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Project 3: Design Research – CASE STUDIES Thesis statement The world’s total population is 6.5 billion. Ninety percent, or close to 5.8 billion people, lack the means to purchase even the most basic goods. Modern design is not focussed enough on providing for those living in poverty. This project researches creative endeavours of past designers for people living on less than $2.50 a day. This type of sustainable design is socially responsible, and should play a bigger role in school and university curriculum.

Case study This case study will analyse the “Okala” guide as a teaching module and how its principles could be applied (in modified form if necessary) to teach socially responsible design illustrating the final part of my thesis statement; that sustainable design, and particularly socially responsible design should play a bigger role in university curricula because design involves actions, which have consequences, and therefore, in it makes sense for now on, for universities and schools to focus more on the different effects that design has on the world. For example, that would have been analysed earlier in my research paper from the ‘Design for the other 90% exhibition’1,an exhibition designed to teach and draw attention to this type of design that is as described in the exhibition book “not particularly attractive, often limited in function and extremely inexpensive”2. This type of design is critical design as it rejects status quo and is not popular compared with the more affirmative sustainable design which is more popular and economical, and is also already being taught in schools and universities. The ‘Okala’ guide provides a module designed for the teaching of sustainable design, as described on its website3 “provides an introduction to ecological and sustainable design for practicing and beginning designer.” The guide points out the difference between ecological and sustainable design, showing that sustainable design is socially equitable, as the visualisation below illustrates this distinction.(fig1).

Figure 1. Source: Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics, Herman E. Daly and Kenneth N. Townsend, 1993.


C Smith et al., Design for the other 90% (Cooper Hewitt, National design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2007) Ibid pg. 4. 3 IDSA, Ecodesign, Okala Guide and Other Tools. 2

The guide teaches us that the environmental impact categories of ecological damage, human health damage and resource depletion will increased if we don’t create designs that, increase energy efficiency, have efficient transport (import and export), extend product life and are designed for disassembly and recycling. “Okala means "life sustaining energy" in indigenous Hopi language (North-West American Indian). It envisions a future where we recognize the value of global ecology and work to insure its protection” as again described in the website4. Examples of ecological design include; David Trubridge’s body raft (fig2) as it uses local woods and contributes to the local economy and is able to be efficiently distributed as it is lightweight and easily transport. Another example is the Celle chair (fig3) by Herman Miller as it uses fewer material types decreasing manufacturing costs and is designed for disassembly with recycling in mind.

Figure 2. David Trubridge’s body raft

Figure 3. Herman Miller’s Celle Chair

These examples contrast to the ones I described earlier in the research paper from the ‘Design for the Other 90% exhibition and book, such as the ‘Money making pump’ (fig4), a simple water pump, that was simply named to emphasise the need for water to create income, and the $3 drip irrigation system (fig5), which was also made affordable to those in need, to help them generate income.

Figure 4. “money making pump”5, designed by 4

Figure 5. Low Cost drip irrigation system6. Designed by

IDSA, Ecodesign, Okala Guide and Other Tools. Design for the other 90%, money maker hip pump, 6 Design for the other 90%, Drip Irrigation System, 5

Martin Fisher, Alan Spybey, Mohamed Swaleh, and Frederick Obudho. Manufactured by KickStart International in Kenya and China, 2005. Mild steel, PVC, HDPE (high density polyethylene) Dimensions: 32”h x 14”w x 27”d In use in: Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali.

International Development Enterprises (IDE) India. Manufactured by Multiple workshops in India 2006. Plastic Tubing and tank. Dimensions: 2’ h x 2’ w x 8” d (with water). Bag can hang from any type of post or support and tailored to any size. In use in: India, Nepal, Zambia, Zimbabwe

The designs also have low manufacturing costs like the Celle chair and also aid local economy like David Trubridge’s raft but they are also different in being less attractive designs due to there not fitting the status quo of modern design. Maybe this is why we are not being taught this type of designing in our schools and universities. But this type of design has the ability to change and sometimes save lives. These designs are still solving problems as good design does and are extremely simple but are none the less functional. This empowers the user - and is surely a type of design worth teaching in our schools and universities. Through contrasting the ecological designs and the socially responsible designs we can see that they are quite similar – yet, by adapting modules such as the Okala guide, surly we could create a means of teaching and therefore achieving - more participation of this kind of design for the good of our future as a whole world.

Bibliography C Smith et al., Design for the other 90% (Cooper Hewitt, National design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2007) UN Cencus Bureau website Okala, leraning ecological design, ed. Philip White, Louise St. Pierre and Steve Belletire. Eastman Chemical. Design for the other 90%,


1 C Smith et al., Design for the other 90% (Cooper Hewitt, National design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2007) 2 Ibid pg. 4. The guide po...

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