World Design Capital Cape Town 2014

Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city, is also the first African city to be designated World Design Capital®. When it bid for the WDC designation, it recognized that it faced many challenges that could benefit from design as a problem-solving tool. Through its theme Live Design – Transform Lives, WDC Cape Town 2014 sought to establish a legacy that would enable the city to make better, smarter decisions to ultimately improve the every day lives of its citizens.




WDC Cape Town 2014 democratized design, showcasing the value of design thinking and participatory design processes at the neighbourhood level. Although its reign has come to an end, the lasting legacy of WDC will be felt through the ongoing passion of the thousands of people touched by and involved in the year’s many design-driven initiatives, including the Ward Project co-creation workshops, Cape Town’s new open data portal, the Watershed waterfront development project and the Make a Plan Design Policy Conference. The infographs below highlight some of the outcomes of WDC Cape Town 2014 .

Visit the WDC Cape Town 2014 legacy website for more information.


Signature Events

Signing Ceremony

Cape Town was officially designated World Design Capital 2014, in June 2012, with the signing of the Host City Agreement by Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille, and Icsid President Soon-in Lee at the Freeworld Design Centre. This is the first time an African city has earned the title.

“What is design but the application of our humanity, and the search for excellence, elegance and solutions to the problems that we face?”

New Year’s Eve of Design

Cape Town celebrated the arrival of 1 January with a New Year’s Eve of Design party, welcoming 2014 and with it, the city’s official status as World Design Capital. Nearly 100,000 people gathered in the Grande Parade to view a spectacular light show and 3D mapping on the façade of City Hall celebrating this designation.

Design Gala

The Design Gala was held at the world-class setting of the Guild Fair, where the winner of the World Design Impact Prize 2013-2014, A Behaviour Changing Syringe, was awarded before an audience comprising international and local dignitaries. Icsid President Dr. Brandon Gien presented the award to Dr. David Swann, of the University of Huddersfield (UK). The trophy was modelled after the dolosse designed by local design gallery Bronze Age, in collaboration with Porky Hefer.

The Design Gala also launched the Western Cape Design Awards, set to become an annual feature on the local events calendar and part of the legacy for WDC 2014.

International Design House Exhibition

The ‘Transforming Cities’ Exhibition showcased cities such as Bavaria, Paris, Dublin, Taipei, Accra, Qingdao, Seoul and Gwanju showing how design has had a positive impact on their citizens and will share stories through installations, films, lectures and conventional exhibits. These included examples of public/private collaborations and innovations; urban planning and renewal; sustainable solutions for housing, agriculture, energy and climate change; public sector responses to urbanisation; and community building and social cohesion within burgeoning cities.


Design Policy Conference

The ‘MAKE A PLAN’ Design Policy Conference was a first for South Africa and brought together municipal, provincial and national government in a joint effort to embed design within the public sector entities.

More than 30 local and international policy and design experts, ranging from designers, promoters, industrialists, academics, educators, policy makers and civil society members, have highlighted the importance of having a design policy at local and national government levels. They introduced ‘best practice’ examples of how design has played a vital role in the development of economies, societies and cultures worldwide in order to develop the policies necessary for unlocking the potential of the design industry to respond to social challenges. Download the Design Policy Conference Report.

Design Week Forum

In September 2013, WDC Cape Town 2014 went to London to launch the Design Week Forum initiative, which brought together representatives from design weeks around the globe, including London, Paris, San Francisco, Austria, Belgrade, Beirut, Taiwan and Ireland, to share best practices. At a reception at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Cape Town delegation connected with a broad audience, including business, media, and leaders in the international design community, to discuss how design can be a force for long-term change.

Convocation Ceremony

The Convocation Ceremony on the evening of 18 October was the final official event of Cape Town’s WDC 2014 programme. Commissioner Dr. Wei-Gong Liou of Taipei City Government and the WDC Taipei 2016 Office led a group to Cape Town to attend the ceremony. Witnessed by Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and 170 invited guests from the global design community, Dr. Brandon Gien, President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), formally presented the WDC Commemorative Plaque to Commissioner Liou.


Local Highlights


Yellowing The City

Cape Town’s trademark yellow (Pantone 109-C) was selected as the accent colour for WDC Cape Town 2014. The vibrant yellow was splashed all around the city throughout the WDC year.

Ward Projects

Thousands of people were touched by and involved in the year’s more than 460 projects, the influence of which will continue to shape Cape Town for many years to come. The Ward Projects used design as a tool for citizen engagement in 40 co-design workshops covering 80 of the 111 wards of Cape Town and addressing design for public art, park space, and a local business district. A total of 2 051 people participated in the workshops that were overwhelmingly rated as “Fantastic”.





Monocle Film | Live Design. Transform Life.

WDC Cape Town 2014 Promotional Video

WDC Cape Town 2014 Co-Design Workshops

Cape Town is named WDC 2014

WDC Cape Town 2014 #LoveCapeTown

Open Design Cape Town

SABC News: Cape Town Celebrates New Status