2007_05_arts_design.jpgOf the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 90% (that's 5.8 billion people) have little or no access to things the rest of us take for granted - with nearly half not having regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Design for the Other 90% is an exhibit on view at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum through September 23rd, and it focuses on affordable and innovative products not geared towards the 10% getting Crate and Barrel catalogs in the mail.

While many go where the money is, there are designers aiming to create for the “other 90%,” and this exhibit addresses how they are doing so when faced with "basic challenges of survival and progress faced by the world’s poor and marginalized." In fact, not only are designers helping out, but engineers, students, professors, architects, and social entrepreneurs alike are coming up with inexpensive solutions to a huge problem that has been around for a long time (this movement "has its roots in the 1960s and 1970s, when economists and designers looked to find simple, low-cost solutions to combat poverty.")

However, not everyone is on board. The AP commented that "instead of advocating aid giveaways with uncertain results, these socially conscious designers hew to the profit motive and sell their products to the poor. They say their strategy fosters dignity, not dependence, and ensures sustainability." Building upon that thought, Art For A Change states:

Design for the Other 90% seems more an insult than a solution. Even the name stinks of privilege and imperial arrogance. "We," the 10%, can go on enjoying our luxury chrome plated Hummers and other accoutrements of a thoroughly unsustainable lifestyle, and we can do so guilt-free as we’ve devised consumer goods for the other 90% of the world’s population

Is it right to sell those in need a hand-powered laptop for $100? If you want to explore yourself, the exhibit is on view through September. Some of the other items you'll see: Pot-in-Pot Cooler, the portable water purification system: Life Straw and the Internet Village Motoman Network.