DEFSA is the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa. The non-profit organisation provides a platform for academics in the design education sector to engage in research, best practice and networking through various mechanisms including a biennial conference, workshops and an interactive website that hosts peer reviewed and published research papers. Our members span a range of creative disciplines including architecture and interior design, photography, film, multimedia, industrial product design, ceramics, graphic design, clothing, textile and jewellery design, and software UX.

DEFSA is not an education provider or a registration body and is therefore not required to be registered with SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority). Membership to DEFSA is attained as an institution or as an individual. Individual members are categorised as Professional Individual Members or Student Individual Members.


  • DEFSA maintains appropriate links with industry, government departments, professional bodies and similar design organisations
  • It shall strive to foster and promote all facets of design through design education initiatives in Southern Africa in particular, on the continent of Africa and further abroad
  • Furthermore, DEFSA shall endeavour to promote relevant research with the focus on design


The aim of the Forum is to foster design education in the Southern African region. The forum will strive to fulfill its aim by :

  • Promoting excellence in design education at all levels in both the formal and informal educational environments by:
    • Setting goals and formulating objectives for design education;
    • Addressing issues regarding the quality including quality assurance, relevance and viability of curriculum structure and content;
    • Identifying needs and initiating, encouraging and co-ordinating research and development programmes;
    • Raising the general level of design literacy and awareness;
    • Acting as a catalyst / mediator for development in design education;
    • Giving greater credibility to the recommendations / requests / demands made by design educationists within their individual institutions.
  • Keeping abreast of information, research and development relating to design education and design practice both locally and internationally.
  • Encouraging the development and utilisation of local design skills so as to enable the Southern African region to develop its manufacturing industry at all levels in the formal as well as the informal sectors.
  • Acting as the authoritative voice for design educators and to represent professionally, responsibly and democratically the interests and concerns of design education in the Southern African region.
  • To maintain the fundamental and reciprocal links between design education, the visual arts and art education in order to enhance the creative essence of the designer's formative training.

DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (