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Website of the Week — Design for the Other 90%


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes.

This week it's an online exhibition of design innovations that are helping improve lives in developing countries.

Mention "design" and you probably think of fashion or architecture. But it also includes industrial design – how manufactured products look and work. Most designs are created with the richest 10 percent of the world's population in mind. Our Website of the Week is about Design for the Other 90%.

SMITH: "The designs that were exhibited here really addressed the underpinnings of poverty – better access to education, better access to water, transportation, health care, food. And so a lot of those solutions come out of technologies that were developed for the [wealthy] 10 percent."

Cynthia Smith is a curator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and creator of last year's museum exhibition of those innovative solutions and the continuing online version at

The website focuses on more than 30 products designed to meet the needs of some of the world's poorest people. The products include water filters to prevent disease, a cargo-carrying bicycle, and a cooler that uses locally-made pottery and evaporation, not electricity, to keep stuff cool.

SMITH: "Tomatoes that had lasted only three days before now last up to 21 days. And this has real impact. Young girls, women, are usually tasked with taking the produce to market, and this frees up their time to pursue education, which is one way that people can begin to emerge out of poverty."

Another product featured in the exhibition that you can see and read about at Design for the Other 90% is a prefabricated emergency shelter. There are also technology products.

SMITH: "You'll have something like the Kinkajou portable library and projector, where these designers are using either emerging technologies like solar power or LED lamps, or they look to abandoned technologies, something like microfilm."

Most if not all of these innovative designs are already at work around the world, improving lives one family at a time. Learn more about Design for the Other 90% at, or get the link from our site,