While Apple's iPod may be a beautiful specimen of modern industrial design, its sleek shiny exterior serves as a reminder that most designers are working for the few of us with disposable income. Alice Rawsthorn of the International Herald Tribune states the bias plainly: “Whenever we think, or talk, about design, it's invariably about something that's intended to be sold to one of the privileged minority—the richest 10 percent.”
Seeking to change the way many of us think about design, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York is currently hosting Design for the Other 90%, an exhibition focused on the growing movement of designers working towards low-cost solutions for the majority world. The exhibit analyzed 30 design projects that all attempt to address basic needs of the Global South, including education, sanitation, water and shelter.
Humanitarian design, like any branch of international development, is wrought with controversy and often conflicting opinions, and the museum is attempting to deal with this by showcasing a wide variety of projects and leaving the field wide open for discussion and debate. From biodegradable emergency shelters to the ever controversial $100 laptop, the featured innovations are diverse enough to inspire, or draw the ire, of any museum visitor.
Design for the Other 90% runs at the Cooper-Hewitt through September 23, 2007.