Design Helps thinking focuses on how design can improve human and environmental wellbeing.
DESIGN HELPS IDEOLOGY
by Taina Snellman, founder of Tikau & NGO Tikau Share
My journey towards Design Helps thinking started when I was living in India for the first time about ten years ago. I think this is a good time to tell you the whole story, even though it has been and remains a long road, just like the bumpy roads to those remote Indian villages.
To start with I was doing research in textile factories in India. I noticed two main dominating factors:
1. Employment. People need employment and livelihoods.
2. Locality. People want to stay in their home villages, close to their families.
I wanted to help. If I had been a doctor I would have done something else perhaps, but my background was in design and clothing. I realized that maybe design could provide a way for me to help. The natural connection between design and employment was to combine design with handicrafts.
Handicrafts are a wonderful form of employment for the rural sector. You don’t need electricity, you can be mobile and – especially for women – it is important to be able to work at home.
Handicrafts are a wonderful form of employment for the rural sector. You don’t need electricity, you can be mobile and – especially for women – it is important to be able to work at home. So that was priority number one taken care of, as well as locality: I was able to take the employment to the people, not the other way round.
But I realized that handicraft ability was not enough. To introduce sustainability, we needed design too. Design for employment is a great way to create extra value for the products, which also makes it possible to earn a fair income. Secondly, it brings in to the picture creative thinking, which covers the whole chain: development, capacity building, quality, aesthetics, working methods, and so on. Design inputs are needed at all these levels! We need design for development!
DESIGNING WITH, NOT FOR.
The important approach to this is the idea that you design with, not for. This means that to help someone somewhere, the target of design is either to help everyday life or to employ, and one of the main things to understand is that design work should be done with the people. As with my work with Tikau – our design development starts from the person making the object, using his and her skills, and then builds the framework for the designs.
To create a design solution you need to understand the needs and challenges of everyday life in those countries.
This leads us to one of the challenges of design in the field of development. Namely that we here in Finland are so remote, geographically and often also mentally. Very rarely do designers have the chance or option to go to developing countries to understand and observe their design challenges and opportunities. To create a design solution you need to understand the needs and challenges of everyday life in those countries.
I hope that through Design Helps discussions – partly in our Living Room exhibition program but also continuing in the future – there will be more options for developing work, aid and designers to pursue a dialogue. We also wish to bring together professionals in different fields to create new innovative solutions.
With and through the work of Tikau, based on our accumulating experience, we have also understood that design for employment is not the only needed area of design. We need design solutions to help everyday life and living through sustainable and creative design solutions and architecture. People need these so they can focus on education and work. You need to have clean water to drink, a house where the roof doesn’t leak, sanitation and working conditions which protect you from the natural elements so that you can work. So innovative design and architecture are also needed in these areas.
TOWARDS GLOBAL WELLBEING
Finland is internationally know as a country that scores highly in terms of wellbeing, but also as a design country. Why not combine our competence, knowhow and experience of all these fields together to contribute to global wellbeing? We hope that our Design Helps Living Room exhibitions offer one platform for such a discussion.
Through these examples we want to highlight different forms of design for development but also all the aspects considered as basic requirements for dignified living conditions, and for which design can provide solutions.
The context of the Design Helps Living Room Exhibition is not to be a design exhibition as it is usually understood. Its goal is to inspire discussions and serve as a platform for this dialogue. We have chosen examples of design and architecture focusing on sustainable employment. Through these examples we want to highlight different forms of design for development but also all the aspects considered as basic requirements for dignified living conditions, and for which design can provide solutions.
As an exhibition, Design Helps is also unusual because its goal – as the name implies – is to help. Through the exhibition and its variety of events and happenings, we have raised funds specifically for a remote and extremely poor Dalit, or “Untouchable”, village in the Indian state of Odisha – the focus of Tikau Share’s charity work.
It is my wish that the Design Helps Living Room concept can lead us to deeper discussions about sustainable design for the creation of global wellbeing. So far we have held two exhibitions – one in Helsinki in 2012 as part of the Helsinki World Design Capital programme and a second in New Delhi in 2013, chosen as a venue for co-creation meetings between Finnish and Indian delegations.
The Design Helps concept is my own personal call to anyone rethinking the direction of design!