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When design seems ridiculous...
As a designer focused on humanitarian issues, I’ve become very sensitive to attempts at design for social impact which are too quickly dubbed "good design" simply because they appear to be "design for the greater good." I was reminded of this this past weekend in Los Angeles, when I spotted the Oiti egg carton vase displayed in the usual design style. With a $15 price tag, it caught my eye (and not in a good way). I had heard the story of this vase the night before: a "social impact project," in which the designer purchased the scavenged egg crates from poor individuals in Brazil, then turned them into "green high design" by punching six grommets in the tops and dubbing it a vase. Is this design for social impact? And further more, is this even design?
For as critical as we are of design in general, shouldn’t we be even more critical design for social impact, design that empowers, and design for social entrepreneurship, where the stakes are higher, the problems bigger, and often life-and-death (shouldn’t we take a good hard look at things like water filters in the developing world?). I think it’s about time we raise our standards to ask how our decisions as designers really have impact, empower, and improve people’s lives. When is "design for good" just not good enough?