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Friday, July 06, 2007

Design for the Other 90%

In May 2007, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum opened “Design for the Other 90%,” an exhibition in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden that highlights the growing trend among designers to develop solutions that address basic needs for the vast majority of the world’s population not traditionally serviced by professional designers.

Woman examines woven portable light mat - Photo: Stanford Richins

The exhibition features more than 30 works that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, actually saving lives. “Design for the Other 90%” on view May 4 through Sept. 23, 2007, explores the variety of affordable and socially responsible objects designed for the more than five billion people across the globe (90 percent of world’s total population of 6.5 billion) who often lack the means to purchase even the most basic goods.

The exhibition features design solutions for the poor and marginalized people around the world, including the LifeStraw, a mobile personal water purification tool, and furniture made from hurricane debris made available through the Katrina Furniture Project, which works to rebuild the economic and social capabilities in New Orleans.

“By showcasing the work of designers using their skills and ingenuity to produce architectural and design solutions that really affect quality-of-life issues, Cooper-Hewitt will raise awareness of the critical need for humanitarian design,” said Director Paul Warwick Thompson.

Organized by exhibition curator Cynthia E. Smith, the exhibition is divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health, sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.

Among the featured objects in the exhibition:

  • The Pot-in-Pot Cooler, a storage container that doubles the amount of crop saved while extending its shelf life
    The Big Boda Load Carrying Bicycle, which can easily carry hundreds of pounds of cargo or two additional passengers at a substantially lower cost than other forms of human-powered utility vehicles
  • MoneyMaker Pumps, which families can use to irrigate fruits and vegetables during the dry season, allowing greater crop yields year-round; and
  • Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child project, an inexpensive, universal laptop computer to be used as an educational tool for children.
“Design for the Other 90%” focuses on the design world’s response to the devastation caused by natural as well as man made disasters.

LifeStraw, Photo: © 2005 Vestergaard Frandsen The exhibit also features examples of shelters used throughout the world, including Global Village Shelters, which are used as temporary homes and rural clinics; Mad Housers Huts, built by volunteers to house the homeless; Day Labor Station, a mobile worker center; and the Seventh Ward Shade Structure, providing a gathering place for planning reconstruction efforts while the Porch Cultural Center in New Orleans is being rebuilt.

There is also a garden with a low-cost drip irrigation system on display, which reduces water use by 30 to 70 percent while increasing yields by more than 50 percent by extending the growing season.

“Design for the Other 90%” recognizes the growing urgency for designers to develop affordable and sustainable solutions that address basic necessities such as shelter, food, drinking water and sanitation for a majority of the world’s population. “Ninety-five percent of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers,” said Dr. Paul Polak, president of International Development Enterprises and a member of the exhibition’s advisory council. “Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90 percent,” he added.

Greener Magazine


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