Design for the World


As a designer wanting to use my skills ‘out in the field’ I spent quite some time searching for an aid organisation dedicated to facilitating sustainable design and appropriate technologies in local communities around the world. While there are fantastic groups doing an amazing work, such as Architecture for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity and Aid to Artisans I couldn’t find any substantial organisation dedicating their time to design as a whole, that was until I found Design for the World…Design for the World was founded in Barcelona in 1998 by three of the world’s leading international design associations ICOGRADA (graphic design), IFI (interior architects) and ICSID (industrial design), with the support of the Barcelona Design Centre. Their aim is to link professional designers to social design projects around the world, so they could use their ‘experience and creativity to help people in need’ and ‘make available their skills to those who most need them, beyond the confines of the consumer market.’
As they go on to say on their website ‘Design is closely identified with consumer products and services, and is usually considered irrelevant to people in the third world, in emergency situations or in situations of social exclusion.’ Design For the World is trying to counter this impression by using design as a tool to help improve daily living environments for those who cannot afford the solutions offered in the normal marketplace. With the help of sponsors and donations Design for the World has successfully involved hundreds of designers in projects ranging from a social housing project in the north of Barcelona to a refugee camp project in Tanzania and an AIDS awareness graphic design campaign. They have also worked in collaboration with the graphic design cooperative La Lluna.
The sad part of this story is that unfortunately, due to lack of sponsors and consequently funds, Design For the World had to shut down its operations at the end of 2003. However they have kept their offices in Barcelona and the bare structure of the organisation in place so they can get projects up and running as quickly as possible when they are able to. If you are interested in the work Design For The World has done and would like to continue doing in the future please visit their website or email

[Leonora & Petz]