IDEO's Designs Bridge the Technological Divide

The two products illustrated here each represent the apex of design in their respective fields; intermediate technology on the left and high tech to the right. And what is more remarkable is that they both came from the same design stable — IDEO design studios. Apple Computer might’ve pioneered the bundling of a mouse with a graphical user interface on a computer, but it wasn’t for the Macintosh, rather the earlier short-lived Lisa. And it was IDEO that they turned to, needing a mouse that would cost 10% of the concept models they'd seen at the Xerox research labs. The design that IDEO developed would become the model for all mechanical mice that followed. And we are talking 1981. Why is this relevant to green design? Because it ...... must’ve been those same design skills, combined with that ability to reduce costs that saw ApproTEC, or Appropriate Technologies for Enterprise Creation (now called Kickstart) engage IDEO to extend their line of successful foot-operated irrigation pumps for East Africans. (We reviewed these back in Oct 2004.) So IDEO came up with the Deep Lift Pump that can reach down as far as 18 metres (59 feet). It can irrigate half an acre and even pump water 7m (23’) above the pump. And importantly it is made uses manufacturing processes common to trade shops throughout Kenya, while requiring little or no maintenance (glass marbles are used as valves). It’s a leg operated treadle, like a stair climbing machine, that accommodates barefoot users. Plus the Deep Lift Pump can easily be transported on bicycles and buses, yet costs less than $150 USD.

The point we are hoping to make here is that design does have the power to transform our world for the better, so long as it’s harnessed to the right projects. As much energy is expended in designing a bad product, as a good one. Desecrate or Invigorate. It’s a choice, that we can only hope an increasing number of designers will begin to take more responsibility for. ::IDEO