What is it with these "Save the World" Projects?

This is my Final year in ID and at our school where we have a limited number of studios, 4 total (2 Senior, 2 Junior)…

Out of these 4 semesters of studios (13 week Semesters = 52 Weeks Total of Studio) there are 3 projects for a total of 25 weeks spent strictly on “Save the World” Projects… Granted I understand that we as students and designers need to “think outside the box” and I truely beleive ONE of these projects is enough to really help a student understand the process of trying to design a product using minimal technology and manufacturing.

But 3?

Those 52 Weeks include the time we are supposed to spend on our Final Thesis Project which typically students are given 1 Semester (13 Weeks) to complete.

I just feel that after it is all said and done I will have a portfolio consisting of “ecologically-friendly-save-the-world-with-this-product” projects, which is ideal for someone wanting to start a non profit. From my research I have done throughout these projects I have realized that there inst a simple solution, and designing a “product” that is going to change peoples lives to the extent we “expect” or “anticipate” is just not going to happen. It takes a bit more than 1 single product to change the world.

Are there any other schools that are having these same projects?

Am I overreacting at the fact that almost over half my time spent in any kind of studio at all is trying to design a product to “save the world?” ?

I remember being in the same spot in school. I also see a lot of portfolios full of this stuff. Usually there is a lot of great thinking… and then no product at the end. In my view, designers do not tell people how to live, people tell us how to design, but I think a lot of schools digress from this and try to have design force cultural shifts. It doesn’t work that way, because people choose to buy or not buy our products.

I understand where the instructors are coming from, but remember there is a natural disconnect between the academic and professional worlds. Make sure you end with something to show for your work and don’t spend the entire time on tangental thinking that is not in any executable… if your Macguyver, a paper clip can save the world, so stretch the project brief boundaries. This is your education, make sure you are doing what you want with it, especially in your senior year. It’s go time.

Here is what I would do with 3 save the world projects.

  1. A self sustaining floating community with a closed material loop with a societal structure based on a weird combination of Greek democracy, Libertarianism, and Socialism. I’d just get so much research, and excerpts from ancient philosophers, that they wouldn’t be able to follow, then render up some awesome city scapes in the water.

  2. research a green material that takes a minimum amount of energy to re-form, and design a collection of simple products out of it. (check out the company Preserve that Evo Design has done a bunch of work for). Get one page of research on a material, spend the rest of the time designing a great collection of products with a strong design language and brand identity. That is a great project to show a start up who you could work for. The thing about running a start up is you spend 99% of your time on business, and 1% on design. NOT what a fresh grad should be doing in my view. Much beter to consult for a bunch of start ups, design a lot, and get paid.

  3. lastly, I would do something so simple, like a really cool tea kettle… then just say, “to save the world, all we really have to do is sit down and have tea together”.

Thanks for the insight Yo. You made some very good points with academics and the disconnect with the professional world…

Interesting approaches to the projects I have thought about taking a brand and trying to design something within their language… like Kitchenaid or CusinArt for example.

Is this an often occurrence in all schools?

Great one, but I’d like to add that this community would soon die out, like Easter Island. It’s all due to human nature.

I’d suggest throwing up a wacky idea like “why not grow bonsai humans that are 20% of normal size?” They will consume less food and energy anyway! Alternatively, think of some hyper intelligent octopus-like creature with pre-programmed human thought-patterns, that can feed off sunlight. Of course, allow them to multiply as well.

If one of the tutors drives a Mercedes or some other gas guzzling car, go and place green coloured road spikes in front of it. Also plant a tree nearby, so that the car would crash into it, if the driver will not be careful. That could work :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s being taught because of a economic reality that there are finite resources and we need to be intelligent about how we build things. That’s pretty much it. So you are being prepared for a potential economic future where you will not be extracting raw materials the same way you use to and having to reuse a lot of materials that maybe come back to you as waste.

These are high level strategic conversations that companies are having now and it doesn’t hurt to understand how to dialogue in that future.

I would like something portfolio worthy… I dunno I will figure it out but I just needed to vent…

I feel I will have a great portfolio to get hired at a Non Profit…

Well there are 2 issues.

First one would be HOW you are building
Second one would be WHAT you are building

I’m suggesting that HOW you build is valuable to think about because it may become a demand of future designers. Think LEED.

If you’re being influenced on WHAT you are building then it’s fair for you to be a bit unnerved as this is your portfolio and also it’s academics. It’s your time to play and express yourself in your artifacts.

Good luck and remember this is your education and your money so make of it as you will!