Two students from Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication are among the three winners of the 2007 Designs of Substance contest, organised by the Audi Design Foundation with the United Nations Children’s Fund. They are Maki Okawara and Max Frommeld.
The third winner, Nirmal Menon, is from Kingston University and, like Okawara and Frommeld, was selected from 15 regional finalists from five participating universities following presentations to a panel of judges.
Designs of Substance, the brainchild of designer and ADF trustee Jody Chapman, aims to identify an appropriate community in the developing world to support through design. Students are invited to respond to one of three briefs set by ADF and Unicef.
This year’s community was the township of Mdantsane on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, home to 600 000 black people and ravaged by poverty, unemployment, crime and diseases such as tuberculosis and Aids. The briefs centred on: the lack of basic school equipment such as desks and chairs; alleviating physical and time pressures of children effectively heading households where adults are too sick to handle domestic chores; and improving home security for the township’s shacks.
Students were asked to show empathy with the users, as well as sustainability in the choice of materials and making and innovation, among other things.
The students were given a week to come up with initial ideas and were then coached by Luke Pearson of Pearson Lloyd Design. They had a further two weeks to develop the projects before the national final.
Okawara addressed home security with a timber-framed screen made of tin cans set in cement, sourced through a scheme that redistributes surplus cement from the country’s many building projects. The screen is placed over the window as extra protection. The judges applauded her suggestions that locals can personalise the screen, incorporating colour, street numbers and even planting in the hollow cans.
Frommeld was concerned with the difficulties faced by young children washing the family’s laundry by hand. His ‘dolly’, made of a tree branch with the top part of two plastic bottles, helps reduce back strain and sore hands from rubbing the clothes. The lower bottle part is punctured with holes to give a better flow of water through the device.
Frommeld has also created a rinsing system using three plastic buckets and is looking at a natural detergent made of wood ash and water. To rinse the clothes, they are tipped into a bucket with holes punched in towards the bottom, which is set within a second bucket to conserve the water that is squeezed out. A third bucket is pressed down on top to push out the liquid.
Menon’s was the only entry that looked at mass-production, possibly outside South Africa, to make primus stoves – the main way of cooking in the township – safer, given the problem with fires when stoves are knocked over. His simple, cheap device fits over the top of the paraffin canister to limit the amount of fuel spilled.
The three students will try out their ideas when they visit Mdantsane in the Buffalo City Municipality in September as part of the ADF/Unicef programme and develop them with local people.
• Kingston University
• University of Lincoln
• Middlesex University
• Nottingham Trent University
• Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication
NATIONAL FINAL JUDGES
Emma Buckley, manager, corporate partnership developments, Unicef
Jody Chapman, designer and Audi Design Foundation trustee
Luke Pearson, Pearson Lloyd Design
Lynda Relph-Knight, editor, Design Week
Theo Schildermann, international team leader, Practical Action