A Path of Design: Local and Global


Design with Jugaad or appropriate technologies id becoming popular, especially in most of developing countries. The citizens of developing countries are mostly agricultural workers but seeking to become more economically and socially, and also develop their resources by industrialization. This essay will talk about the ways of doing design in developing countries which is letting social situation and local material attribute decide the design outcome. It will talk about that with some famous product in Africa as an example. Then talk about the benefits and disbenefits of them. From that, we will find the final ways of doing design in developing countries with limited technology and resource, and give ideas on how to solve design financial problem and face up to other problems beyond design such as economics, environment and employment.

This essay just gives theoretical methods of solving problems. What I hope is to introduce these ways to designers who really concerned about design for the developing world, put forward some inspiration for them or give some advice that might be disregarded when doing design process.

Key words: design, limit, developing countries, culture, material, needs


Jugaad, a Hindi term, which refers to by using available resources to reaching any kind of goal. Jugaad is also a suspended shade canopy fabricated of discarded cooking oil cans for a public art festival in New Delhi, India, 2008. After that, re-purposing discarded oil cans design was seen as a way to creative sustainable design (Davies, 2010).

Sustainable design is becoming popular, especially in most of developing countries. The citizens of developing countries are mostly agricultural workers but seeking to become more economically and socially, and to develop its resources by industrialization. Innovation is a key to that purpose worldwide. But in these developing countries, they can’t rely on expensive R&D projects and highly-structured innovation process. So it is much important to them to get a new way to do design. An important principle of sustainable is “cradle-to-cradle” coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s. It is thinking the materials of our daily lives, remaking the way we design things (Henzi, 2002.). Jugaad, or appropriate technologies, helps them to looking for a new approach to innovation and design. Appropriate technologies (AT) is “a field of engineering that design, builds, and implements basic technological system that are suitable for a particular location(Appropriate Technology, 2008.)”, which has the similar form with Jugaad.

Inspired by Jugaad and AT, in some developing countries, designers should consider more, such as social situation and material attribute when doing design focus on some developing countries. Since current society will let designers know what local people need, and material selection is a very important role in product design. In this case, letting these two elements decide the design outcome is an effective new way to make sustainable design. This essay will talk about some success stories and analysis them to make these arguments clearer.

Countries which are becoming richer or which still very poor and have people starving is the definition of the developing countries for this essay. Human society, the strength of our economy and the well-being of our life are all connected. The current social situation in developing countries is an important target of product needs.

On one hand, the poverty of these countries destines their product design cannot be made of expensive material or through costly technology, and the product should satisfy people’s basic demand. On the other hand, part of the products, even cannot be financed, but donated by personal or organizations as a kind of investment. The products must have some of these features: cheap enough, easily for use and more valuable to its owner to help users live their life better.

One typical example is the Hippo Water Roller, which is one of the most popular example of product be used in Africa. In South Africa, millions of people struggle to survive without clean, safe water, even hard to get reliable access to water. In addition, water transportation also very hard and dangerous to the young and elderly for a 5-mile distance of water. The Hippo Water Roller provides a safe and efficient alternative of transport water. The water is transported by holding on to the handle with which the drum is pushed or pulled. It can Transports enough water for a family of five to seven for up to one week (Pilloton, 2009.).Since 1991, more than 27,000 Hippo Rollers have been designed and sent to South Africa by Project H Design, a global product design nonprofit organization (Imvubu Projects, 2013.).

In this way, people in South Africa got better lives with the free Hippo Rollers. But design cannot so easily to summarize as a way, it relies on visual, thinking, sketching, modeling and exploration (Ashby. & Johnson, 2010).AT is affordable in developing nations with labor-intensive society, aimed to increase the standard of living for the developing world such as the Maya Pedal machine.

Bicycles are common and accessible forms of transportation in developing world. Maya Pedal, an NGO based in Guatemala found in 1997, takes back bikes from the USA and Canada and then refit them to different kind of machines such as water pump, tricycle and trailer, coffeemaker, corn degrainer and so on. In addition to this, Maya Pedal runs a workshop with other nonprofits and NGOs to teach individuals, families, and groups his machine design (Pilloton, 2009.).These programs successfully reuse bicycles, expand the efficiency of local life, and invest social sustainability in the developing world, which are really great work.

These design works such as the Hippo Water Roller and Maya Pedal machine have been the most popular tools for people who living in developing countries, for they are shaped by the social environment and they can improve living quality. But there is a problem for those programs. These products suit for the social situation, but they are nonprofit. The Maya Pedal machine even cannot use mass production. Mass production means the production of large quantities of a standardized article, which is one of the symbols of industrialization. As a result, it is not enough to do product design just based on social environment.


We live in a world of materials, it is materials that give substance to everything we see and touch. Doing design with Objects can have meaning, carry associations or be symbols of more abstract ideas (Ashby. & Johnson, 2010).Natural resource is not just lean and efficient, so do Nature’s cycle. And the nature’s cycle is also abundant, effective and renewable. In spite of this, people still need to do eco-effective, cradle-to-cradle, sustainable design to do less negative impact to nature. This is especially true to developing countries, which are more relying on output of nature, because they should create house, products and living things more productivity, more pleasure and more restorative effects (Henzi, 2002.).

Proceeding product design with the recycling or recyclable materials and following their attributes, characters and shapes are an intelligent application guideline. And it also letting products be understood and implemented by users without complex operation or hi-tech. What matters to material selection is the process of seeking solutions. Meanwhile, it also needs experience and impact our daily lives which are meaningful to local. Another consideration in material selection in an environment is to examine the material cycle. In that situation, the products are not intended to be beautiful, but need to be thinking about sustainable. Bamboo is abundant and can be planted almost everywhere; bamboo has been known as the most rapidly renewable raw material.

Better vibration damping, good structural stiffness and light frame make the Calfee Bamboo Bike much more useful than its beauty (Pilloton, 2009.). The Calfee Bamboo Bike begun with an enterprise in Ghana, 1996. Then, they have helped to establish a sustainable business that aimed to local needs, not only the bicycle needs, but also solving problems such as local job demand, labor and investment. Bamboo planting also becomes a big industrial in Ghana to approach both environmental and social sustainability in order to complement its bicycle industry (Pilloton, 2009.). Now, bamboo bikes and bamboo planting are two of the most important financial supports of that country.

Another example of bamboo-made product is the Bamboo Treadle Pumps. The Bamboo Treadle Pump is a human-powered suction pump that sits on top of a well and is used for irrigation, and allows poor farmers to access groundwater during the dry season. The treadles and support structure which are two metal cylinders with pistons are made of bamboo or other economical, native material can be made locally by metalworking shops (Smithsonian, 2006.). Over 1.7 million have been sold in Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Zambia and elsewhere, generating $1.4 billion in net farmer income in Bangladesh alone (Smithsonian, 2006.).

Those design works are shaped by the local material and are useful because they not only help people escape from starvation but also escape from poverty by their limited technology and resource. They are creating new production enterprises, jobs, and industries, in addition to promoting individual agriculture profits through design.

As the twentieth century ends, commence and culture are coming closer together (Bayley, 1989). Compared with the products above, the Hippo Water Rollers and the Maya Pedal machines are suit for social statement but non-profit, the others, the Calfee Bamboo Bike and the Bamboo Treadle Pumps are based on local nature material and then industrializing. There is no one can assert which is better for the developing world but time and the countries themselves. Mostly, social situation and material attribute interfere to each other in many cases. In the maturing field of design, the disciplines between materials, technologies, social factors, and brand are almost exclusionary (Chochinov, 2009). They are not theories in the sense of product design irrespective of reality and custom needs. Rather, they are concerned with changing the current situation and life style for the people who are living in the developing world. Furthermore, those designs also been implicated in social mentality, financial issue and cultural custom.

But by adding design to the social, the design works build a new relationship between social, local material, product and profit, which also can be proved by those four above examples. For instance, a company called Grameen Danone Foods which is a social business enterprise in Bangladesh. The company’s mission is “to reduce poverty and bring health to children through food using a community-based business model (Pilloton, 2009.)”. This company produce yogurt called Shoktidoi, designed to children at an affordable price point, just 5 BDT (about $0.08). Shoktidoi, which is made from cow’s milk sourced locally (Pilloton, 2009.). The yogurt is Grameen Danone’s first facility and will serve as a prototype for future locations, and also to create as many jobs as possible within the surrounding community. Meanwhile, the local farmers also can expand their business of raw materials. As a result, the yogurt program was seemed as the perfect case that combined with local statement and material.

A community-based business model is useful for broadening the view of what a product is. There’s no question that designers have a duty to understand the people in the environment, just make sure to designing as fully as possible before begin to explore potential solutions.

While talking about the developing world, a good number of those people who live on the brink of starvation are also in the backyards of developed countries: the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, and more. As with almost every national design initiative in history, it included the ever-present and inevitable social rationale. However, from an environmental perspective, design was also seen as “an essential element in proving a clean, safe, and sustainable environment… as well as offering strategies for the long-term use of natural resource, land and infrastructure(Manzini, 1989.).“In addition, commerce and society are also seemed as important.

Design succeeds when it begins with small things and will become to produce bigger impact to global and personal (Pilloton, 2009.). One of the founding members of design collective Droog, Renny Ramakers, wrote in a sort of mission statement and manifesto for the initiative,

“Now it is the turn of small stories, rooted in every reality. Stories that tell of products capable of aging gracefully and allowing the user to bond with them, of the value of things that already exist, of personal ecology, of uncertainty, dreams, passion, and pleasure (Ramakers, 2002).”

As noted in previous, adopting any kind of examples and theories, including the business model, design is not just a question of path, but also a question of a worldwide thinking.

Nowadays, design is not simply about appearance, but is increasing by concerned with area, mentality, environmental, culture, experience, and so on. Back to sustainable design, the environmental effort s is easier than measure human element of sustainability which is a much more complex standard to define and uphold. But sustainability is not simply about what things are made of, but how they improve life and empower people now and for generations to come (Pilloton, 2009.). Let us put environmental sustainability and social sustainability equal weight.

That’s why, sometimes, designers should rewrite their job description to be applicable outside the design bubble. Designers have to focus on other impacts beyond design a product. Good designs should have the ability to create and solve problems even with limited technology and resource. And the way of Jugaad also need to be promoted, popularized and applied outside the developing world.





Ashby, M. & Johnson, K. (2010).Material and Design: The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design. Oxford: Linacre Drive.

Appropriate Technology. (2008). Technological Innovation to Empower Africa. Retrieved March, 2014, from: http://www.appropriatetech.net/ Bayley, S. .Commerce and Culture. London: Classic House.

Chochinov, A. (2009). A Good Long Tradition. NY: Bellerophon Publications, Inc.

Davies, C. (2010). The Limited Language Project. Berlin: Birkhäuser GmbH.

Henzi, T. (2002.). The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability. Hannover: William McDonough Architects.

Imvubu Projects.(2013.). Revolutionary Technology. Hippo Water Roller Project.Retrieved March 14, 2014, fromhttp://www.hipporoller.org/product

Manzini, E. (1989.).The Material of Invention. Milano: The MIT Press.

Pilloton, E. (2009.).Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People. NY: Bellerophon Publications, Inc.

Ramakers, R. (2002).Droog Design 2. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

Smithsonian.(2006.). Bamboo Treadle Pump.SI Websites.March, 2014. From http://archive.cooperhewitt.org/other90/other90.cooperhewitt.org/Design/bamboo-treadle-pump.html.


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