As we noted in our 2016 HL Trend Report, people of today appear to be more socially aware than their millennial counterparts and this is a movement that’s been reflected in the design world.
That is, many creatives are keeping social issues in mind when crafting products and, rather than simply designing pretty items for aesthetic purposes, are looking to create design-led solutions to major problems.
To illustrate how the age of social responsibility is playing out in the creative industry, we’ve highlighted six of our favourite ethical design concepts from around the world below.
An organisation founded by local change agent Thato Kgatlhanye, Rethaka manufactures Repurpose schoolbags from recycled plastic shopping bags that do so much more than just carry books and stationery. Each bag is fitted with retro-reflective material that helps keep kids safe on the roads and a solar panel that charges up during a child's walk to and from school and can then be turned into a light at night so students can study even without electricity. Plus, these clever creations are durable, colourful and rather stylish too.
plantable coffee cups
A Kickstarter campaign by US-based company Reduce Reuse Grow has pioneered a coffee cup that has seeds embedded in the material it’s made from so that it can be planted after use. It’s a design solution to the problem of masses of coffee cups ending up in landfills and it helps with greening and reforestation. We’ve seen a similar idea take hold locally thanks to Growing Paper, a South African company that handcrafts greeting cards, paper tags, notebooks, flyers and more embedded with either flower or herb seeds.
life saving dot
Using out-of-the-box creative thinking, philanthropic initiative Grey for Good came up with a very simple idea that addresses the major issue of iodine deficiency amongst rural women in India. They transformed the cultural bindi (the red dot that Hindu women wear in the centre of their forehead) into an iodine supplement using the same technology as nicotine patches. The result is a solution that’s very affordable and doesn’t require any behavior change. The video below is enlightening.
rearview cycling radar
GARMIN’s nifty Varia radar device for bicycles is a genius design invention that helps to keep cyclists safe on the roads by alerting them to rear-approaching vehicles. A nice fun fact is that this smart piece of tech was actually developed by a little company based in Stellenbosch before it was acquired by GARMIN. So it’s a prime example of local design that’s saving lives.
drinking bottle classrooms
Nominated as the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2016, local project Bottle2Build’s beverage containers are cleverly designed to double up as low-cost building materials. Once their life as a bottle has ended, these modular containers can be interconnected to build a strong, stable classroom wall, and so address the shortage of educational infrastructure in the country. The idea is for more and more businesses and shops to sell these filled bottles so that the empty containers can be used for building purposes afterwards.
To address the issue of car accidents caused by blocked vision when overtaking large vehicles, Samsung has designed a prototype video system that screens a live image of the road ahead onto the back of trucks. This way, those driving behind can ‘see’ what’s happening in front of the truck and can overtake safely, even on the darkest night. Apparently, Samsung is currently working with safe-driving NGOs and governments to help get this technology commercially available.