Design Project

I’m a grade 9 student attending an International Baccalaureate school in Toronto. Between grade 9 and 10, we have to do a huge project called the personal project, as part of the IB program. I knew i wanted to do something with industrial design, so at first i thought i would design a chair that was eco-friendly. Since then i have expanded my guiding question into : how can i use industrial design to help people in developing countries. i have to finish the project by the end of this summer and then next year i have to write 4000 words about the process. Luckily, i’m going to India this summer (kerala) so i may have a chance to test my product. Anyways, i would be interested to hear anything you have to say about the process you use to design things, or anything whatsoever. it should be noted that research is a major part of this project, so if you do give me information, i will have to source you in a bibliography. Please don’t let this perturb you, and as well, i do have a genuine interest in I.D., and not just as a school project

Thank you

I think it’s great that you have expanded your questions and not limit yourself to a chair. We have more than enough chairs and one more eco-friendly chair would not alleviate our environmental problems.

“How can i use industrial design to help people in developing countries?” is a great question to start with. But, if you want to alleviate a problem, you have to first define the problem. What kind of problems are developing countries encountering? Where is the trouble? Is it clean water? habitats? cooking devices? preserving food? etc. It’s great that you will be visiting India in the summer, then you can get some first hand research and really observe people’s daily lives to find problems they encounter. Good design is founded on strong research.

Once you’ve defined your problem, you generate as many concepts as you can which may solve the problem. Some ideas may be ridiculous at this stage, but they are still valuable and may contribute later on. Afterwards, you pick a concept which best solves the problem and further develope and refine the concept (from working on the form, functions, scale, materials, finishes, manufacturing processes, etc.). It’s best to make 3D models and sketch models to help you during your concept development and refinements, because being able to touch and feel the size of the product is very different to just seeing a 2D rendering.

It’s really impressive that you are working at this high of a level so early! Here are 2 thoughts about research that may help.

  1. Now that you have a goal, funnel the research for the tiny and specific. Pick one tiny thing and dive deep into it. You’ll find that the questions will become more interesting and the answers more unexpected. There’s much less time than you think.

  2. Don’t forget that 3rd world countries also have designers, they may just be in a different form. The danger is that good intentions can turn into a crusade where we try to impose our ideas onto them. They may have solutions to problems that are better than we could ever come up with. Also, remember that the AK47 is an industrial design given to 3rd world countries- how has that changed things? Context is king.

Sorry about the soapbox and good luck!