education-focus, Open Design serves as an innovative vehicle for learning. It does so by providing citizens with a platform that extends beyond the classroom. This platform is committed to developing core life-skills for citizens that align with 21st century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills for example. It aims to make education accessible to people from all walks of life and across all ages, for them to become problem-solvers and change-makers in their own right. This holistic vision that Open Design makes visible through its initiatives aims to empower citizens to participate more meaningfully, thereby adding value to the economy, the environment and society at large.

While Open Design is based in Cape Town, its national and international links situate it within a broader network of organisations wanting to affect change in an increasingly complex world. The festival aims to challenge negative perceptions about Afrika and bring the continent into conversation with the rest of the world. Hence, by acting locally yet thinking globally, Open Design has been driving a number of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to date. In light of its aims, Open Design does not single out a particular SDG; instead it strives to see them collectively to highlight how they are inextricably linked. This approach ultimately speaks to the Afrikan, humanist philosophy of Ubuntu, which asserts that ‘a person is a person through other persons’. This communal and participatory outlook underpins all Open Design’s efforts as a vehicle for change.

The Next Level - More about Open Design

Open Design was the first collaborative public design festival in South Africa and has become one of the most dynamic and diverse design-focused festivals on Cape Town’s cultural calendar. The festival is best described as 10 days of learning, active participation, significant experiences and the celebration of self, others, the city and the Afrikan continent. Hence, the festival provides an interactive platform that attracts participants from across diverse demographics and communities. In addition and as the Open Design host city, Cape Town is in a unique position to take design-innovation forward owing to its numerous design-related designations i.e. World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014) and UNESCO Design City (a first in Afrika) as well as hosting of many other international events. To date, we’ve tried to ensure open access, and in this way we can take design and innovation directly to the people. Hence, we want to take Open Design to the next level by debunking perceptions and myths about design and Afrika and exploring new narratives for change within this context. This process is already underway; we’ve registered Open Design as a non-profit organisation and we are currently working towards the relaunch of Open Design in 2019.

Our vision and mission

With the aim of adding value to socio-economic development, we’re building a vehicle to drive citizens to confidently tackle future challenges and add value to their lives through design-lead innovation. OD is also committed to implementing The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in more directed ways within the Afrikan context. 

Our core values

As mentioned previously, our core values are underpinned by the inclusive and empathic humanist philosophy of Ubuntu,which favours empathy, justice, tolerance, integrity, inclusivity and equality through a community-driven focus that calls for collaboration, connection and reciprocal relationships. These values aim to instill pride in Afrika and in being proudly Afrikan, and to create optimism for a better future by way of providing meaningful significant experiences for all parties involved.

Our focus and value proposition

To make our vision visible, we focus on six target areas and their current challenges in light of the weak South African economy: workplace, business, human capital, culture, society and education; these target areas are listed in no particular order, since we believe all these areas are inextricably linked. As such, our core value-adding channels through which our efforts are directed include innovation, education and community. We believe that to be successful, all Open Design initiatives (both formal and informal) need to be situated at the intersection of these three variables where we partner and focus on collaborative efforts in order to realise our vision for the common good. The value of our partnerships and collaborations will be seen on a social and commercial level and ultimately in affecting widespread change for the common good through and by design innovation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Open Design Festival is a 12-day city-wide festival. It is one of the most dynamic and diverse design-focused festivals on the Cape Town calendar. The festival is an interactive platform that attracts participants from across diverse demographics and communities. Most of the Open Design events are free to enter, ensuring that people from all walks of life can participate, taking design innovation to the people.

The Open Design programme engages design practitioners, entrepreneurs, managers, media, educators, students and members of the public to share design, innovation, ideas and inspiration with each other. Our mission is to develop a culture of design as a foundation for future generations of entrepreneurs, change-makers and innovators who use design and innovation to gain and maintain their competitive edge and drive socio-economic change in their communities and cities.

This is a vital part of developing a culture of design and innovation that will increase social cohesion, economic development and nation building, creating inclusive, accessible and sustainable communities and cities.

Dates: 13-25 August 2017
Venues: The Open Design festival hub is at the Cape Town City Hall. Other venues will be confirmed. Please check the 2017 programme for more details.

Most events are free, and others are ticketed. You’ll find the costs and booking details on the individual event pages on this site. Contact us to find out more.

Please check the individual events for booking details.

Everyone is invited to participate, either by attending one or more of the events on the programme, or by hosting your own event. You don’t have to be a designer. We’ve deliberately curated the programme so it has something for everyone, whether design professionals, parents and children or people who are looking for inspiration.

We want everyone to get involved in the Open Design Festival. During the 2nd week of the festival the Open Design City Activation programme highlight and showcase the unique talents, products and services of small enterprises, start-ups, communities and other business. If you want to host an event on the 2017 programme, submit the details here. Our curators will review the event to ensure it’s fully aligned with the Open Design objectives. You’ll be notified as soon as possible. Participating as an event host is a brilliant way for you:

  • to showcase your product, service or community
  • to increase your reach
  • to create a greater awareness of your business or community
  • to create demand for what you offer
  • to develop new audiences

Marketing your event: Remember Open Design is a collaborative platform. Although the Open Design PR & Media team will add a lot of value it is also your responsibility to market your own event to your own networks.

We're building another exciting programmme for the 2017 Open Design Festival programme. Please check back regularly and follow our social media announcements for updates. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you don't miss any exciting developments.

We're always seeking to make partnerships with like-minded organisations. The Open Design Festival is deliberately designed for our partners to use the festival as a platform to showcase how they have embraced human centred design as a solution to address basic human needs.

Join a global movement of international innovators, social entrepreneurs, problem solvers, change-makers and investors
Ten reasons to partner with us in 2017

  1. Align your brand with design and innovation
  2. Align your brand with a platform that is committed to help drive the African Design, Innovation and Education agendas
  3. Align your brand with a platform that’s inclusive and accessible to people from all walks of life
  4. Align your brand with a platform that’s committed to develop a culture that embraces innovation and entrepreneurship
  5. Connect with new and diverse audiences
  6. Align your brand with a platform that is showcasing life changing African innovations and change makers thats already improving people’s lives.
  7. Prototype and experiment with new initiatives in an engaging, dynamic environment
  8. Be part of an exciting platform that celebrates the values and impact of design and innovation
  9. Play a vital role by supporting the festival’s efforts in education and help us increase human capital and socio-economic development for South Africa and Africa.
  10. Join a global movement of international innovators, social entrepreneurs, problem solvers, change-makers and investors

We'll be publishing more details about the 2017 Open Design Festival soon. Bookmark this site and check back regularly for more details.

Follow us on Twitter (@opdendesignct) and on Facebook (Facebook.com/opendesignct)

For programme and sponsorship enquiries: Suné Stassen, sune@opendesignct.com
For media enquiries: Lisa Pellatt, lisa@marvelloandmill.co.za