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  • How to be a truly Good Samaritan

    Have you seen the movie 'Cast Away'? Then let's call you Chuck Norland, that is, Tom Hanks. If you have already forgotten the synopsis of the eight-year-old movie or never even heard of the name yet, suppose you are Robinson Crusoe. Here are very open-ended questions.

    Q1. You were just washed ashore on a desert island with the remains of a wreck, swept away by the waves. What is the most essential thing for your survival?

    Q2. A week in the island has passed. Now what are you going to do?

    Time's up. Get back to the real world with your answer sheet.

    A designer is not a monk. We are beings pursuing communication for relations and participation rather than meditation for introspection and spiritual awakening. Therefore creating meaningful things is our duty for the purpose, whomever they are made for: sovereigns, billionaires or refugees. However we may not be able to rub them the right way with our creatures or even do them the wrong way; or go so far as to knock up a nuisance though we are serious about the vocational consciousness.

    If there is no bread, the noblesse probably has brioche or pâté instead but the proletariat does not have any substitutes. It is a vital matter for them. So what should we consider and practice for preparing sincere and effective relief, especially using our design? How can we bake tasty bread for the people in extreme difficulty?

    Emotional Acceptability

    The OLPC (One Laptop per Child) Project, proposed and founded by Nicholas Negroponte, one of the most prominent professors in MIT, set the goal at designing and supplying low-cost personal notebook computers for the kids in developing countries through their governments, to break down the barriers of information, economics, class, geography, race and language in the world eventually. Creating a global sensation and raising stupendous supports, the project has released that the sales of the XO laptop are still far behind the expectation. To make matters worse, some core founders have resigned from the foundation and Negroponte recently showed his intent to step down. [1]

    There could be various reasons for the disappointing situations but the indication that adoption of unequal (means shrunken) performance to "our" ordinary laptops, excessively distinctive (stigmatic) design from "ours" and Linux-based (incompatible to "ours") software, as a strategy to meet $100 of the target price, brought about the lamentable records has obtained a general agreement. [2] Disbursing the national budget to purchase the products "discriminatively made for underdeveloped countries only" in bulk might be a humiliating and dishonorable self-wrong from the viewpoint of the "beneficiary" governments. Spreading the emotional repulsions totally unexpected in the design process to many countries, pledged purchases have been shelved or annulled. The future of the good-will based project is still uncertain though the foundation announced the inclusion of Microsoft's Windows XP as a secondary operating system recently even taking back the manifesto.

    The launch of the XO laptop and its trajectory testify that consideration for beneficiary's emotional aspects and further chain reactions should be concomitant with a noble aim and ample backings for a successful relief design project.


    The survival rate of premature babies in advanced countries is pretty high benefited by medical technology, while over 3 million normal infants die within a month of birth in some other parts of the earth. Even adults living in the area with limited medical service are under the double torture – Being exposed to much more dangers of disease and disorder, much less opportunities of medical checkup and treatment are given to them. It is noteworthy that a number of philanthropic doctors have participated in the campaigns sending new or used medical equipments to developing countries to help the people.

    However the reality is more cruel than expected; many of the hearty gifts are not being utilized in large numbers of hospitals in those countries due to unreliable power situation and lack of spare parts. Such amphibious – trivial in somewhere and insurmountable in elsewhere – obstacles made the equipments castoffs or bulky trash. Even a great design prevalent in affluent regions can be confronted with horrifying censures like a sequel to Nestlé's free milk, if its usability deteriorates in relatively scanty ones. Guess how long your lovely iPod may warble to delight and cheer you in the Grand Canyon hiking. [3][4]

    To keep away from the latent dangers, concepts of LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and local sustainability with geographic indigenity can be valuable tools for our design approach. Ceramic water filters and low-cost incubators are good examples showing the designers' insights into the whole process from the initiation to the termination. Seriously it is much more beneficial to the suffering people to provide consistent and coherent design objects rather than ones like soft drinks popping transitory refreshment.


    67 Dollars of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, 51 years of average life expectancy, 50/1000 of infant mortality rate, the highest rate of inflation in the world and the rigors under colonial rule and a long internal war. Do you picture any African country? Until the early 1960s, Korea was one of the poorest nations in the world. [5] Last year its GDP was ranked 13th in the world, though not joined the columns of advanced countries yet. [6]

    Reconstruction and rehabilitation were supported mainly by foreign aids and even provision of food and clothing depended crucially on charities of the West in the postwar era. They were great boons for the country. However what to be observed carefully is a considerable amount of the support was expended on preposterous projects like expanding educational facilities, specifying standard house design, building steelworks and highways and training technicians. The provocative decisions aroused strong public dissension but the value of those social design policies was demonstrated a few decades later.

    When we help people improve living environment and quality of life through design projects, it is important to consider following respects; encouraging them to participate in the process and planting the seeds of self-development to make them future helpers eventually. The idea is coincident with the principle of self-determination advocated by President Woodrow Wilson and it also offers a theoretical basis to decrease the number of people suffering absolute poverty. [7]

    Again, in the movie, Chuck endeavored to get his daily bread, and moreover, he groped for escape utilizing materials and tools found in the island and his wits, not to spend the rest of life as an islander. And he did it!

    There are legions of people awaiting instant help and suddenly we could be some of them – Remember Hurricane Katrina. As designers destined to communicate, we are able to assist them. However, our prescription should not be an anodyne deadening symptoms temporarily but a cure stamping out the root of the disease, recuperating the patient and stimulating self-healing power. Of course it is no simple matter. It is a narrow gate accompanied by our exertion, deliberation and sacrifice.

    As Peter realized, fishers of fish solve a meal while fishers of men change the world. What shall we catch?

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