Cape Town’s bid story

The City of Cape Town's successful bid for World Design Capital 2014 was coordinated by the Cape Town Partnership, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and supporters.

City of Cape Town hosts official World Design Capital 2014 Signing Ceremony

Cape Town was, on Friday 29 June, officially appointed World Design Capital 2014 with the signing of the Host City Agreement by Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille, and International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) President Soon-in Lee. This is the first time an African city has earned the title.

The historic Signing Ceremony took place at Freeworld Design Centre in Cape Town and was attended by an official Icsid delegation, as well as members of the media and representatives of the design industry, government, business, academia and community organisations.

Addressing the gathering, Mayor De Lille said, “What is design but the application of our humanity, and the search for excellence, elegance and solutions to the problems that we face? We don’t build cities in the ideal mode and expect them to remain that way. Cities don’t work like that. And neither does design. Humanity and all of its variety happens in between. Cities grow organically. We combine our natural energy and growth with the deliberate purpose of design. We use what we have to get to what we want. We change the inevitable by combining with the aspirational.”

Icsid President Soon-in Lee:The world looks to Cape Town

In his speech, Icsid President Soon-in Lee noted the significance of the World Design Capital designation: “This is a very exciting time for South Africa and indeed for the African region as a whole. As the world looks to Cape Town over the course of the next few years, many exciting opportunities will be presented to the city to shape and make relevant within its own context. Our aspiration for the city is to continue to provide a platform that will empower Cape Town to be a leading example on the international stage, to encourage designers from diverse backgrounds and communities to share ideas and transform objectives into realities. We have no doubt that Cape Town will bring its own unique vision to the project, making all Capetonians and citizens of this region very proud.”

Icsid President Lee cited Cape Town’s bid focus on social transformation as the determining factor for the city’s success. “Design needs to offer real solutions to real problems. Cape Town demonstrated a deep understanding of this in their bid. They put human-focused design at the centre of the solution for social transformation.”

The Signing Ceremony was timed to coincide with World Industrial Design Day, an Icsid initiative, and the 55th anniversary of the international organisation. Cape Town’s World Design Capital designation will also come at a milestone moment, with 2014 marking the anniversary of 20 years of democracy in South Africa.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille: We sign for a new way of thinking

Mayor de Lille concluded her speech by noting the importance of partnerships: “The task of transforming the city is one that requires the energies of as many partners as possible, within our borders and without. Design is not about central planning. It is about networks that jointly make up an attitude, an approach and a direction. The product of those networks combined is what will transform this city. We sign on behalf of those partners. And we sign on behalf of the people of Cape Town. Above all, we sign for a new way of thinking, one that sees opportunities, not obstacles, challenges not dead-ends, and the roadway for other cities to follow in building a better future.”

Cape Town is the fourth city to be designated a World Design Capital, following in the footsteps of Torino, Italy (2008); Seoul, South Korea (2010) and Helsinki, Finland (2012).

The Signing Ceremony also saw the unveiling of Cape Town’s official World Design Capital 2014 logo, featuring the colour that defined Cape Town’s bid, yellow – a colour signifying optimism and hope, and representing Cape Town’s urban future.

Watch the WDC2014 Signing Ceremony:
Watch the WDC2014 Signing Gala:


Read more:

  • Expert selection committee to appoint World Design Capital 2014 board (Read more)
  • Call for board nominations for World Design Capital2014 implementation company (Read more)
  • Independent company to implement Cape Town's World Design Capital 2014 programme (Read more)
  • Design Storming: Igniting change with collective imagination (Read more)


Image of Africa Melane; Cape Town Partnership MD Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana; Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille; Icsid President Soon-in Lee; Dr Mugendi M'Rithaa Professor in Industrial Design at the Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology; Icsid Secretary General Dilki de Silva; Icsid Programme Director Andrea Springer and Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 Selection Committee Chairperson. Photo by Bruce Sutherland.