PermaNet, 2000, Designer: Vestergaard Frandsen Manufacturer: Vestergaard Frandsen S.A. Vietnam, 2000 100% polyester impregnated with deltamethrin (synthetic parathyroid) 63 x 71 x 59”, Photo: © 2005 Palle Peter Skov.

Design for the Other 90 Percent, Design for the Rest of the World

Sierra portable light mat, 2006, Designer/Manufacturer: Portable Light Team, KVA MATx United States, 2006 Woven aluminum textile, recyclable PET, flexible photo-voltaics, semi-conductors, flexible wireways 28”h x 14”w x 1”d (unfolded), 12” h x 14” w x 1” d (folded), Photo: Stanford Richins.

Global Village Shelter, 2004, Designer: Ferrara Design, Inc., with Architecture for Humanity Manufacturer: Weyerhaeuser Company United States, 2004 Triple wall-laminated corrugated cardboard Dimensions: 92" h x 98.5" w x 98.5" d, Photo: © 2005 Architecture for Humanity and Grenada Relief, Recovery, and Reconstruction.

LifeStraw ®, 2005, Designer: Torben Vestergaard Frandsen Manufacturer: Vestergaard Frandsen, S.A. China and Switzerland (current version) High-impact polystyrene (outer shell), halogen-based resin, anion exchange resin and patented activated carbon (interior) Dimensions: 10 x 1”.


Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue
for the Other 90 percent

May 24-September 7, 2008

Of the world’s 6.5 billion people, 90 percent have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In fact, nearly half do not have reliable access to food, clean water, healthcare, education, affordable transportation, or shelter. The exhibition Design for the Other 90% features more than 30 projects that reflect a growing movement among designers, engineers, and social entrepreneurs to create low-cost solutions for everyday problems. Through local and global partnerships, individuals and organizations are finding unique ways to address the basic challenges of survival and progress faced by the world’s poor.

Designers, engineers, students and professors, architects, and social entrepreneurs from all over the globe are devising cost-effective ways to increase access to food and water, energy, education, healthcare, revenue-generating activities, and affordable transportation for those who most need them. And an increasing number of initiatives are providing solutions for underserved populations in developed countries such as the United States.

This movement has its roots in the 1960s and 1970s, when economists and designers looked to find simple, low-cost solutions to combat poverty. More recently, designers are working directly with end users of their products, emphasizing co-creation to respond to their needs. Many of these projects employ market principles for income generation as a way out of poverty. Poor rural farmers become micro-entrepreneurs, while cottage industries emerge in more urban areas. Some designs are patented to control the quality of their important breakthroughs, while others are open source in nature to allow for easier dissemination and adaptation, locally and internationally.

Encompassing a broad set of modern social and economic concerns, these design innovations often support responsible, sustainable economic policy. They help, rather than exploit, poorer economies; minimize environmental impact; increase social inclusion; improve healthcare at all levels; and advance the quality and accessibility of education. These designers’ voices are passionate, and their points of view range widely on how best to address these important issues. Each object on display tells a story, and provides a window through which we can observe this expanding field. Design for the Other 90% demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world.

Design for the Other 90% showcases designs that use conventional and unorthodox methods, new and traditional materials, and ancient and innovative technologies to solve myriad problems — from cleaner-burning sugarcane charcoal to a solar-rechargeable battery for a hearing aid, from a portable instant water-purification straw to a $100 laptop. By understanding the available resources and tools as well as the lives and needs of their potential users, these designers create simple, pragmatic objects and ingenious, adaptive systems that can help transform lives and communities.

Situated in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and free to the public, the objects on view are housed in a collection of Global Village Shelters created by Ferrara Design, Inc., which provide a lightweight, prefabricated alternative for emergency housing.

Design for the Other 90% is organized by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.



Q-Drum, 1993, Designer: P. J. and J. P. S. Hendrikse Manufacturer: Kaymac Rotomoulders and Pioneer Plastics Pretoria, South Africa, 1993 Linear low-density Polyethelene (LLDPE) 14” h x 19.5” diameter, Photo: © 1993 P. J. Hendrikse.