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February 6, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

Design Principles for the Bottom of the Pyramid

Industrial Designers

A recent design conference panel called “The Other 6 Billion People” created this list of ideas that rifted off of ten of Prahalads twelve principles for design (FYI: they didn’t always agree with Prahalad’s 12 BOP principles):

Prahalad’s 10 principles and the ideas that floated to the top:

1) Don’t just focus on lowering price.
a. Design labor-leveraging devices in economies where that has competitive value
b. Local manufacturing with small runs
c. Poor man’s SLA (stereolithography), such as printing with low tolerance 3D printer
d. Target peoples needs with appropriate technology
e. Use these markets for piloting new products before scale-up
f. Don’t copy our requirements
g. Good design comes from knowledge
h. Redesign the life of the product
i. Designing for infrastructure
j. Design to the minimum (focus on needs)

2) Look for hybrid solutions.
a. Learn how things are sold locally
b. Some people feel they don’t need Internet culture
c. Technologies not available everywhere and not easily accessed
d. Infrastructure: hard to maintain/replacement parts
e. Cost of product caused by location of production
f. Making something sophisticated may not be the answer
g. Look for similar cultures for external opportunities
h. Create leverage by working through government
i. We must understand their world
j. Combine requirements
i. Economically viable
ii. Share costs through service
iii. Fills compelling need

3) Plan for cross-cultural portability.
a. Design becomes rural within geographic context of end user
b. Rework inside of computer to use alternative source of power
c. Fundamentally multi-cultural “uncommon place”
d. Branding: customer relations
e. Create meaningful product ingredients and building blocks
f. Alternate demographics are market fragments

4) Reduce, reuse, recycle.
a. Cradle to cradle
b. Lower labor costs to make repairs worthwhile
c. Use students to replace tools
d. Collaborative, participative process

5) Deskilling work is critical.
a. Create a new architecture for education
b. Leverage relationships with government

6) Develop new approaches to customer education.
a. Product that teaches a skill (local activism)
b. Familiarity with user
c. Teach a marketable skill (read, write, etc.)
d. Help them to start/maintain a business of their own
e. Create a new architecture for education

7) Products must work in hostile environments.
a. India proof
b. Different environmental criteria (if you get dust in it, you’re done)
c. Prosperity can create a hostile environment
d. Protect ideas: deal with allowing ideas to prosper

8} Don’t assume technological literacy.
a. Understand what they are trying to accomplish
b. Make it familiar in form and function
c. Single purpose vs. multi-purpose
d. They are not early adopters
e. Make it so they don’t have to figure out how to use it
f. Simplicity
g. Framing the world in terms of how they understand it
h. Remote, indirect communication
i. Find out what excites them
j. Adapting to local people vs. learning from them
k. Programmers in India who think like Westerners
l. Learning curves may be inappropriate and technological literacy means different things to different people
m. Simple function, simple to operate (evident), minimal maintenance

9) Rethink distribution.
a. More localized manufacturing
b. More modular products
c. Supply products that are raw materials for local designers
d. Self distributing caused by needs
e. Sustainable livelihoods, sustainable business models

10) Expect technology leapfrogging.
a. Technology requiring little infrastructure
b. We must understand their world

Alternative Design Principles for the BOP Resources
• You can read the BOP Protocol 2.0, which provides better principles for co-creation of enterprises with the poor.

• Project H: Design Manifesto (for the BOP)

• If you check out the book Design for the Other 90 Percent, Out of Poverty by Paul Polack, or Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid you can find more principles for people at base of the pyramid.

• 1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design By Allan Chochinov


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