Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A billion customers in the world,” Dr. Paul Polak told a crowd of inventors recently, “are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.

“We need a revolution to reverse that silly ratio,” he said.

To that end, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is housed in Andrew Carnegie’s 64-room mansion on Fifth Avenue and offers a $250 red chrome piggy bank in its gift shop, is honoring inventors dedicated to “the other 90 percent,” particularly the billions of people living on less than $2 a day.

Their creations, on display in the museum garden until Sept. 23, have a sort of forehead-thumping “Why didn’t someone think of that before?” quality.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology

4 Comments
Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. SouthCoast wrote:

I, myself, am waiting for a $10 solar lantern! The means to live sanely and simply (and safely) are dear for the middle class in this country, alas. Sometimes our materialism reminds me of an old ScFi story I read. The story detailed the parents of a to-be-married couple concerned over the economic discrepancy of the two families. The bride’s family was shown in a simple house, with simple food, simple clothes, and few possessions. The groom’s family was up to their eyeballs in material goods. The punchline was, the bride’s family was the wealthy one, as they could pay the reverse-sumptuary taxes that opted them out of the mandatory consumerism that supposedly kept the wheels of their society rolling. (Wish I could remember who wrote it!)

May 31, 7:27 pm | [comment link]
2. Irenaeus wrote:

Kudos to Paul Polak and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

May 31, 9:22 pm | [comment link]
3. libraryjim wrote:

Southcoast,
I can get a solar powered “Garden light” for my sidewalk or garden (duh?) and any discount store from around $39.99 a pair, cheaper when on sale or on clearance, and occasionally bundled in packs of four.

June 1, 2:54 pm | [comment link]
4. SouthCoast wrote:

libraryjim,
True, but they’re rather difficult to read or sew by! (Thanks, though.)

June 1, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
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