The theme for the Cooper Hewitt’s Triennial program – “Why Design Now?” – is just what the doctor ordered. “Inaugurated in 2000, the Triennial program presents the most innovative designs at the center of contemporary culture. The fourth exhibition in the series explores the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields, from architecture and products to fashion, graphics, new media, and landscapes.” With so many innovative, creative, and meaningful projects for the greater good – it makes me proud to be part of the growing community of social designers. A few of my favorite projects include:

World Mapper

Most maps are built around representations of geographical landmass. Worldmapper shows us something different. This collaborative team of cartographers from the University of Sheffield in England and the University of Michigan is exploring the uneven effects of globalization. Rather than depict how much land a given territory occupies, each map shows how a social or economic activity, such as emigration or cell-phone use, is distributed across the globe.

Solvatten Solar Safe Water Purifier

A portable ten-liter (approx. 2 5/8 gallon) Solvatten solar safewater purifying unit, devised with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in mind, uses solar energy (UV and heat) and a built-in filter to make contaminated water drinkable. After two to six hours, treated water is clean enough to meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for safe water. A key attribute of the unit is the unique indicator that lets the user know when the water is ready.