Products with a Purpose
About this time last summer, we here in Minneapolis were fortunate to have an exhibit at the Walker Art Center that addressed the topic of product design for the poor, a traditionally underserved group of people. The exhibit was called "Design for the Other 90%," and it was associated with the non-profit design group D-REV.
One of the items featured in the presentation was the Hippo Roller, shown here. This is a simply designed product, and yet, is effective in its design because it allows a person to transport 24 gallons of water, five times the amount collected using the traditional methods. As improved access to water is crucial in developing countries, this is quite a product.
I was reminded of the Hippo Roller again recently because I was perusing the website of Engineers Without Borders. Our EWB group here at the University of Minnesota has been involved in very interesting work in Haiti and Uganda regarding access to water.
Even though I'm not an engineer by trade, the idea of creating products that make a meaningful impact seems like it has truly uplifting qualities. I think a lot of major companies are now coming around to the idea that simple yet thoughtful products, albeit with modest profit margins and targeted toward a demographic of limited income, can promote both profit and social good.