Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Back

Over the past few weeks, I have learned a bit about design and interested I thought I never had. I have noticed a pattern in my writing. Mechanics and humanity and what goes in to a simple solution to create a simple design. I have touched upon human power in Kenya to the discoveries of the light bulb by inventors. It was very fascinating to see what I ended up researching and writing about. I learned a ton of info on green designs in third world countries and have been incorporating human power in other projects I have currently working on now. There are tons of ways human powered and green designs can be incorporated in most appliances. The mechanics of human power is very simple. In my research, I had discovered that third world countries the CO2 emissions is a less than half of developed ones. This is sad because although we are more developed and we still are doing more damage the atmosphere. There are so many simple steps we can take to contribute to the growing problem.

As designer, I think we should move forward and create a trend and a want of this human powered energy. There is so much natural movement out there that can be adapted to create a power supply for our needs. You walk every day, you talk, you breathe, why can’t these action be captured or used toward energy. progress...

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Art or Design?... Is a questioned asked and has sparked numerous debates. In my mind art is more inspiration based one of a kind projects while design maybe inspired by art but is created to solve a problem. A chair for example made by an artist would be this crazy off kilter object that is or is not functional and can not be reproduced easily. But a chair made by a designer has a function and is always made to be reproduced whether it is 5 or 100,000. Although a designer may take inspiration from an artist's work, I would not consider it art. Art is also more sensual and more emotional way of creating things, while designs want to have some sort of a relationship with you. You can have a favorite chair or plate you like to use at dinner. Art in my opinion does not cause me to relate to it but feel an emotion or sensation about it.

But what happens when a Designer creates art? Well in that case it’s an expression, a brief expression or spur of the moment object. Something they just need to get out of their system and just make. Every person in life acts out of character sometimes. And this is what happens to designers. Personally being in the industrial design field, I do miss fine art sometimes. I may not be very good at painting or sculpture but I do get a craving to pick up a brush or clay once in a while. And when I do I do not call anything I create a design, it is art. As a designer I can not really say if an artist has this same impulse or if the just create to create.

Then it brings up the question, which came first Art or Design? Did the first people problem solve for a task or did they draw on the ground in the dirt? There is no way of truly knowing all we have is opinions and feelings, which everyone is entitled to. And many people seem to forget this. I guess this old debate will go on forever and there is no true answer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Better World by Design

Two weeks ago a few students from Brown and RISD put together a little conference called A better Word by Design hosted at Brown University. Some speakers of the event represented MIT, Ideo, and Architects for humanity, Better Place, and Harvard to name a few. After learning about the Kick start Water Pump last week, I have decided to focus a bit more on humanitarian design. I didn’t really believe I had an interest in the subject but that changed the more and more I research and read up about it the topic. Between ID history and my appliance studio, I am beginning to discover a little more about my own design goals and aspirations. Human power and helping others seems to be playing a large role in the environment and what I would like to continue on incorporating in my design.

While visiting the conference’s site, I stumbled upon Afrigadget. Afrigadget is a site dedicated to solving problems in Africa by Africans by solving their problems creatively, which is just want I talked about in my previous blog. Most of the founders grew up in Africa and have an interest in human or solar power processes.

There was an entry on their blog which sort of struck me. It is about a man and his cart. This man is a shoe shiner but what was odd about his cart was an old keyboard on top. The keyboard was stripped of all its keys and wires. Why did he have this old keyboard? He had told the member of Afrigadget that the keyboard was perfect lap table. A customer can put his foot on it and it would not slip off his leg and also hold on to the shoe polish. I am amazed at such a simple solution to a problem this man must have had to deal with for a while. How many pairs of pant did he ruin? How many bottles of polish had he dropped before he came up with this solution? Did he see someone else do this or was it his own ingenious solution?

Also I guess in Africa, there is a growing problem with monkeys crossing the street. With the highways in Kenya, monkeys are increasingly getting hit by cars as they cross the road. A group of locals designed a “rope” bridge made of pvc rubber and cable that is attached to a common tree on one side of the highway to another on the other side. One monkey was trained to cross the bridge and like the saying monkey see monkey do the other monkeys followed. There are about 23 bridges now and is used by over 300 species of animals including monkeys, possums, and other climbing animals. The bridge is another good example of people thinking up simple solutions to help out and solve an issue in a creative way. There is no technology needed for these solution just smart design and ideas.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Super Money Maker

So I was do a bit of research on human powered appliance for my other studio and I came across the Super Money Maker, a water pump. Created by IDEO for KickStart. KickStart is a company dedicated to helping people get out of poverty by creating products to help them start their own businesses. Kickstart also helps managing the groups/businesses of these developing countries. They have produced a few different products for irrigation.

The one I found most interesting was the Super Money Maker. Basically, a water pump. It was produced form materials found and produced in Africa which lowers the price and make the pump readily available to Africans. The pump is human powered. It was based off of a step aerobics machine and made comfortable for bare foot users. The pumps are extremely light weight and can be carried by bike or hand. Every the year it will only rain about 1-2 times and sometimes not at all. During these dry spouts, crop production is low. So the Super Money Maker allows a farm to pump water and sell their crops when crops are scarce and profits are high. Kickstart sells the pump for $97 dollars, which pays itself off after one year of use. A farmer can make $1000 more a year by pumping water during dry spells. These families need this money to support their families, health care and schooling. It is virtually maintenance free and the parts that do need to be replaced are simple and easy to do themselves. After listen to the interview of Martin Fisher, co-founder (link below), he states that they do not give the pumps away for free because the workers would not appreciate them as much. This is a very valid point when you compare it to children who want to buy the latest thingamajig and a parent tells them to save the money themselves. They appreciate it more because all the work, time and saving that goes into getting the reward of purchasing the item. More care is given thereafter as well.

One fact I found on the IDEO site, which was very interesting, ‘more than 50% of KickStart's Moneymaker pumps are managed by women entrepreneurs.’

The Kickstart's Super Money Maker Pump is a great product because all you need is the pump. There is no need for anything else but your land, your pump, and yourself. The profits are beneficial to the family and to the environment as well.

Kickstart also has a smaller version water pump which is just as easy to use. The user just rests his/her hip on the side and sways. This motion is simpler than the Moneymaker and less tiring as well but does not produce as much water. Less water, less profit. This pump is only $37.

KickStart's Super Money Maker

Interview with Martin Fisher, Co-Founder

IDEO help's Kickstart