Why design will save the world and a potent remedy for your quarterlife crisis.
By Maria Popova
Design is at its best when it truly gives something back to the world. Which is why we love industrial design icon Yves Behar. And while his credits include a long list of brilliant products, today we’re focusing on one: the XO laptop of One Laptop Per Child fame — a (near) $100 laptop for children’s education in the developing world.
And while business strategy has certainly been one of the propelling forces behind the project’s success, OLPC would be nothing without the computer’s brilliant design, which makes all of the device’s technological and cultural feats possible.
(For more on the project, watch founder Nicholas Negroponte’s incredibly inspirational TED talk.)
About the size of a small textbook, the rugged learning tool has built-in WiFi that enables the XO to communicate with nearby peers. The unique screen, which rotates 360 degrees, is readable even under direct sunlight — for children who go to school outdoors. It’s extremely energy-efficient and resists high temperatures and high humidity.
The brilliant design extends to even the minutest of details, like the logo — the “X” and “O” on the back of the screen each come in 20 color options, making for 400 possible combinations so that each kid in a large classroom gets a distinctive XO laptop — both a way for kids to connect with their laptop better and a clever tactic for avoiding mix-ups.
Yves Behar reveals the inspiration, the technology, and the meticulous thought behind the design process:
Some say the notion that design will save the world is a stretch. But the XO laptop is a testament to the fact that design will certainly play a strong part. Because we believe that the real epidemic drowning the third world is ignorance and the lack of access to information — deadly yet preventable diseases like malaria and AIDS can be halted through simple education about their mechanisms; poverty and armed conflict over resources can both be ameliorated by educating citizens about simple business models that enable them to lead self-sufficient, self-reliant lives.
And it has to start with children’s education, laying the foundations for a more economically sustainable society of tomorrow.
So why are we bringing this up now, when OLPC has been around for quite a while?
Let’s face it, the holidays are pretty much upon us — a time for giving, a time for getting. And we’re all about efficiency here, so we like the idea of a two-birds-one-stone approach to the whole giving/getting thing. Especially if it means “giving” in the true, altruistic, make-yourself-feel-like-a-better-person kind of way. Case in point: OLPC’s Give 1 Get 1 program.
Initially a two-week experiment in raising donations, G1G1 launched in November 2007 under the premise that anyone donating $399 to OLPC would not only get a laptop sent on their behalf to a child in the developing world, but would also get one of their very own. G1G1 was so wildly successful that it got extended beyond the two weeks into the entire holiday season and well into the spring of this year.
This year, G1G1 is back for seconds. So if you’re a fan of world-changing design and are feeling altruisic this holiday season, or you’re looking for a perfect gift for your kid relative, or you’re simply undergoing a severe quarterlife crisis and need to feel like you’re giving back to the world, consider G1G1.
Published December 8, 2008