Design for Need

Guy Bonsiepe wrote an essay in the book, Design for Need (1977), in which he points out that designers can no longer remain blissfully ignorant of what their profession is doing. He calls out designers for superfluous stylizing of objects when there is real need in the world. Designers are not to be blamed for this, as they are often given little choice within the workplace what their projects are (and designing the latest gadget is more profitable than designing for basic needs) but at the same time we aren't proactively doing anything about it either. 

Another issue he talks about is simply finding the opportunity for industrial design within a country where basic needs are not being met. People don't have the income to purchase potentially life saving technologies and products and so how then can we as industrial designers help them. This being the case, design in the traditional sense would only apply to the elite who can already afford the necessities. 

In order to have a positive effect, design needs to prioritize local growth and sustainability, and not rely on aid donations. Any design work done needs to increase the local design capacity and knowledge. 

The developed countries do not have the magical formula to 'fix' everything. Design needs to be done with people or by people, NOT for them. 

Why I Posted This

This is an older book, written in 1977, but I thought it was an important reminder to us as designers from a developed country, to not go to Longido thinking we know everything and have the solution. Finding a solution will depend on co-collaboration and it has to come from within their abilities and be sustainable for them in the long run.

Bicknell, J., & McQuistion, L. (1977). Design for need: the social contribution of design : an anthology of papers presented to the symposium at the Royal College of Art, London, April, 1976. Oxford: Published for ICSID by Pergamon Press.

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