June 23, 2010

Design for the Other 90% Expands

By Cynthia Smith
Special to E4C

Traditionally, professional designers have focused on only 10% of the world’s population, but that is changing. Design for the Other 90%an exhibition organized by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, explores how designers, engineers, architects and social entrepreneurs are developing solutions for the majority of the world’s population – the 5.8 billion people, or 90%, who have little access to things that many of us take for granted. That includes the nearly half of the world that has limited access to basic needs such as food, clean water, or shelter. The exhibition, and the book and web site that supplement it, explore a growing movement to design low-cost solutions for this other 90%.

As the curator of the exhibition, I am conducting field research in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America, identifying projects that will result in the next exhibition in the Design for the Other 90% series. It is entitled Critical Mass: Design and Urbanization. It will be accompanied by a catalog, expanded web site and public programs and is scheduled to open in New York in 2011. You can follow my research updates via my travel log on Twitter (the feed is below).

The first exhibition continues to travel since its debut in New York in 2007.  It is on display in Washington DC at the National Geographic Museum, with previous stops at the Walker Center in Minneapolis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Mercy Corps in Portland. The catalog is in its fifth reprinting and has just been translated into Japanese this year. We continue to maintain the website Design Other 90 Network.

With the expanded web site, we seek to compile vital design resources; connect numerous stakeholders including designers, planners, local end-users and organizations, international NGOs, and foundations working in the field of socially responsible design. It will allow us to link up with others, such as E4C. We look forward to collaborating with E4C to explore and highlight the myriad ways designers, engineers and global citizens are developing solutions to meet the needs of under-served communities around the world.

Cynthia Smith is Curator of Socially Responsible Design at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City.

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