Better Living Challenge


Catching up with BLC Showcase exhibitor Nicky van den Aardweg

Jul 16, 2015


The Better Living Challenge Showcase, which took place in October and November last year, highlighted innovative, affordable and green solutions aimed at addressing some of the problems faced by people living in low-income communities.  The CCDI caught up with Nicky van den Aardweg whose convertible backpack/chair design “My Tova” was one of the entries on display at the Showcase.

What have you and your business/project been up to since the BLC?

Since the BLC I officially graduated with my BTech Interior Design from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I then spread my wings and travelled to key areas of Western Europe, dipping into the ancient culture, architecture and design. Visiting the London Design Museum was a total inspiration. It showed me how people are making a difference using their skills and resources to find solutions where none currently exist, to connect people’s needs to design solutions and resources. Back in South Africa I entered my convertible backpack/ chair design “My Tova” into the Department of Trade and Industry’s national furniture design competition and was placed second overall. The award ceremony took place at the 2015 Design Indaba in Cape Town, where I exhibited my design and was interviewed live on Metro FM from the stand at the Indaba. I am currently working as a designer, focusing specifically on interiors/environments, for the International Trend Institute in Durban and I’m loving it.

What learning experiences from the BLC have you found particularly useful?

The BLC enabled me to interact with designers and experts in various fields and make friends with people who share the same desire to improve the world through design. The exhibition allows you to see unique issues and solutions through different eyes. Everyone you meet knows something you don’t – which means collectively we know a lot more than on our own. The BLC was an opportunity to pool our ideas and inspire each other to continue to push and seek ways to solve everyday problems that could have a far larger impact than one could imagine. What I learnt is that people often underestimate the brilliance and importance of their own ideas because, until they are showcased, there has been little to no public interaction, awareness or feedback on their designs. This is another reason why design flourishes when it is fostered in community.

What next for you and your project?

I am very interested in making a positive difference through design, whether it is with “My Tova”, or through other channels and design opportunities. As Emma Watson highlighted during her talk at the United Nations last year, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I believe young designers need to take ownership of their ideas and believe in their abilities and themselves. Design has the potential to change lives but often relies on the successful meeting of a designer, a brilliant idea, and the resources to make it happen. Without these resources an idea is nothing more than it’s potential to make a difference. In order to take my idea further I am keen to develop my prototype with skilled advice and input from the industrial design field to create a more streamlined design that is tailored for efficient mass production. I would like to make my idea a reality.