|organisation: Design for the World|
type of activity: research & development, design
what: Design for the World is an international humanitarian organisation founded in 1998 by the world’s leading international design associations ICOGRADA (graphical design), IFI (interior architects) and ICSID (industrial design), with the support of the Barcelona Design Centre. Their objective is to match the skills and commitment of volunteer designers with the needs expressed by disadvantaged populations and the organisations that serve them worldwide. Design for the World unites graphic designers, industrial designers, interior and architectural designers around one common idea: volunteering design for people in need.
humanitarian design: design is closely identified with consumer products and services, and is usually considered irrelevant to people in the third world, in emergency situations or in situations of social exclusion.
In fact, design is the process through which the visual, material and spatial environment is created. Designers are trained to ensure that the world we live in is consistent with human needs. For large parts of the world’s population, these needs are very basic: they involve disaster relief, health, education, and development. Many organisations around the world try to deal with these needs but in many cases they do not recognise the contribution that design could make to improve their ability to achieve their objectives more efficiently, effectively and economically. Design for the World’s statement is that people disadvantaged by poverty, war, disability, age or environmental conditions deserve equal access to practical design solutions that will improve their day-to-day lives. The members of the organisation seek to extend the benefits of design to populations lacking access to adequately designed materials, objects, tools and living environments.
what they do: over the last years, Design for the World has been active in different types of projects:
- exploration projects: investigating situations where people are vulnerable and have basic needs, to determine how design and designers can help improve the lives of these people. Ideally, the outcome of these exploration projects becomes the input for one or more design project, either within Design for the World or for any other group of designers or design students wishing to participate.
- design projects: through the exploration projects, or through contacts with organisations working with disadvantaged people, they identify specific needs which they try to find adequate solutions for with the help of designers and other professionals. The object of such a project may be the development of a product, a space, an information tool, a methodology or a process.
- putting volunteer designers in contact with humanitarian and social organisations: in some cases, especially of a well defined and limited scope, Design for the World will not be the motor behind the design project but will simply establish contact between the organisation expressing the need and professionals volunteering to help. The project is managed between the organisation and the volunteers, although Design for the World may give some guidance and backup. For those projects, they generally invite professionals to participate through ‘calls for help’ on their website and in their newsletter.