by MarkLives (@marklives) This year, Design Indaba celebrates its 25th edition. A panel of agency and media execs who’ve been regular attendees tackle: What impact has Design Indaba had on the thinking, attitude and leadership of agency and marketing creatives and executives? Has it evolved and inspired you to research new ways of doing and thinking? Has it changed how you perceive the industry? Have there been any personal highlights, and where should the event pivot next — what can it do to add meaning to the industry and to one personally? Next up in our #BigQ panel is Joe Public United‘s Leigh Tayler.

Leigh Tayler

Leigh TaylerLeigh Tayler (@LeighAnneTayler) is the strategy director at Joe Public United. During her career of more than 12 years, she’s worked in just about every imaginable category and has fostered a well-rounded and instinctual approach to strategic thinking that she applies at every level, from big brand concepts to last-mile moments of truth.

After 25 years of Design Indaba, I can only imagine how the event has grown, morphed and evolved, and I wish I could say I’ve been there from the start. Sadly, though, I’m a relative novice when it comes to this event, having only attended a couple of times (although I look forward to changing that in years to come).

Different angle

I also might be viewing this event from a somewhat different angle, as I am not a ‘creative’ in the traditional sense of the word — artist, film-maker, inventor, designer, art director, copywriter — but one in the more-liberal application of the word, for I am a creative strategist (a little oxymoronic for sure).

So, as a novice, and a ‘non-creative’, this event has blown my mind each time I have attended. The gift that Design Indaba has given me (and many others, I’m sure) may be summed up as: opened my eyes, mind and heart.

It has opened my eyes to a world of creativity that I’d never before considered or maybe even knew existed, expanding my interests beyond adland and, ultimately, broadening my mind to think beyond the traditional norms of advertising creativity. It has also opened my heart to the fact that there’s so much opportunity for creativity to solve real problems in the world, and that this isn’t a hypothesis but a truth that’s being lived by many creative individuals around the world.

It’s reminded me why I’ve been right to believe in the power of creativity, because its potential is immense and often underestimated.

As advertising professionals, I wonder if we don’t sometimes become stuck in our ways when it comes to creativity, what it looks like and its role is in the world; this is probably especially true of ‘non-creative’ advertising professionals — like strategists.

Affliction cure

Design Indaba will cure anyone of this affliction. You can’t help but leave the event feeling drunk on ideas and possibilities, optimistic that any problem (big or small) — can be solved — whether it’s Dr William Mapham, the ophthalmologist who developed an app (Vula) that connects specialist doctors to help rural people maintain their eyesight; Thomas Heatherwick and his architectural work that reimagines and repurposes that which already exists into structures that will live on for years to come; or Amna Elshandaweely, who’s leading the charge for African fashion activism and using fashion to create a social effect and fight injustice — and that sometimes things that seem outlandish or puerile may just be the norm of the future.

This event’s biggest impact on advertising, in my humble opinion, is felt in its ability to compel you to step away from that brief, that PowerPoint presentation, that advertising awards’ reel and seek inspiration outside your immediate field of creativity. To expand your horizons and look to architecture, art, tech, science, innovation, and all the types of design for stimuli to feed our thinking and problem-solving.

The more this event can showcase a diverse range of individuals, teams or companies who push the bounds of creative potential to its extremes, the more value it adds to adlanders like me who need to be shell-shocked out of complacency and our thinking ruts.

— is a proud media supporter of Design Indaba 2020, taking place 26–28 February 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. Book your tickets online for the main conference or the live simulcast to multiple cities around South Africa.


See also


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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