'Creatives call for action—and rebellion—at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2024'

11 JUL 2024 14:09 | Stichting What Design Can Do

Amsterdam, 11 July 2024 — Hundreds of design enthusiasts and activists gathered at the Muziekgebouw last week for the 12th edition of WDCD Live in Amsterdam. The heart of this year’s programme featured the 11 winners of the Redesign Everything Challenge, who took to the yellow stage to share their climate solutions. The event also included talks from creative heavyweights such as Edel Rodriguez, Natsai Audrey Chieza, and Samar Maakaroun, exploring the responsibility of design in a complex world. In the afternoon, interactive breakout sessions allowed visitors to delve deeper into design’s role in climate action, emerging technologies and the circular transition.


Opening the festival this year was Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani, who reminded the audience of the urgent role that arts and culture play in building resilient cities and communities. "Creativity is one of the basic needs of society," Meliani stated, emphasising the necessity of protecting this resource in times of political upheaval. Another highlight of the morning was biodesigner Natsai Audrey Chieza, who called for more collaboration between creatives, scientists, and policymakers. "Biodesign gets me up in the morning because by doing the work, we are becoming more biological beings," Chieza said, speaking about the answers and allies that we can find in nature.


Throughout the day, attendees witnessed a new generation of designers in action as the main stage showcased the 11 winning teams of the Redesign Everything Challenge. This global design competition, launched by WDCD earlier this year, aims to find and celebrate some of the world’s most creative climate solutions. Through their beautifully presented pitches, attendees learned how designers are tackling complex issues around the world, from waste colonialism in Accra to air pollution in Delhi and biodiversity loss in São Paulo. Prototypes for growable electronics, market-ready alternatives for plastic and leather, and community projects reconnecting people to traditional ways of making, living, and eating were also showcased.


In addition to the inspiring pitches from the Redesign Everything Challenge winners, international speakers provided context to the world we are designing in, discussing where the climate justice movement is now and the role of creativity in activism.

  • Edel Rodriguez, renowned illustrator, spoke about the power of art to provoke thought and take a stand. "I don’t make art to change anyone's mind. I do it to say that something is wrong. I do it to take a stand," Rodriguez said, highlighting the role of magazine covers in sparking conversations.
  • Natsai Audrey Chieza emphasised the need for biodesign to be integrated into communities. "It’s not enough to just have biomaterials. The products also have to be circular," she remarked, pointing to the need for sustainable deployment of new technologies.
  • Bobby Kolade addressed the issue of fast fashion and waste, shedding light on what happens to our clothing 'donations' when they get sent to countries like his home, Uganda. "Fortunately, there is something that design can do. We give the clothes new value and new identity, and sell them back to the global north."
  • Samar Maakaroun celebrated the beauty that comes from cultures and languages mixing. "I believe that within chaos there is creativity," Maakaroun said, exploring how play, proximity and exchange  can redefine our understanding of the world.
  • Afaina de Jong, founder of AFARAI, discussed the colonial roots of modern architecture and the need for a restorative approach. "How can we arrive at a more restorative version of architecture that is more in balance with the ecological, social and political situation that we are in now?" de Jong asked, challenging architects to rethink their practices.
  • Dirk-Jan Visser, one of the creative minds behind the New Horizon Initiative, spoke about how A.I. technologies can be used as a tool for nature conservation. He asked: What would a landscape look like if non-human life such as plants, animals, insects were in charge? And could we create better governance models that are more inclusive and empathetic? 
  • Clive Russell, who designed the Extinction Rebellion visual identity, emphasised the urgency of action in the face of late-stage capitalism. "If unfettered consumerism is leading us towards mass extinction, then perhaps it's time to say no to briefs asking us to sell shit. Perhaps it's time to ask for a new brief," Russell declared, underscoring the rebellion against inaction.
  • René van Geer, industrial designer behind Secrid, inspired with his focus on combining the spiritual and the rational to make good products. "To make really good products, the spiritual and the rational must be combined," van Geer advised, urging creative entrepreneurs to follow their hearts and never waste a good crisis.


Later in the day, festival-goers had the chance to connect and collaborate over an afternoon of hands-on breakout sessions, exploring themes such as circular design, community-building, and the role of old and new technologies. These sessions provided space for more in-depth conversations and the opportunity to ask questions, fostering a deeper understanding of the complex issues at hand. They were led by a diverse and talented group of programme makers and facilitators, alongside guest speakers from organisations like Next Gen Design, Atelier Luma, Patagonia, The Hmm, Memberful Design and Secrid.


WDCD Live Amsterdam 2024 was a vibrant convergence of creativity and climate action, leaving attendees with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of how design can—and must change—in the face of our planetary crisis. As the event drew to a close, the sense of camaraderie and shared mission amongst participants was palpable, signalling a strong collective commitment to tackling the world’s most pressing issues through the power of design. 

Over the next few weeks, videos of the main stage talks will be made available to watch on the WDCD website. Afterwards, the focus will shift towards the next WDCD Live event on the calendar, which is slated for Mexico City on 27 September, 2024. 


For photos, research and social media assets, view our press kit. More information about past Challenges and What Design Can Do is available on our press webpage. 

For any press enquiries or more information regarding the Redesign Everything Challenge, please contact louise@whatdesigncando.com


What Design Can Do (WDCD) is an international platform that advocates for design as a tool for social change. Since 2011, we have undertaken numerous activities to promote the role of designers in addressing the world’s most pressing societal and environmental issues. WDCD has hosted 15 successful conferences in Amsterdam, São Paulo, and México City. In 2016 WDCD launched an ambitious design challenge programme that engages the creative community with urgent societal issues such as the well-being of refugees and climate change.

To see previous Challenge winners, visit www.whatdesigncando.com/projects/

For more information, visit www.whatdesigncando.com

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