This article was first published in the June edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends. 

Designers Use Emerging Tech to Spur Collaboration

Africa’s in the news a lot lately as an emerging market for tech, business, and culture. But design? A new exhibit at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany is putting the spotlight on contemporary African design, the heart of which is being fueled by political and social changes from Ghana to South Africa. Called “Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design,” the exhibit highlights the ways interconnectivity is influencing the makers of Africa.

The newest crop of African designers are young, tech-forward, and digitally-focused which makes them some of the more globally conscious creators in the continent’s history. With over 650 million mobile phone users across Africa (more than the in U.S. and Europe), the region’s design community is more collaborative than they’ve ever had the ability to be before. Beyond civil war and devastating famine, the African artists and designers of today are delving deep into micro-issues like the female education gap and social economic hierarchies through mediums like photography, fabric, and mixed-media. It’s a brave new world out there.

With mobile usage spreading on the continent, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, youth are now able to cross social boundaries for the first time in centuries. Over 80% of mobile users in Africa are enabled with texting, but a surprising 50% use their phones to send photo and video, too. It’s no wonder their bandwidth usage is set to double the rest of the worlds within the next decade.

Running from now through mid-September, the exhibit features over 120 of Africa’s most well-known designers including “social impact designers” like David Adjaye and Kunlé Adeyemi. Styles represented are less ‘modern art deco furniture interpretations’ and more ‘steel shipping containers-cum-shanties stacked 50-feet high.’

What should you expect? Well, aside from an eclectic, eye-opening mix of cool art and social commentary you’ll be treated to a side of political awareness at no extra cost.