By Kigge Hvid, CEO at INDEX: Design to Improve Life®
Asked recently what she saw as the single-greatest driver of social change, Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation replied: ‘Design’.
Even though the awareness of design as a life-improving factor is increasing, some still consider the design discipline to be insignificant, saying that it does not make any real contribution to the world. Design has even been vilified as the ultimate symbol of excess, consumerism and futility. However, that’s not the whole truth about design. Recently, more and more designers have taken up the challenge of creating meaningful products and services that can help humanity and create a better future.
This is the background behind what makes the quote from Melinda Gates is so interesting and progressive. And the very backbone of INDEX:Design to Improve Life®, the organization behind INDEX: Award – the world’s biggest design award – which focuses ONLY on design that improves life.
The world has enough events focusing on aesthetically pleasing product design. And we believe – based on the Danish welfare state and design tradition – that Denmark is the right place to create an event with a new value-based focus capable of using design as a tool to address global challenges and improve life for people all over the world.
No more white teacups
INDEX: Design to Improve Life has a vision of promoting design that improves life for people all over the world in a sustainable way. The organization aims to change the world and help Melinda Gates’ prediction come true. Many people feel that politics is the only way to change things and to deal with the world’s problems. But if you believe that you cannot turn back time, you cannot convince people to give up their aim for welfare either. And a high living standard for developing sustainable solutions to global problems is an important way to progress. Which is what the Design to Improve Life concept is all about.
On 27 August, the INDEX: Award will be presented to the world’s best Design to Improve Life for the sixth time since 2005. The INDEX: Award jury has selected five finalists that illustrate how design can be a decisive factor when addressing the world’s most pressing challenges, like climate change, overpopulation, poverty, food waste, and many more – equally important – challenges.
INDEX: Design to Improve Life® received 1,123 nominations from 72 countries for the INDEX: Award 2015. The nominations were split into five categories: BODY, HOME, WORK, PLAY and COMMUNITY, and the five winners share will €500,000 – the largest sum for a design prize worldwide.
The nominated designs represent a broad spectrum of talent, and hail from both emerging designers and large, established companies. Among the finalists, thus, are ‘Foldscope’ by Stanford engineers Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski, language and text translation platform ‘Duolingo’, the ‘Ambulance Drone’ by Dutch designer Alec Momont, the ‘Google Self-Driving Car’, and the much-debated ‘Tesla Powerwall’. In June 2015, 46 finalists were chosen on account of the strength and creativity of their designs in improving people’s lives, as well as for their overall ranking across the INDEX: Award criteria: Form, Impact and Context.
INDEX: Design to Improve Life wants to change the meaning and the impact of design. From pure aesthetic to design that improves life for people. And the organization wants to promote design that has the potential to improve life by awarding a prize that promotes such a design. But that in itself is not enough. The organization aims not only to honour and reward the best design, but also to work with entrepreneurs and investors in bringing more designs closer to mass production and commercial success – by teaching financial savviness as well as by pitching and marketing skills to selected investment candidates.
Take, for example, the LifeStrawTM – one of the winning designs from the 2005 Index: Award. This straw with a filter provides clean drinking water to the 1 billion people in the world currently without access to this vital resource. Today, LifeStrawTM’s designer, Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, has a big business in Switzerland producing millions of LifeStraws every year to help those with a very limited water supply, and the business now has on its shelves several other successful products that improve life.
INDEX: Award is growing year on year – both in numbers and in terms of the impact of the designs. But to have an even greater impact on the world, the INDEX: Design to Improve Life® organization wants their investment initiative to grow even bigger over the coming years.