Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘health’

11 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Book Spotlight: Design Revolution

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What soccer balls have to do with blind children and water transportation in Africa.

In 2008, in the midst of the “going green” craze, San-Francisco-based product designer and activist Emily Pilloton came to the restless realization that design can be so much more than pure aesthetics, and certainly more than a mere fad — it could, with a completely nonpageantry sentiment, really change the world.

So she launched, with $1,000 from her desk at Architecture for Humanity, Project H Design — a radical nonprofit supporting initiatives for “Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness.”

With hundreds of international volunteer designers and 9 global chapters, Project H crusades for industrial design as a potent solution for social issues. From education in Uganda to homelessness in L.A., the project’s global-to-local model offers a tangible, truly transformational implementation of design as a change agent.

This fall, Project H is releasing Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People — a fascinating anthology of 100 contemporary design products and systems that change lives in brilliantly elegant ways.

From a high-tech waterless washing machine, to low-cost prosthetics for landmine victims, to Braille-based Lego-style building blocks for blind children, to a DIY soccer ball, the book reads like a manual, thinks like a manifesto, and feels like a powerful jolt of fire-in-your-belly inspiration.

Pilloton was recently awarded a $15,000 Adobe Foundation grant to support work on the book. Here, she talks — passionately and candidly — about the Project H mission and the very real, practical ways in which design matters.

Get yourself a copy of Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People — we couldn’t recommend it more.

via TrackerNews

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26 JUNE, 2009

More Than Form: Design for Disability

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What a microwavable monkey has to do with the MoMA and open social conversation.

THE BOEZELS

Mental disability — from neurodegenerative diseases to developmental disability — is a difficult subject, often shoved under the bed of social dialogue. But the reality is that it exists, and those affected by it have needs — physical, emotional, mental — dramatically different from the average.

Dutch designer Twan Verdonck address this head-on through The Boezels, a series of animal-like toys designed for mentally challenged people and elderly with Alzheimer’s as sensorial stimulation therapy (Snoezelen) tools to help the learning process and reduce anxiety.

My project is a metaphor and example for how we could deal with social care, industry, design and art

The Boezels come in several varieties, each with a distinct “personality” and function, stimulating one or more of the four senses — touch, smell, hearing, sight. From a microwavable monkey meant to warm up the user’s belly to a snake infused with a relaxing smell, the toys are designed with a meticulously balanced combination of material, weight and size in a way that induces a strong sense of physical contact, stimulating emotional response.

Even more fascinatingly, The Boezels are not only designed for, but also by the mentally challenged — they are produced in De Wisselstroom, a daycare center The Netherlands, where a small group of people with mental impairments are working in close collaboration with Verdonck.

In 2006, The Boezels were acquired by the MoMA’s permanent collection. They are currently being successfully used for therapy by a number of European health organizations.

PROAESTHETICS SUPPORTS

Physical disability can be an uncomfortable subject often veiled in a sense of taboo. Most people address it through a mix of denial, awkwardness and nervous self-derision. But it doesn’t have to be.

Italian designer Francesca Lanzavecchia‘s latest project, ProAesthetics Supports, explores the perception of disability through artifacts — crutches, corsets, braces and more.

Beyond the expected blend of form and function, her designs transform these vital body accessories into conversation pieces that make the discussion of disability easier, less judgmental and more open.

Marsupial: Functionally exhibitionistic. This neck brace stores life’s necessities beneath a stretchable semi-transparent rubber skin.

Neck Plinth: An exercise in lightness: the deletion of the image of a neck brace through reduction, while function is fully retained.

Back braces are the first representatives of bodily differences; molded and tailor-made around the body they are a cumbersome second skin. I reinterpreted them with the aim of transforming them objects of desire and representative skins.

Polly: A young girl’s brace where she stores her prized possessions. A colourful brace with sculpted-in pockets to store personal artifacts.

Brittle: This aid manifests the symptoms that afflict sufferers of brittle bone. A cane with a delicate-looking but at the same time strong enough to support body weight.

While we’re far from suggesting there’s such a thing as “celebrating” disability per se, we do believe there’s a way to honor our bodies and their idiosyncrasies without shame and stigma. Francesca Lanzavecchia takes something often perceived as — if we’re really honest with ourselves — ugly, and brings a bold sense of aestheticism and pride to it, a much-needed perspective in the cultural dialogue on disability.

SNIFF

Visual impairment is tough, but it’s particularly challenging in young kids — sight is just too integral to the process of exploring one’s surroundings, a strong developmental need for children.

Norwegian industrial designer Sarah Johansson aims to tackle this this through Sniff, an interactive, RFID-detecting soft toy for visually impaired children.

Every time an RFID-enabled object comes close to Sniff’s nose, the toy gives feedback through sound and vibration. Sniff can react to different stimuli with different behaviors, giving kids a richer, more tangible experience of their physical environment.

In 2008, Sniff won the prestigious Design for All prize from the Norwegian Design Council. Johansson is currently working on a more sophisticated and technologically advanced 2.0 version — you can follow the progress on Sniff’s prototypes here.

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01 DECEMBER, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008: Join the Fight

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What 20 years, 112 million bloggers and a simple pledge have in common.

We’re doing something a little different today. Because today is the 20th anniversary of World Aids Day, a powerful opportunity to reflect on the deadly pandemic that started eating away at the world over 27 years ago — and the one time when it’s particularly not okay to roll our eyes at the overexposed and underaddressed problem.

World AIDS Day 20th Anniversary No need to drum on about the stats, because we all know how frightening they are, but just consider that by the time you finish reading this, 71 new people will be infected with AIDS, adding to the 33 million worldwide living with the disease.

So what can you do? Generally, “awareness” is a comfortable, failure-free way of pretending to be involved in a cause without really being responsible for its tangible success. (Seriously, has “awareness” cured, say, breast cancer?) But AIDS is extraordinary because in this particular case, awareness is action — in a disease where the only cure is prevention, the more people get tested and know how to “be careful,” the less people get infected.

So learn a thing or two about how not to get infected. And, seriously, get tested — the first step to chipping away at the colossal problem is refusing to think of it as an abstraction, and that begins with personal initiative — if you live in the States, find a testing center near you or just text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948) and they’ll text back with a nearby center. And if you live elsewhere in the world, enlist Google and a few friends in finding out about local testing options or check out UNAIDS, the United Nations program against HIV/AIDS.

You can also take the World AIDS Campaign leadership pledge and even follow AIDS.gov on Twitter.

If you’re a designer, allot some pro-bono time to doing a compelling piece that raises awareness, moves people and inspires action — talk about using your power for good Bloggers Unite

And if you’re one of the world’s 112 million bloggers, grab the World Aids Day badge and participate in BloggersUnite, an ambitious initiative to leverage the traction of the blogosphere in reaching more people with the simple yet powerful awareness message.

So go ahead, do your part. Because the more the word spreads, the less the disease does. Think about it.