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NEW YORK, March 17, 2009. Tasked with developing design
solutions to address the global water crisis, design students across the
world rose to the challenge in force, dreaming up wildly different
solutions ranging from print design to web applications, physical
devices to data presentation tools, and print campaigns to environmental
design. More than 450 students at 115 universities from 27 countries
participated in the Challenge, drawing from their diverse and disparate
backgrounds to help solve a truly global crisis.
“I was amazed by the proposals that came in. There was a wide range
of thinking from communications to environmental design and product
design. Most of all, I was inspired by the broad, systemic thinking and
team collaboration the designers did to find good answers,” said Brian
Collins, creative chairman of Collins:, a New York-based design firm.
AIGA, the professional association for design, and INDEX:, a global
nonprofit network for design, together issued this ambitious call to
action in August 2008, calling on the next generation of creative
thinkers to develop solutions to the global water crisis in the first
annual INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge, “Designing Water’s
Future.” The international contest challenges cross-disciplinary
students to develop design solutions that encourage responsible water
use, provide access to fresh water to those in need and increase
awareness about the importance of water conservation.
“I’ve always believed that the design holds much, much larger
potential than just merely generating beautiful stuff. I think design
truly can make a difference, and this is exactly what this competition
is about,” said Lise Vejse Klint, director of programming for INDEX:.
“There’s an opportunity here to educate creative youth, to work
together in order to solve a complex problem, and to recognize that
these issues are their issues,” added Richard Grefé, executive director
of AIGA. “We can equip them, we can nurture them, and we can launch
them, but they are going to have to come up with the solutions that will
really be implemented at the human level.”
In late February, a panel of distinguished judges convened in New
York City to select seven Finalists and ten Honorable Mentions. In July,
students behind the selected proposals will have the opportunity to
share their ideas with design thinkers; draw up business plans and
improve their concepts during a meeting in Aspen, Colorado. In August
finalists will be invited to Copenhagen, where the winning project will
receive the $10,000 INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge Prize—sponsored
by the JL Foundation—to implement its solution. Selected finalists will
also present their concepts at the United Nations Climate Change
Conference in Copenhagen in December.
“This is clearly not a problem that’s going to be solved by
technology, and it’s clearly not going to be solved just by economics or
just by politicians, as smart as they might be or as committed as they
might be,” Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific
Institute, noted during the jury meeting. “We need every tool in our
arsenals to tackle unresolved water issues.”
“The vibrancy with which some of the global water issues, like less
than optimal use of water, got translated into issues like how you
actually water your lawns was amazing,” said juror Margaret
Catley-Carlson. “You can discuss it globally, you can compare models,
you can find out what’s going on, but water is local, water is local,
water is local.”
From more than 225 entries, seven projects were chosen as Finalists for successfully addressing the Challenge in terms of form, context, potential impact and feasibility:
Emergency Water Purifier for Flood Conditions,
submitted by Ozgur Ceren Bagatar and faculty advisor Peter Avondoglio
of the Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden, is a personal water purifier
designed with flood conditions in mind, to be airdropped en masse to
flooded communities and used to turn any collected contaminated
water—whether in buckets, rivers, lakes or streams—into potable water.
Every Drop Counts,
submitted by Ulrik Svenningsen and faculty advisor Peter Avondoglio of
the Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden, is designed to raise awareness of
excessive water use in the homes of developed nations. This solution is
an inexpensive sensor that can be clamped onto water pipes, using
existing cost allocation technology to detect water leakage and usage.
Improved Ceramic Filter for Rural Households,
submitted by Martin Bolton at the University of Johannesburg, South
Africa, takes the existing Potpaz water filter and proposes a number of
design solutions to create a similar, more ergonomic filter that works
more effectively in the environment that it was designed for.
submitted by participants of the Samsung Design Membership 2008 (Summer
Internship Program), is a water conservation solution for home showers
that includes a monitor to communicate water consumption, a
pressure-sensitive shower mat to turn water on and off and a shower seat
to collect grey water for reuse. Participants of the Samsung Design
Membership 2008 program are Brad Smith, University of Cincinnati;
Franklin Crosby, Metropolitan State College of Denver; Nallieli
Santamaraia, New York University; Raymond Bessemer, California State
University, Long Beach; Sergio Coronado, Purdue University; Sean Whang,
Art Center College of Design of Pasadena; Michelle Koza, mentor, UX
manager and Wesley Millora, co-mentor, senior industrial designer, all
from the United States.
Rethink Your Green
is a campaign which informs Los Angeles homeowners of the impact of
traditional grass lawns on the water crisis, builds awareness by
educating the public about the strained state of Los Angeles’ water
supply, presents sustainable alternatives to the conventional lawn and
provides resources for home owners who are choosing to replace their
traditional lawns. Submitted by Manuel Garcia, Eileen Hsu, Pouya
Jahanshahi, Masato Nakada, Michelle Park, Maece Seirafi-Najar and
faculty advisors Paula Daniels, Jane Galbraith, Stephanie Pincetl,
Joseph Prichard and Louise Sandhaus of California Institute of the Arts,
Save the River Jadro,
submitted by Igor Carli and faculty advisor Tomislav Lerotic of the
Arts Academy University of Split, Croatia, consists of a set of glasses
with messages printed on them that are geared towards developing
awareness about the freshwater crisis. The project can be implemented
anywhere at a very low cost.
submitted by Jo Szczepanska and faculty advisor Selby Coxon of Monash
University, Australia, looks innovatively at urban agriculture with an
adaptable and modular product that integrates irrigation and
vermicomposting to reduce the environmental impact of food in cities.
INDEX: and AIGA recruited experts in design, environmental policy,
water economics and development to serve as the Challenge jury. The jury
members met over a two-day period in late February 2009 to review 225
project submissions and select finalists to meet in Aspen, Colorado in
July and Copenhagen this August to refine concepts, develop business
plans and meet with venture capitalists and foundations. One of the
teams will ultimately be awarded the INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design
Challenge Prize of $10,000 to implement its design.
The judges were Porter Anderson, creative advisor and multi-media
manager of the communications and public policy strategy division of the
World Food Programme, the food aid organization of the United Nations;
Margaret Catley-Carlson, a world-renowned expert on water issues and
recent past chair of the Global Water Partnership; Peter H. Gleick,
Ph.D., president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute; and Gerard V.
Magbity, logistics specialist for the Supply Division of UNICEF. AIGA
Executive Director Richard Grefé, INDEX: Director of Programming Lise
Vejse Klint, Circle of Blue co-founder J. Carl Ganter and Brian Collins,
creative chairman of Collins:, moderated the deliberations.
“It’s quite interesting that we are trying to have all aspects of
life, different people on board,” said juror Gerard V. Magbity. “It’s a
problem that involves everybody. So, designers having a role to play in
this, I think, is quite a great idea–I was fascinated.”
“The best projects, particularly the ones that came to the top, do
three key things,” added Challenge partner Brian Collins. “One, they get
people to reconsider their understanding of water and how they use it
in their daily lives. Two, they help people change their behavior.
Three, the ideas can be easily socialized. These projects make people’s
changed behaviors visible—hopefully inspiring others to take action,
too. The best solutions will be contagious solutions.”
“Often the tragedies where there is no water equal tragedies where
there’s too much water and it’s being wasted, and we find that we’re at a
point of no awareness in many, many cases, particularly in the part of
the world that has water, no awareness, and perhaps [because of that],
no care,” added juror Porter Anderson.
“What a great pleasure it was to gather under such inspiring
circumstances,” said Challenge partner J. Carl Ganter. “The energy
represented by the proposals and all of their creativity and passion
gives hope for bringing new thinking to this and other crucial issues.”
The Aspen Design Challenge is a joint project developed by AIGA and
INDEX: with the purpose of engaging the millennial generation in solving
an emerging set of global issues. The idea for “Designing Water’s
Future” grew out of discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, led by Brian Collins, chairman of Collins:, New York-based
communications and design firm, and journalist J. Carl Ganter,
co-founder of Circle of Blue, the international network of leading
journalists, scientists and communications designers that reports the
global fresh water crisis.
INDEX: is a nonprofit organization based in Copenhagen that
focuses on design to improve life worldwide. INDEX: works through a
global network to ensure access to the best knowledge on design and the
cutting edge of contemporary thinking. The network consists of
designers, businesses, organizations and design institutions that
collaborate in disseminating and applying the latest knowledge in the
field of “Design to Improve Life.” www.indexaward.dk
Circle of Blue is the international network of leading
journalists, scientists and communications designers that reports and
presents the information necessary to respond to the global freshwater
crisis. Circle of Blue is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and
is a nonprofit affiliate of the internationally recognized water,
climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute. Circle of Blue
also publishes WaterNews, the daily go-to source for global water news
and data. For more information about Circle of Blue, visit www.circleofblue.org.
COLLINS: is an innovation-led communication and design firm
dedicated to inventing branded experiences and digital interactions that
shape both companies and people for the better. www.COLLINS1.com
AIGA, the professional association for design, is the premier place
for design—to discover it, discuss it, understand it, appreciate it, be
inspired by it.
AIGA’s mission is to advance designing as a professional craft,
strategic tool and vital cultural force. AIGA stimulates thinking about
design through journals, conferences, competitions and exhibitions;
demonstrates the value of design to business, the public and government
officials; and empowers the success of designers at each stage of their
careers by providing invaluable educational and social resources.
Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional
membership organization for design. AIGA now represents more than 22,000
design professionals, educators and students through national
activities and local programs developed by 63 chapters and 240 student
groups. AIGA is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational institution.
For further information, please contact:Jennifer Bender
Manager, communications and marketing
AIGA | the professional association for design
Tel 212 807 1990 Fax 212 807 1799
Video interviews of Mr. Grefé, Mr. Collins and Mr. Ganter are available to media.
AIGA’s chapters allow our members to form powerful social and
professional bonds through conferences, competitions, lectures and
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