The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown period have placed great strain on many informal businesses in South Africa. My practice-based research project aims to explore how design can support informal vendors located within Stellenbosch during the COVID-19 pandemic. It draws from the theory of ‘design for social innovation’ developed by Ezio Manzini. ‘Design for social innovation’ is defined as social conversations between different stakeholders, led by a design expert, all who are interested in reaching a shared vision that will ultimately lead to a positive social change. Through the spread of such practices, a more distributed system of products and services can be provided which in turn, could create a more resilient society. The brand, Saamie, was established to lead a range of design initiatives that would tackle these issues.
Based on this research, a collaborative design process was initiated through interviews and activities with a vendor situated in Stellenbosch, who sold fresh fynbos. Based on the experiences and desires of the vendor, a shared vision was established and from this, new practical solutions were explored. These included the creation of brand material for the informal business, the setup of a social media platform from which to advertise, a customized social media filter, a QR code post board that directed customers to the social media. Furthermore a website was designed that would allow this process to be replicated by other informal vendors. With the continuation of such projects, it could be argued that a more sustainable, resilient society could emerge.