What Design (and Designers) Can Do

Our lives are better when the lives of those around us are better and when global challenges like refugees and climate change are being addressed. The designer’s ability to blend form with function can help tackle these challenges, and by getting involved, we can make a difference. Not only is CUR8 excited to share with you products that do good, we also want to share ways that designers can contribute to social and environmental solutions.

Enter “What Design Can Do”

What Design Can Do (WDCD) is an organization of professional designers that uses design as a catalyst for change to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.

With annual conferences in Amsterdam and Brazil, WDCD brings together designers from across disciplines to build a creative force for good. The WDCD issues a challenge each year presenting designers with an opportunity to use their unique talents to help solve major problems. The Refugee Challenge in 2016 and the Climate Change Challenge in 2017 are fostering new collaborations around the world and leading us to a better future.

The Refugee Challenge (2016)

Designers, during the WDCD 2017 Challenge, were asked to tackle one of the most overwhelming and tragic phenomena of our time: the Refugee Crisis. With numbers topping 60 million for the first time since WW1, millions of war-displaced people are flooding over the borders in Europe seeking aid. WDCD rightfully notes that this problem is too complex for just NGOs and national governments to solve alone.

The Refugee Challenge (co-sponsored by WDCD, UN Refugee Agency, and IKEA Foundation) was “a global design competition in search for game-changing ideas for accommodating, connecting, integrating and helping the personal development of refugees. The challenge specifically focuses on refugees in urban areas, as nearly 60 percent of the world’s 20 million refugees now live in urban areas.”

Following are a few examples from the Top 25 entries (of over 600) showing how interior design in collaboration with other design disciplines can improve the lives of refugees and help others understand their plight:

“In Your Shoes, the entry from Veejays in the Netherlands, uses the same kind of technology found in CUR8 interactive art installations to display ourselves within the refugee’s context. This video wall installation uses 3-D cameras and rendering to show images of refugees that resemble and move with the viewer. Holding your daughter in a mall and seeing another father holding his daughter in bombed-out rubble creates a powerful mirror effect. We come to see refugees not as strangers, but as ourselves under different circumstances.

Ke Tian Tay, MezzAHome
Ke Tian Tay, MezzAHome

MezzAHome,” the entry from Ke Tian Tay in Australia, designed flexible pop-up rooms which can be quickly erected within abandoned buildings and other empty interior spaces. This takes advantage of existing structures while avoiding the cost and time required for more permanent renovations. The rooms can be packed up and relocated to serve others.

Lodewijk De Vries & Diederik Derkzen, Kozicover, WDCD Challenge 2016
Lodewijk De Vries & Diederik Derkzen, Kozicover, WDCD Challenge 2016

KöziCover”, the entry from Lodewijk de Vries and Diederik Derkzen in the Netherlands, helps young refugee children feel safer and more comfortable at bedtime. Many shelters house refugees in large open spaces which can be frightening to children who have experienced trauma including loss of family members. The playful KöziCovers can be attached to any size bed to provide a sense of privacy and security, “chasing away the monsters underneath their beds, and inside their heads”.

Get Involved. Seriously.

To date, interior design has been underrepresented in the global activist community relative to other design disciplines such architectural design, product design, interaction design, and even graphic design. We all appreciate the impact that built environments have on our collective well-being so it’s time to step up our game and get involved.

We at CUR8 are excited to promote this year’s WDCD Climate Action Challenge. The call to action?

What can the design community do to help people in need adapt to climate change – the poor, the vulnerable, and particularly the Global South who will suffer the brunt of the impact?

Visit WDCD website to learn more about the challenge and how to participate. Have an idea? Let us know on Facebook or tweet at us. Let us help. We’re in this together!

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