I love this short article “Vietnamese pedicab driver designs a better vehicle“ on Core77, especially the quote from the pedicab designer
“Although I am only a driver without diplomas or certifications, I am lucky to have experience on the roads for more than 20 years, which has given me some knowledge about mechanics,” said Tam, who filled info gaps by doing internet research to complete the vehicle. His goal, he said, was to make it “green and clean.”
I’m half way through Clay Shirkey’s “Here Comes Everybody”, an excellent book about how masses are self organizing and engaging in activities that previously were only in the realm of professionals using tools that encourage such activities. He calls it, “mass amateurization”. The example of the Hanoi pedicab driver seemed relevant, as he engaged in the activity of designing a greener bike, made possible through the medium of internet and his considerable experience on the streets. The mass amateurization of product design.
The article also reminded me of a pet peeve I have about the phrase “designing for the bottom of the pyramid”. This phrase gets mentioned seems to be all the rage but has a very annoyingly paternalistic feel to it. As someone originally from a third world country, I can’t help but feel that it’s a new effort to tap previously virgin markets and sell them new products (which they helped design in the first place). After all, isn’t that what the term “emerging markets” describes? A new place to sell more stuff ?
Instead, how about “design by the bottom of the pyramid”. I’m far more interested in seeing designers engaging with all manners of people over the world, not just to design for them, but to help them get better at designing for themselves. Bringing this back to Clay Shirkey’s concepts, developing the means of self organization to encourage the rise of design from the masses, as opposed to designing for the masses.