Design for Good

I recently attended a workshop by David Berman.   He spoke about the importance of design ethics, of committing to work for good, rather than just good design.  As designers we are responsible for the world that we help to create, and whether our expertise is in visual communication or architecture or transportation, we have the power and potential to benefit the lives of others.

He detailed several inspiring enterprises that utilized the principles of good design to do good for people. A few of my favorites:

1. Do you bemoan the widespread empire of Coca-Cola? Simon Berry saw potential in those rivers of high fructose corn syrup.  He developed ColaLife,  a concept model that utilizes the extensive worldwide distribution of Coca-Cola Company to distribute medicine to remote and impoverished communities.  Coca-Cola agreed to partner with him and replace one of the Coca-Cola bottles inside a crate with a cylindrical container filled with oral rehydration salts. Eventually, other products like malaria pills, water purification tablets, and vitamin A tablets could also be distributed.  A trial will be conducted in Tanzania, and if it is successful, the model will be applied to other developing countries.

2.  Every year 700,000 people die from counterfeit medicine.  Either the medicine kills passively by not treating the condition, or it poisons the patient (as it did with 34 Nigerian children who were killed by counterfeit teething medicine that contained antifreeze). Sproxil is a new social enterprise founded by Ashifi Gogo, a native of Ghana, that aims to fight counterfeit medicine in developing countries.  By incorporating a scratch-off authentication label into the packaging of drugs, the consumer can send a free text message to a number posted on the label, and within seconds, he or she will receive a message authenticating the drug or warning that it is fake.

3. The Haitian Government has estimated that 1 million people are homeless due to the earthquake in January, 2010. In preparation for rebuilding the neighborhoods destroyed by the 7.0 earthquake, the government of Haiti is looking at alternative forms of permanent housing for displaced citizens. The program, Building Back Better Communities is seeking input from designers, architects, contractors, and consultants around the world.  What are you waiting for?


  1. Great blog. Very informative. I appreciated the informaiton about the counterfeit medicine–I had never heard of such a thing. Keep up the great work, Bails.

  2. I love the idea about the coke distribution – I think these big corporations can make a big difference… it’s like that part in Food, Inc. where they are talking about Yo Baby Yogurt being carried in Walmart and how some people see that as the company selling out but it exposes them to a humongous potential new audience and isn’t that what we want?

  3. I absolutely love the interactive Sproxil program, although I think we can all acknowledge the limits of technology. I wonder if pursuing high-price technology fixes, such as relying on cell phones, is really a valid solution for developing countries? The world’s poor are the most disenfranchised and the most likely to be scammed by things like counterfeit drugs. How many of them can really receive text messages? I would suggest that methods like ColaLife’s – that work in existing physical supply chain systems – are the most likely to truly help.

  4. Bailey….what an inspiring blog and a very thought provoking reminder to really think about all the ways we
    can use our talents and interests to sustain ourselves and benefit others.

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