Designing with the public good in mind
[First in Two-part series: Service Design Era] Designers aiming to contribute to society.
In South Africa, PlayPumps are seemingly everywhere, surrounded by the giggles of children who get a kick out of the merry-go-round-like rides.
But there’s much more at work here than just child’s play.
When the ride spins, groundwater is pumped up from an underground well and stored in a tank. Turn a faucet attached to the tank, and out flows fresh water.
The ride was nominated as one of the finalists for the 2008 United States National Design Award. Gary Edson, CEO of PlayPumps International U.S., unveiled his plan to further expand the business to other African regions - such as Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda - this year.
Supplying fresh water is just one of many areas that designers are dipping their toes into as the industry branches off in a new direction. For years, the design field focused primarily on developing products that were attractive and convenient for consumers. Now, however, the industry is increasingly eyeing service design, which involves providing products that offer up benefits to society.
“The current trend is to create designs that improve services in the public domain as well as at corporations,” said Lee Young-sun, a chief design officer at the Korea Institute of Design Promotion. As Baik Jong-won, a professor at the Kaywon School of Art and Design, puts it: “Design that had been merely about making a contribution to beautifying a city environment is now turning into a means of resolving social issues these days.”
Water is getting a big look. Designers at Ideo, a U.S.-based global design firm, are currently working on a project to supply fresh water to 500,000 people across the globe. They started working in India and Kenya at the end of last year as part of the Ripple Effect project, a global social effort developed by the Gates Foundation.
Other efforts involve everything from education to the environment.
Under Britain’s Dott (Design of the Time) project, designers are looking to improve the country’s overall infrastructure.
And together with the construction firm Som, Ideo has changed the educational environment at the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL). Designers spent some time observing the flow of the center’s students and joined their classes as well, incorporating their findings into new designs.
Britain has decided to apply the concept of design to a project involving the remodeling of around 3,500 schools across the nation. Designers are also working to prevent crimes. Around 50 bicycles are stolen almost every day in London. To address this issue, a design laboratory recently created an M-shaped bicycle rack, unlike the pre-existing U-shaped ones. As a result, the number of bicycles stolen every day dropped to the single digits.
By Choi Ji-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]