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INDEX: award 2011 exhibition students guide high school



Design to Improve Life

The future happens regardless - progress does not”. - PH

This education material focuses on design - or more specifically on Design to Improve Life. This is both a way that designers work and at the same time it is an encouragement - not only to designers, but to all of us - to design a better life for people all over the world. But how can you design to improve life? Is it something that only designers can do? And what does it actually mean “to design something”? Along the way, you will be confronted with various tasks. Working with these tasks, you will experience, describe and analyze what design is and what it can do. You will get insights into what other people designed, and most importantly, you will have to use your own observations when you yourself will begin getting ideas and begin designing. But first and foremost, you must experience what design is…


What is Design?

Design is all around us, but most often we don’t even notice it.

Something to think about: Look around the classroom or the room you are in right now. Pay attention to the different things surrounding you - everything, from the smallest to the largest object. All this is design. Design is furniture, kitchen utensils, your cell phone and mp3-player. Design is the shoes you wear, the laces you tie them with, the chair you are sitting on and the computer you are using. All the time, new things are made and old things are made better, and all of these things helps us in different ways and become part of our everyday life. That is why we often don’t notice them, or wonder why they are there, or why they look like they do. Something to think about: Try to imagine how hard it would be to play football if the ball was square or reading a book if the words were carved in stone. The word design stems from the Latin word designare. Design as a noun is something that is carried out through planning and sketching. For example, you can tell by looking at furniture that someone thought about what it should look like. Therefore, this type of furniture is called designer furniture. Design is typically associated with expensive labels of designer clothes and -furniture. Things that we buy and use to show a certain style, identity or affiliation with a group. But design is and can do much more than that. Design is first and foremost about solving problems and adapting our surroundings to our different needs. The things we surround ourselves with look the way they do and have the function they do, because someone decided and planned this long before the design is actually made. So, design is not only about things and objects, but equally as much about ideas.



PHOTO by martin bubandt



Design is the human capacity to shape and make our environments in ways that satisfy our needs and give meaning to our lives. - John Heskett INDEX: Jury Member

The process from idea and research to production and use is called a design process. In this the designer works closely together with many different people with different skills, e.g. users, technicians, sociologists, advisers, other designers, investors, engineers, producers, etc. Something to think about: How many different phases are there in a design process? What happens in the different phases? What do the different people in a design process do - and when do they do it? What does a sociologist do? In the design process, the people involved make certain choices about how a design meets a need, grants a wish or solves a problem - in the best possible way. Within their choices are considerations about form, function, ergonomics, environment and ethics - and about what is practical, economic and technically possible. Something to think about: Form, material and colors are important in regards as to how we perceive a design, and how fast we can determine what it is used for. A fire extinguisher is red because we associate the color red with danger. How would you perceive it, if it was pink? Apart from the shape, what else is important for our perception of a design? First of all, in a design process, one needs to define a target group - the people that are going to be using the design. What needs and wishes do they have? And what problem must the design solve for them? After that, the question is how this problem is solved in the best possible way. Are there any obstacles that could obstruct the development from idea to design? Thus, the final design is the result of many different reflections on what you wish to create, and what is possible to create. Designers design other things besides cool jeans, lamps and


furniture. They also work out how ATM machines work, how people sort their trash and how to provide clean drinking water in Africa. The world we live in is shaped and adapted to our individual and different needs. Different people of different ages, in different countries, have very different needs. Kids, for example, have very different needs than adults, and a school class in Denmark has very different needs compared to a school class in Africa or China. To design is about shaping and making our environments in ways that satisfy our needs and give meaning to our lives. And a design process is never finished, because design, products and results can always be changed and improved as we gain new knowledge and need new and better things. Assignment: Now, put your new learnings into words and describe what design is, what it can do, and what it means to design something. In this assignment, you are going to work with Form and Function. Choose a design close to where you are sitting. What is it? What is it made of? What can it do? Who is the target group? What problem does it solve? Do you think it solves it well? How can it be improved/made better? Why do you think the designer chose exactly this design? How much does it cost to make?



We cannot NOT change the world.

To design is basically about changing the world and adapting it to our different needs, but you can also design to improve the world.

- Assignment: Think about what the difference is between changing something and improving it. At the moment, we are experiencing how climate change and uninhibited use of the planet’s resources is changing the world as we know it. And many people believe that this destructive path will be very hard to leave, if we do not take action immediately! Because the cause is in the way we produce, use and throw things away. Therefore, we have to become more aware about how our lifestyles are affecting the world, and how we can slow down or even stop the negative changes. Today, more and more designers use their abilities to make stuff that is actually needed. They have realized that their choices here and now will have a great impact on tomorrow. These designers have the skills to improve lives, and they take responsibility for doing so through good design. Already in the design process - before the design actually reaches the intended user - you can (as the designer) decide, how you want the design to influence the environment. These decisions have - for better or worse - an impact on the world, and a good design should thus not only be evaluated on its form and function. Assignment: Discuss what a “good design” is. Is it for example a design that looks nice, is expensive, meets our needs, or is made from recycled materials? Does “good” mean something else, when we are talking about design compared to if we were talking about people or actions? 8


PHOTO by martin bubandt


PHOTO by philip dam roadley-battin


â&#x20AC;&#x153;Design to Improve Lifeâ&#x20AC;? is a new way of working with design, where focus is on both form, impact and the context in which the design is produced and meant to function in. This means that designing is about solving problems in new ways and about being conscious about the fact that all choices in the design process are important. A designer who designs to improve life not only takes responsibility for his/her own design. He/she also takes responsibility for making the right decisions about e.g. the environment, ethics, aesthetics, finances and technology. In other words, creating good design that simultaneously strives to make a positive difference for people all over the world and change it for the better. Assignment: In this assignment, you must analyze and reflect upo­n the experiences and descriptions you have made so far. You need a paper cup and a porcelain cup. Describe how they look, their form, materials and function. Think about advantages and drawbacks. What do you think the designers reflected upon? Who (type of profession) do you think took part in the design process? What did the cups cost to make and to buy? Do they improve the world, or are they helping to change it for the worse? Define the terms Form, Impact and Context in relation to the two designs. What was the main focus in the two design processes?



The best way to predict the future is to design it. - Buckminster Fuller

So far, you have experienced, described, analyzed and reflected upon what design is and what it can do - and upon the different phases in a design process. In the following paragraphs, you will get an insight into some design history. Different groups of designers have always been busy with making a positive impact through design, but the way they have done it has changed a lot over time. This change happened while the idea of “the good life” was influenced by the problems and opportunities of different periods in time. Around the year 1750 and up through the 19th century a lot of progress was made in the industries - and fast. New opportunities arose within mass production, specialization and labor. It was at this time when design as a craft and a job was born. The designers sketched and planned new products, while the craftsmen and workers produced them. In the beginning of the 20th century, the world was full of mass produced products. Things that used to be only for the rich and wealthy was now available to the masses. Cities grew, and the demand for - and the consumption of - new products was increasing every day. In this period, many designers wanted to use design as a tool to improve people’s lives, and among the first of these was the Arts & Crafts movement in England in the late 19th century. Here, the designers sought to bring back “the soul” in the products that were made on assembly lines and to improve working conditions for the people manning the machines actually making the products. In the interwar years, the German Bauhaus school resumed this social design practice. Their wish was to make nice and functional, industrial aids that everyone - rich and poor - should have equal access to. In


Sustainable development is development that accommodates the present’s needs without degrading future generations’ possibilities to accommodate THEIR needs.” - Gro Harlem Brundtland

Denmark as well, architects like Poul Henningsen and later Børge Mogensen tried to bring “good design” to “regular homes”. Their wish was to improve people’s physical surroundings and to create access to light and air. Assignment: Who was Poul Henningsen and what was he known for? What is Danish design known for? Can you name any Danish companies and/or designers? In the years following World War II, when the economy flourished again, the tendency within design was no longer so idealistic. Instead, designers tried to fulfill and strengthen the consumers ever growing needs for new products. From the 1960’s, designers began to consider the environment and sustainability more and more. The pollution, decreasing quality and poor labor conditions that the growing industry had brought with it scared a lot of people and therefore, designers started to use recycled materials and to make more environmentally friendly design. Assignment: What does it means when something is called sustainable? In the 1970’s, the growing amount of waste from industries and agriculture was visible proof that the ways of producing and consuming was not sustainable in the long run. More designers therefore began to look for other ways to live and exist and turned their critical eye on the design industry and the design business in general. Among these designers were the Austrian-American philosopher Victor Papanek (1927-1998). He is by many people regarded as the founder of the sustainable design movement. Papanek saw a huge potential in good-doing design in the world, but this 13


potential was being wasted on making unnecessary, expensive things for the purpose of more production and consumption. This kind of design was causing big problems instead of trying to solve them. Papanek, instead, wanted designers to design in an environmentally friendly way and focus on what was needed in the world.

PHOTO by miklos szabo

The German philosopher Hans Jonas (1903-1993) was having some of the same thoughts. He believed that the world was being destroyed by pollution and over consumption. People were


so pre-occupied with improving their own lives immediately that they did not think of what this behavior would mean to the wellbeing of future generations. Therefore, some common ethical rules and boundaries were needed. Rules and boundaries that made sure that decisions in the present would not have a negative effect on life in the future. For designers, this was about shaping great ideas that had the potential to improve the lives of people everywhere. Papanek and Jonasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; ideas are still very relevant. With global warming and climate changes, we are - right now - experiencing the consequences of the way we make, use and throw away things. The damages to our planet mean that we have to own up to our shared responsibility to stop the negative development. In the past few years, designers from all over the world have come together around a wish to make a positive impact - not just for the environment, but also in other aspects of life. The designers use their skills to make design that improves the lives of people - not just in everyday life, but also in accidents, illness and natural disasters. These designers take responsibility for both their own products and for the challenges facing the world - large and small. In this way, they are essentially Designing to Improve Life.



As it was described earlier, Design to Improve Life is a concept that regards and applies design as a tool for a different kind of problem solving. But Design to Improve Life is also an encouragement - not just to designers, but to all of us. You see, it is not only designers who can design to improve life. All of us can and must help find solutions to societyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s problems. We can among other things do this by making little changes in our everyday life; e.g. use energy saving light bulbs, sort our trash, turn off the power and use less water. Little things that combined make a big difference. It is about being critical towards the things we surround ourselves with and the way we use them. This way, we can all contribute in shaping a better world through actions that not only meet our needs here and now, but also takes into consideration the world we all have to live in in the future. In the following, you will begin getting your own life-improving ideas. You can also read much more about how designers improve peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives through good design. Explore your ideas, the possibilities, the different design solutions and be inspired to make changes in your own life, so that you can help design a better world.



PHOTO by jørgen ebbesen

Assignment: Design the classroom of the future

Now it is your turn to design something that we need and to be included actively in a small-scale design process. Your assignment is to sketch an idea for the class room of the future. 1. Start by dividing your class/group into smaller groups. Think about what a class room is and what it is used for. What does the room need in order to be a good class room - and why is that? Look around your class room and notice the different things in the room. How is your class room decorated/ furnished? How is the teacher positioned compared to the students? How are the students positioned among each other? Are you using everything in the room regularly? Is something missing? Think about what the teacher needs in order to be able to teach. What do the kids need to have to be able to learn and to have fun in school? Do students have different needs? How do you - in your class room - take these needs into account? What effect does light and indoor climate have on teaching in general and on your ability to concentrate? 2. When you have thought about your current class room, start thinking about what a class room needs to have in 20 years. Will the class room be used in the same way as today? What future needs, wishes or problem can you imagine that students and teachers will have? Think about the fact that in the future, computers will most likely play a bigger part in teaching. What will happen to the blackboard, the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; desks and their books? What kind of new things will the students have instead of the things you have today? Imagine that you are hired to invent something for the class room of the future. Either a brand new design 18

or an improvement to an existing design which you already have in the class room now. What would it be? And why? What problem does it solve? What would it look like? What materials would you use? Why? Who would it help? What would it be called? 3. The idea about your improved class room of the future that you have now sketched up, might not fit a class room in another country. Therefore, you now have to imagine yourselves having to design a class room of the future for students your own age - in a different country. You see, around the world, schools face very different challenges and problems. In some countries, they lack electricity and lights, while other countries have issues with crowded class rooms and noise. Some schools donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even have a building for the students and are therefore forced to teach the students outside. So the problems are very different compared to where in the world you are. Take a country like India for example, and think about how you could make their class rooms better? What are the specific problems for schools in India, and how can you help students and teachers solve their problems?



In the following, you can read about five designs in the category â&#x20AC;&#x153;Design to Improve Lifeâ&#x20AC;?. While you are reading, think about how these designs in many different ways improve the world - and for whom.

The Secret Life Series Can you talk about a life cycle, when you are talking about inanimate objects? Do you ever think about the effect the t-shirt, the smartphone or the magazine you just bought have on the environment - from when they are produced until they are destroyed or end as trash in landfills? In Denmark which is a small country of 5 million people, we produce 15 million tons of waste every year. But exactly how far is the gap between consumption and over-consumption? The Secret Life Series is a web-based project trying to create attention around the effect our consumer behaviour has on the environment. It is comprised of a series of short videos that is about stuff like production processer, recycling and waste management, and it is designed to put the challenges we are facing - both as consumers and inhabitants of Planet Earth - into words. So far, videos about cell phones, paper and beef have been produced, and 12 new videos are already planned. The short videos are non-politic and easy to understand messages and with added music, interviews and animations, they target a wide audience. Something to think about: Do you think the Secret Life Series is needed? Do you think the project will have an impact? Is there something you could do to extend the lifespan of your belongings? If you had to produce a video for the Secret Life Series, which topic would you choose to create awareness about, and how would you get your message across?




She28 An acute need of cheap sanitary pads means that women in developing countries have to stay home from school or work - for up to 50 days a year! The women who can, choose to buy pads from expensive, international brands. Something that drains their personal finances. Others are forced to find other alternatives such as rags. A solution that - combined with a lack of clean water - is unhygienic and potentially (health) dangerous.

On top of this, menstruation is a huge taboo in many developing countries, and for many women in these cultures their period is connected to ideas of impurity and shame. It is therefore imperative that exactly these women can choose to be discrete about the menstruation cycle. When that many women are not able to participate in a large percentage of their education or work life, it has grave social and economic consequences - not only for the women themselves, but for the entire community. Therefore, two women from United States and Rwanda took it upon them to reverse this seriously unfortunate development. She28 is a project that attacks the problem from three angles: First of all, the project is focused on entrepreneurship and financing, and to ensure that the end result (sanitary pads) is a sustainable product, the designers mainly prioritize the education of individuals to produce and sell cheap sanitary pads. Second of all, education within health and hygiene is aimed at improving the womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s overall health, and thirdly information and support is meant to reduce the tabooâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s which are often connected with a womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s period. Something to think about: Do you know about the scale and severity of the lack of sanitary pads? If you were to create a campaign that needed to generate attention about the subject, what would it look like? How would the campaign be constructed, who would be the target group, and how would the campaign reach this target group?


Netra One of the biggest challenges in the developing world is the lack of educated doctors. One of the reasons for this is that many of those who graduate from medical school choose to practice medicine in other countries. At the same time, at lot of volunteers and partially educated health workers are ready to help people in need. But they lack both skills and tools to be able to diagnose and treat patients properly. NETRA is an example of remote doctoring/diagnostics and consists of an inexpensive clip-on attached to a mobile phone that runs software which guides the user through an interactive eye test. The test measures and diagnoses refractive conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, age-related visual impairment and astigmatism encompassing more than 90% of all eye-related problems. NETRA allows for the most inexpensive and accessible eye exam ever created. It is portable and can be used on-site by anyone 窶馬ot just optometrists. It will allow millions of people to get their eyes checked and then corrected, increasing their quality of life and income substantially. Something to think about: Which situations do you think remote diagnostics is also especially applicable to? What do you think about the idea of using cell phone technology to treat patients? Could there be risks involved when using mobile software in treatment situations? Do you have any ideas as to how you could optimize the use of such applications?



Hรถvding In 2010, 714 personal bicycle injuries were recorded in Denmark, and it is estimated that half of the serious injuries that bicyclists sustain are injuries to the head/skull. A large part of these injuries could most likely be prevented if more people used bicycle helmets. It pays to wear a bicycle helmet, because if you crash at 20 km/h you will hit the asfalt with a force of over half a ton. And if you go down head first in such an accident, there is a big risk of sustaining brain injury. Many bicyclists, however, ignore the risk and ride around without a helmet - often because they do not like the design of traditional bicycle helmets. Which is why two Swedish designers invented the invisible bicycle helmet Hรถvding. Hรถvding is very different from other helmets on the market, because it does not look at all like a helmet. Instead, it is an inflatable airbag which is cleverly hidden inside a collar worn around the neck. The helmet itself is thus not visible, but is activated via sensors, if the cyclists should have an accident. The collar itself is covered with a replaceable cover, so that the cyclist can adapt it to fit individual style and clothes. Something to think about: Hรถvding provides the user with an opportunity to bike safely through traffic in a classic and simple design. Down the line, do you think it is possible to introduce the design into the world of fashion? If you had to introduce the fashion industry to Hรถvding, how would you go about it?



Refugees United Around the world, 36 million people are living as refugees today. Many of these people have lost family members or maybe lost contact to the family members they have left. Living in the unknown about where your loved ones are is a very difficult situation, and leaves many refugees with a feeling of dispare and hopelessness. In an attempt to help solve this problem, two Danish entrepreneurs created a search engine designed to help refugees reconnect with missing friends and family members. Almost 50.000 refugees were using the service at the end of 2011, and this number is rapidly climbing every month. The main idea behind the search engine is that the users can remain anonymous and decide for themselves how much personal information they wish to give away. If the engine finds a match, the parties can communicate through a closed emailing system and control the counter partyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s identity by asking them a series of personal questions that only they can answer. Refugees United thus creates hope for the thousands of refugees who are not able to get registered with the official refugee institutions - or who are afraid to get registered. Something to think about: Do you think that web portals like Refugees United are needed? Which advantages and drawbacks are there on account of the project being web based? If you were one of the designers of the project, would you have any ideas as to how the service could be further developed or optimized?



INDEX: Design to Improve Life® Patron INDEX: is under the patronage of HRH the Crown Prince of Denmark. INDEX: Partner Cities Copenhagen, Risør & Helsinki. INDEX: Award 2011 Exhibition Main Sponsors Keppel Corporation Limited and Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond. INDEX: is supported by The Danish Ministry of Business and Growth The Danish Business Authority The European Regional Development Fund – Interreg IV A (EU).




INDEX: Students' Guide High School  
INDEX: Students' Guide High School  

INDEX: award 2011 exhibition 1 2 This education material focuses on design - or more specifically on Design to Improve Life. This is both a...