Friday, 19 May 2017



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (

The second Nairobi International Design Conference (NIDEC) is taking place this coming Thursday and Friday, May 25th and 26th at the new University of Nairobi Towers.

Organized by the Design Kenya Society (DKS) in collaboration with University of Nairobi’s School of the Arts and Design, the Conference is bringing together professional designers, academics and design students as well as jua kali designers from all over the world.

“The conference is essentially grounded in the notion of Design as a driving force for sustainable social change in Africa,” says Dr. Lilac Onsanjo, who is the DKS Chairperson as well as Director of Nairobi University’s School of Arts and Design.

Reflecting that same concern for Design as an agent of sustainable social change, the Conference theme this year will be ‘Integrated Design Solutions for a Better Africa: Seeing the Big Picture.”

To explore the topic, the gathering will feature a series of panels, presentations and workshops as well as exhibitions generated by a Design Challenge addressed to students coming from the Technical University of Kenya, Nairobi Institute of Technology and University of Nairobi.

Other Kenyan universities to be represented at the conference are Kenyatta and Moi Universities as well as Universities of Machakos and Maseno.

As Design Kenya Society was established in 2010 as an initiative of the World Design Organization (WDO), board members of WDO will also be attending the conference. They’ll be coming from China, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark as well as from Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa.

The actual founder of DKS is Professor Mugendi M’Rithaa who was also the president of the World Design Organization from 2012 to 2016. Dr Onsanjo says he will be especially honored at the Conference for his contribution to advancing the dynamic role of design in social development in Africa.

Opening the conference on Thursday, Dr Onsanjo will speak about ‘Design as the Heart of Societal Change.’ But she will be followed by Professor Mugendi who will address the broad theme of ‘Global Design Integration Trends.’ Dr. Mugendi will also be part of a panel focused on the topic, ‘The Impact of Globalization on African Design'.

The keynote address will be given by the South African director of Innovation & Transformation, Africa, Abbas Jamie.

Case studies of local design firms like Kitengela Hot Glass, will be illustrative of how far product design has come in Kenya.

But product design is just one of the design areas that are taught at Nairobi University, says Dr Onsanjo. There’s also interior design, graphic design, fashion and textile design and Illustration, all of which has the potential to play pivotal roles in bringing about positive and sustainable change in African societies.

Dr Onsanjo added that all the papers delivered during the conference will be published in a special edition of Habitat Design, a journal published by University of Nairobi.

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