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Want to change the world for the better? Then you must read Futurekind

Design for and by the People

Dr. Rob Phillips

£39.95 Thames and Hudson

This book is not about the world of design, but the design of the world. Futurekind’ is a manual and manifesto, an inspiration and a call to arms – this rich and timely survey presents over sixty innovative, socially and environmentally conscious design projects changing the world for the better.

We have grown accustomed to two beliefs: the first, that only experts can be designers; the second, that our everyday activities are harming the world. Yet, with new platforms, digital communication and engaged online communities, the products we can now design – and truly need – can be made by anyone for social and environmental good.

         Social design can see that primary school children learn to code, and uses local information in off-grid locations to create global change. Open-source design is enabling us to remake our world right now.

         Structured into eight areas of application, from healthcare to education, Futurekind showcases over sixty projects from across the globe and across every scale and budget to reveal how design practice is being transformed by open-source platforms, crowd-sourcing and the latest digital technologies. Each has made a genuine different to lives and communities around the world.

Rather than being client-driven, as commercial design often is, each project shown is the result of designers who reach out, communities who get involved and the technologies that are helping people to realize ideas together. From a playground-powered water pump in South Africa to a DIY budget mobile phone, each of these groundbreaking projects is presented through fascinating and life-affirming stories, and diagrams that reveal the mechanisms and motivations behind each design approach, and photography that celebrates the humanity of the endeavor.

Here are a few examples  from the book of successful and useful designs.

‘Fix my Street’ was set up by Tom Steinburg. He realized there was no simple way to report vandalism on the streets, to local authorities. Fix my Street is the solution, a simple way to report street problems such as fly tipping, pot- holes, broken street -lights. It is a map-based interface, which matches map-based interface, matching geographical points to an email address.

Dr Catlin Powers is the co-founder of One Earth Designs the organization who produce SolSource solar power stove.

The invention was inspired after a Himilayan research trip, on which she encountered a nomadic Tibetan community. Their indoor stove pollution presented an air quality challenge. When measured, the air quality was ten times more polluted than the air in Beijing. The World Health Organization states that over 4 million people die every year from breathing ‘Stove Smoke’. A five-year collaboration with 54 different solar powered prototypes, finally arrived at SolSource. It heats up five ties faster than a charcoal grill delivering 1000 Watts of power and harnessing sunlight seven times more efficiently than an average photovoltaic solar panel and is affordable by the end users.

Better Shelter is a social enterprise thatdevelops and provides innovative shelter for refugees and those in disaster stricken areas of the world. Their mission is to improve the lives of people displaced by conflicts and natural disasters, aiming ‘to be the leader in emergency and temporary shelter innovation”. The projects aim is to compliment traditional refugee tents, as used in emergencies, with shelters designed for the post-emergency phase, which are more spacious (with higher ceilings), better insulated (clad in polypropylene panels) and more durable than their counterparts.

The People’s Fridge is a public amenity, enabling local residents and businesses to deposit spare food for people in need. It is run by volunteers, who want to cut food waste, and encourage sharing and tackle nutrition poverty. The People’s Fridge is situated in Brixton’s foodie hotspot “Pop Brixton”, whose traders help stock and clean the fridge daily. Similar projects have been launched in Somerset, Derbyshire, Spain, Germany and India. Annually food waste costs the UK about £17 billion, with restaurants alone discarding an estimated 900,000 tons of food and households binning on average 24 edible meals a month.

One of the co-founders, of this enterprise, Ben Longman shared his insights.

“We wanted the fridge to address two issues: food surplus and food poverty. The fridge is unmanned and free for all to use.”

Gravity Light uses kinetic energy to produce light. It is affordable, reliable and safe alternative to kerosene lamps used by 1.1 billion people globally. Kerosene consumes 15% of the income of the very poor. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million deaths a year are attributed to household air pollution, caused by people burning kerosene and biomass fuels for their energy needs. Gravity Light is powered by lifting a weight- a bag filled with 12kg of rocks or sand. As the weight descends, it turns a gear chain that powers a dynamo, creating light instantly. After 25 minutes, when the bag reaches the ground, it can be lifted again as required.

30 Dollar Wind Turbine is designed with unskilled makers in mind. POC21 have designed the 30 dollar wind turbine to have a small footprint and a big output. If you have a spare bike wheel and 30 bucks, then this can reduce your ecological footprint. The project delivers a few hundred Watts-enough to pump water. Daniel Connell, the designer, stated that anyone who ‘can cut paper and hold a drill’ could manage it. Construction involves cutting aluminium into shapes, then bending and riveting the vanes to a bike wheel. This project can be used to pump water or air, run a cooling system, or charge a battery through a generator. Connell focuses on upcycled and reclaimed materials, making his output affordable and accessible.

Cola Life you can buy Coca Cola anywhere in the world, even in remote parts of developing countries…because it has a phenomenal distribution network. In some place, one in nine children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, and most of these die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, and most die from dehydration caused by diarrhea. With this in mind, Simon Berry founder and CEO of ColaLife is working with Coca Cola to open its distribution channels in developing countries and to carry ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to save children’s lives.

The author, Dr. Rob Phillips is an award-winning product designer and a senior tutor on the Design Products Course at the Royal College of Art. His research into open design and citizen science has resulted in internationally taught methods at MIT, Goldsmiths, Cornell, and the BBC. As a designer, his past clients have included: Puma, Samsung, Save the Children, Visa, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Google.

This book is full of brilliant and innovative ideas far too many to mention here. Purchase it and join the revolution ‘Engage Design’ processes to decrease people’s impact, gaining insight into what people really do… thinking how can we be Futurekind to Humankind.