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C y m a Pa rb hu
This shift is not meant to ignore human-centred priorities, usually
object-centric, but to incorporate it with situation-centred
priorities. Hence why as a designer it is important to “introduce
the subject of designers actively designing for the “other ninety
percent” of the world’s population, rather than for the
traditionally wealthy consumers living largely in the industrialised
world” (Smith, 2007).
Design thinking and practice is most typically revolved around
the Western world.
“Nearly 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no
access to most of the products and services many
of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not
have regular access to food, clean water, or
shelter” (Smith, 2007).
Social Design is where
whe members of the design community,
socially conscious individuals, local governments, businesses
and non-profit organisations can address social concerns and
create smart solutions through design. We have been so
consumed by the shiniest new device in our western
communities, that we have forgotten to differentiate between
needs and wants. This is why I am arguing as a designer and
critical design thinker,
thinke to consciously create and think of
designing for those who have less than the bare necessities. To
demonstrate how this contemporary design practice of social
design is imperative to going forward, I will discuss the social
and cultural structures that are effected without social design,
how globalisation impacts cultural design identity and the ways
in which we can proceed to have a greater impact on the
other 90% (Janzer & Weinstein, 2014).
So what is SOCIAL DESIGN?
According to Janzer and Weinstein (2014), “Social design is, in its
broadest sense, the use of design to address, and ultimately
solve, social problems.” Social design spans out to designing for
social innovation, designing for social change, co-design and
service designing. Social design is a movement to think not only
human-centralised design but for situational design as well.
Social design works on the premise of understanding the
need for certain communities, the creative processes to go
forth and design solutions for a social change and how these
situations correlate with the human-centered design. Situational
design in context to social design refers to understanding what
the community’s circumstances are: the availabilty of resources,
desires and immediate needs to help alleviate the suffering of
those lacking even the basic necessities (Smith, 2007).
By understanding these aspects of situational-centred design,
simple and functional designs can be developed and
produced where the users (the designerly oppressed) have
self-supporting products of use to them. It has been noted that
there is a lack of understanding the “need” and “usefullness” of
design for the marginalised from as far back as 1972 where
Victor Papanek wrote in his book Design for the real world “The
genuine needs of man have often been neglected by the
For most communities outside of the western world, culture
is a very strong part of their identities. CULTURE integrates the
social pratices in the concept by emphasising the interrelation
between ideas and practices. Culture can be better
understood as a set of abilities, norms and values that
characterise groups and communities which are then enacted
into social practices. These social practices are what should be
reflected in the design thinking and practice of the designer
through social design. “Culture is advocated as crucial to
understand barriers to the adoption of technologies and new
management strategies and a successful exchange of
experience between developed and developing countries”
(Pahl-Wostl, 2008). However, these cultural nuances, social
values and characteristics are not generally taken into
consideration when developing new designs.
This can be led to the ever-growing process of GLOBALISATION
that is very relevant to the way design is produced today. Big
companies creating extremely popular designs with limited or
no cultural identity and spread all around the world for the
global market. Globalisation has both positive and negative
aspects to the trend, however in relation to the developing
countries and design being produced, it has more of a
negative impact. There
The are four main aspects: limitation of the
countries growth (produce), environmental costs, big and
powerful companies and loss of cultural identity/influence.
Developing countries are kept producing “primary products”
like oil. This can be detrimental to a community as they are
limited to what they produce and can have fluctuating prices
affecting the economy. This leads to environmental damage
with the exploitation of natural resources.
Thirdly are the big powerful companies where these
multinational companies are able to force out local retailers.
This has a direct impact on what the communities are able to
consume, diminishing cultural diversity. “Culture is advocated as
crucial to understand barriers to the adoption of technologies
and new management strategies and a successful exchange
of experience between developed and developing countries”
Designing in general is not always an easy feat as there
many things to consider. However, developing for
situation-centred communities like those in developing countries
have other factors to consider as well. Which is where
NEOCOLONIALISM comes into play. Neocolonialism is “the
continued exercise of political or economic influence over a
society in the absence of formal political control” (Ritzer, 2007).
Neocolonialistic intentions are
a to address social contexts within
communities without fully delving into the “necessary
components” of the design. Freire discusses how “the truth is,
that the oppressed are not “marginals,” are not people living
“outside” society. They have always been “inside”—inside the
structure which made them “beings for others.” The solution is
not to “integrate” them into the structure of oppression, but to
transform that structure so that they can become “beings for
themselves”” (Freire, 2009). Neocolonialism is what Freire says
should be, where the “oppressed” are given products which
are designed specifically suited to their environments. This is
relevant to the intitiative One Laptop Per Child.
ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD
The One Laptop Per Child project
(OLPC) is an initiative aimed
at providing inexpensive laptop computers to children in the
developing world as a means of bridging the digital divide,
founded by Nicholas Negroponte. On the surface, this
initiative’s objective looks effective, giving children in poverous
communities access to education and technology, however
the design employs a very western perspective on a way to aid
Janzer and Weinstein (2014) described the project
as a “parachute effect” where there is cultural disconnects
keeping the children from fully benefitting from the machines.
Like mentioned before, a better understanding of the societal
systems, in this case educational systems and cultural values.
The backend configurations of the device were all created in
isolation away from the intended communities thus
exemplifying the lack of involvement with the communities. Yes,
it is a great initiative, however the “needs” for these villages
have been misplaced. There is still the need to fulfil the basics of
living before taking the next step into advanced technology.
It is evident to see how difficult it is designing products for the
developing world. There is the dire need for products addressing
problems, such as access to clean water, sanitation and
electricity, designing a product that the consumers will actually
use. More often than not, such products go unused due to poor
quality, unreliability or differences in cultural expectations.
However, there are charities and companies that aim to design
and showcase how to produce
designs that are helpful,
economical and culturally equivalent for these communities.
Two of these companies are DESIGN THAT MATTERS and DESIGN
FOR THE OTHER 90%.
DESIGN THAT MATTERS
They are a non-profit organisation designing for poor
communities in the developing world. On their website they say
“We are pushing the limits of technology in rapid prototyping
and low-volume manufacturing to bring great design to
communities currently missed by commercial markets. Our goal
is to deliver a better quality of service, and a better quality of
life, to millions of beneficiaries through products designed for our
partner social enterprises.” One of their very successful projects
This design is a newborn
newbo phototherapy device specifically for
rural hospitals with limited resources and inexperienced staff to
successfully treat otherwise healthy newborns for jaundice, a
common condition in newborns where their skin and eyes are
yellow due to too much bilirubin in the blood. As of 2015, Firefly
is in 18 developing countries and treated over 20,000 newborns.
It is an easy to use product that fits one infant in the bassinet. A
bright 30 watts blue LED with a 44,000 hour lifespan, shines from
above and below directly on the newborn. It is an easy to
move product that is functional for 5 years 24/7.
So how do we design for the developing countries to ensure the
products created are successful? Mark Schwarts from Product
Development Technologies (2010) says that there are, “several
guidelines that allow us to create successful products that
properly serve our clients in these emerging markets.” The three
main points he mentions are: don’t make assumptions,
understand the culture and market and flexibility is key.
Although these are
a not rules that are set in stone, they are a
good place to start and acknowledge when designing for the
developing world. The products mentioned above have
considered these three aspects in their design and has helped
make them succesful.
By shifting our focus away from design for the western world, we
can aim to address larger societal issues via social design.
Societal issues that effect communities in the way they live their
DESIGN FOR THE OTHER 90%
This is an exhibition that showcases projects, proposals and
solutions that addresses issues emerging from developing
countries. Design fot the other 90% “demonstrate how design
can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases,
saving lives. The first exhibition, in 2007, Design for the Other 90%,
focused on design solutions that addressed the most basic
needs of the 90% of the world’s population not traditionally
served by professional
designers.” One of their more successful
showcased projects is LIFESTRAW.
Lifestraw is a product specifically designed to give communities
sustainable access to safe, uncontaminted drinking water. The
project begun in 1994 and was developed in 2005 for people in
developing countries who didn’t have water piped in from
municipal sources. Lifestraw is currently being used in 64
countries with 5 different versions available.
In our western worlds, we have percieved design as
finding a niche in the market and creating
something that we haven’t already got, or
developing and “improving” what we already have.
Western design tries to fix what isn’t broken and create
unnecessary products just to make our already “easy” lives
even easier. But through social design, one can enable the
production of goods by the poor that provide income, and
design products that improve people’s lives.
To conclude, there is 90% of the world that doesn’t receive
successful designed products. Communities do receive designs
to use in their environments, however it is different whether they
are successful or not. There needs to be two major shifts to focus
on. One, the shift from globalised design and western design to
social design. Where we focus on creating products that are
commercialised and planned for an international community
rather than focusing on singular villages. And secondly, the shift
of creating designs that are planned and thought through,
considering cultures, an integrated system vital to the ways
communities work everyday, environments, the ecological and
socio-economical systems that run villages, and people, the
end-users and consumers of designs. All these come together to
form situation-centred ideas. As a society of designers, together
we can SUCCESSFULLY
SUCCESSFUL design for the needs of the other 90
rather just for the wants of the 10.
WORD COUNT 1935