Photo courtesy of One Laptop Per Child
I wrote about an exhibition called Massive Change at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago before, but something struck me about it just recently. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. About a semester before graduating, I became rather cynical of the whole idea of design. I don’t know if it was my own personal opinion or something to do with my schooling, but in some ways, I felt that part of industrial design was just a way to make objects look “pretty”. While I definitely saw the benefits of making a product’s form follow its function, I felt that the design community was too bogged down in conceptual design and the beautification of products.
My opinion, though, has changed. I feel that we need design in this world more than ever, but with one caveat. As I learned from the Massive Change exhibition, design needs to think of the global community. Our world is in danger of being used up if we do not think of the bigger picture. We need designers to not just think about making that one product that is a hit for one Christmas, but to think about sustainable design. To think about how design is accessible to everyone. To think about recycled materials. To think about, and I know this is cliche, protecting our world.
The example above is the $100 laptop which I feel falls into this category of design that I’m talking about. Here is the text from the front of their website:
Introducing the children’s laptop from One Laptop per Child—a potent learning tool created expressly for the world’s poorest children living in its most remote environments. The laptop was designed collaboratively by experts from both academia and industry, bringing to bear both extraordinary talent and many decades of collective field experience in every aspect of this non-profit humanitarian project. The result is a unique harmony of form and function; a flexible, ultra low-cost, power-efficient, responsive, and durable machine with which nations of the emerging world can leapfrog decades of development—immediately transforming the content and quality of their children’s learning.
In my opinion, these are the ideas designers should be focusing on. As I get deeper into the profession of being an art teacher, I’d like to not just have my students create great looking art projects. I’d like them to start thinking about how their artistic talents can be used for the greater good. Design might be responsible for making a great looking advertisement or a great functioning mp3 player, but it can also be responsible for designing recyclable shopping bags, clean water supplies for the world, and sustainable architecture. That might be a lot for an elementary school student to swallow, but at least it gets the discussion started.