Ria van Zyl

Ria van Zyl started her career in 1985 as communication designer and product developer. After this she spent time at Woolworths in the capacity of Packaging Co-ordinator and Technologist before starting her own communication design consultancy. Ria joined the University of Pretoria in 1999 as senior design lecturer and researcher, mostly teaching business skills to art and design students and design thinking and design management to ”non-design” students.

She completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Pretoria and developed a service quality framework for the communication design industry. She published several articles and conference papers, and wrote a “pocket” book in 2007 aimed at the SMME market and entrepreneur: Brand your business. Looks are important. After retreating to the beautiful Eastern Cape for a couple of years she returned to academia and started in 2014 with the restructuring of the academic contents of the IIE’s Design School Southern Africa’s (DSSA) courses. This evolved to a full time position, working on the current integration of the DSSA qualifications into the IIE Vega School’s academic portfolio, thereby expanding Vega’s design offering to be the most comprehensive in South Africa (Graphic, Fashion, Multimedia/digital, Interior, Game development and Copywriting) with campuses in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.         

Areas of Interest: interdisciplinary collaboration, designer-client relationship, strategic design management, design thinking and theory, research (specifically practice-based design research), professional practice and design for ecological development.

Publication highlights

Group paper: Carmen Gunkel, Marili de Weerdt, Maretha Olivier, Nicolette van der Merwe, Ria (HM) van Zyl  2015. One size does not fit all – studio teaching in design. Presented at IIE 2015 Celebrate Teaching and Learning Conference. Pretoria June 2015

Van Zyl, HM & Viljoen, N. 2010 Harnessing design thinking for innovation – Blazing the trail  Innovation Conference 2010 The Burning Platform 21 – 22 July 2010 The Hilton Hotel | Sandton

  1. Academic rigour and Practice-led research: a theoretical exploration. Presented at the Colloquium on Making: Integrating Approaches in Practice-Led Research in Art and Design at University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA),15 – 16 October 09

Viljoen, N & Van Zyl, H.M. 2009. Design Thinking – Crossing disciplinary borders Image & Text. Number 15: 66-78

  1. Design management education: the intersection between design and business. 5th Defsa International Design Education Flux: Design Education in a Changing world Conference 2007. 3-5 October, Cape Town
  2. 2008. Buchanan’s design thinking matrix: implications for SMME’s. Design Management Institute Conference – Design Thinking – New Challenges for Designers, Managers and organisations. 14 – 15 April 2008, Essec, Paris.
  3. Interdesign 2005 and Communication Design: a contextualization. Image & Text. Number 12:30-41
  4. Looking “good” – citizens of a new brand world. Visual Culture: Explorations. 9 – 10 July 2004. Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria. South Africa
  5. 10 Years of democracy in South Africa: Corporate Identity as Change Agent. 11 – 12 November 2004. International Conference on Innovation by Brand and Design Management/12th International Forum on Design Management Research & Education. Seoul: Korea


Current studies:

The aim of her current study is to investigate and development of relevant and innovative models for postgraduate/advanced studies in communication design in South Africa.

Part of this study involves the exploration communication design practitioners’ needs for and attitudes about advanced education and life-long learning after entering the workplace and the exploration of models that could assist in transferring knowledge from academia to industry and vice versa.