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“Why Design Now?” looks at designing a better world, at the Cooper-Hewitt

May 15, 2010

The Cooper-Hewitt in Manhattan is currently hosting a fascinating show for their National Design Triennial entitled “Why Design Now?” It showcases designers that are addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems, both human and environmental. Some of the designs are already in use while others remain prototypes.

Here is the Ninety Light task lamp, designed by Shawn Littrell. It uses 4 1.5-watt LEDs that can last up to 25 years.

Here is another cool concept, a Global Innovation Heat Map. It pulls an assortment of data to see where “innovation clusters” are in the world.

At the map’s core is an extensive repository of more than 700 indicators culled from numerous sources of public and proprietary information. The data cover both “country” and “cluster level” enablers, which include factors such as the quality of local infrastructure, the availability of human and financial capital, the nature of the business environment, and the size and sophistication of local demand. They also measure “innovation ideation,” which analyzes a region’s ability to create novel concepts; and “commercialization,” or a region’s ability to implement and disseminate these new concepts.

I’m still wrapping my head around this one, but the idea that we can map out creativity hubs is pretty darn amazing.

This is a Hope solar tower by EnviroMission Ltd., an Australian company. The goal is to collect the sun’s radiation which would in turn heat a body of air that would flow towards the center of the collector, drive turbines, then be released.

Also check out a few cool innovations like a hand-driven grain thresher (currently being field tested in Mali) via this NY Times slideshow. It’s the essence of re-purposing. And the MIT CityCar, kind of like the zipcar model but with smaller, more efficient vehicles that can be stacked when not in use.

Even one of my favorites, Good Magazine gets its spotlight.

Check out more of the designs on Cooper-Hewitt’s website. I think this is a fantastic exhibit that not only demonstrates the incredible innovation happening in the world, but the potential power of solving some of the world’s problems with good design.

images via Cooper-Hewitt

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