Design by the Rest

Over the next months while the Design with the Other 90%: CITIES exhibition is on display at the United Nations Headquarters in New York several individuals whose own research explores the exhibition’s subject matter have been invited to write blog entries sharing their insights, related research and projects. – Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

The Peters Projection Map

What does it mean to be a developing country? Among other things, it means that the country’s future is to become developed, or so it seems.

In 2010 I launched a competition that challenged the commonly held idea that developed countries are a model to follow with an open call for designers and thinkers from the “third world” to invent creative solutions for some of the most pressing “first world” problems - eating disorders, low birth rate and aging population and consumerism. The Design for the First World competition (Dx1W) was created in part as a call to arms for developing countries to take their future into their own hands, rather than leave it in the hands of well intentioned “do-gooders” or the International Monetary Fund.

Real TIme Chat by Layla Cavalcante, the winning entry in Dx1W

The online competition received 30 design submissions and interest from over 150 countries – from Bangladesh to Mexico. The winning entry was selected by an international jury of designers, architects and thinkers from “third world countries” whose own work is relevant to entire world. The proposal, Real Time Chat, came from Brazil’s Layla Cavalcante. Addressing technology-based isolation an add-on device for headphones indicates the user willingness to chat with strangers. The runner-up was Powdered Neem as Fast Food Condiment from Bangladesh, a provocative proposal that tackles obesity by using the bitter leaf neem on fast food.

Credit: Juana Medina

Design for the First World organizers declared 2010 as the Year of the First World In Need. In retrospect, as we approach the end of 2011, this might have been the better year for that prescient title. If events continue along the same path it may be an apt title in the years that follow too. Hopefully this will establish a new order where the “rest” can play an equally important role as the “west” - in the only world we have.

Carolina Vallejo is a designer and educator, from Colombia. She currently spends her time between Makerhood, Nexus Interactive Arts and Superflux in London, the Koshirakura Landscape Workshop in Japan, the Institute of advanced architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona and cooking everywhere she can.