Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who is Designing for the Poor?

In the book/magazine "Plugzine", there is a Chinese article that discusses designing for the poor. I thought it would talk about designers doing things for poor people, kinda like donation our skills or something of that nature. But it didn't.

There were various points, but 2 that struck me. One were designers that were designing pieces (like furniture) out of reused materials. So, a chair designer made a "Rag Chair" our of old pieces of cloth. Another used bottles. etc. The basic idea was in a world were resources are becoming more and more limited (aha! "Sustainability"), to find ways were you can express design while reusing materials.

The other was not about designing for the poor, but rather poor designers designing. And it doesn't mean poor college students. It means real poor people who have a need for advertising, but don't have the modern tools we do (like computers, copy machines, etc.). Their concern isn't about what the next cool program is or how to do this and that on a layout. Their concern is how to promote something with just a handful of drawing supplies.

Where this is really predominant in China (again, this is a Chinese article), is in the band scene. Bands need ways to promote themselves. But without money to make copies or color flyers, their designers end up using markers to individually draw up each flyer! These were not scribbles of notes that are quickly drawn; each has a unique labor of love! The end result is something edgy with hand-drwan types and human in each flyer and more direct to the audience. Painted posters and handbills (like San Francisco in the 60's). An expanding visual style that led to a handpainted magazine (it didn't last, but what an intriguing idea).

Now with China's modernization and push forward, this design art is slowly being pushed aside for more modern and fancy stuff. It was an intriguing idea. I can only imagine the reaction of students if we said you had to to do a full-on promotion using no computers or copy machines! Labor intensive, but probably a lot of fun once you get into it?


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