AIGA, the professional association for design, today issued an ambitious call to action, tasking the next generation of creative thinkers with developing solutions to the global water crisis in its first annual Aspen Design Challenge , dubbed "Designing Water's Future." The international contest challenges cross-disciplinary student teams to develop design solutions that encourage responsible water use, provide access to freshwater to those in need and increase awareness about the importance of water conservation.
The rules and guidelines for the Challenge were distributed to thousands of faculty and students at more than 250 universities from Beijing to Boston, and are available to all with the launch of the Aspen Design Challenge website. Winners will have the opportunity to refine and develop their concepts with world leaders and policy makers at the Aspen Environment Forum, and their solutions will be discussed at the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the World Business Summit on Climate Change.
The Aspen Design Challenge is a joint project developed by AIGA and INDEX:, a global nonprofit design network, with the purpose of engaging the millennial generation in solving an emerging set of global issues. The Challenge is issued as part of the Aspen Design Summit, an international conference organized for leaders from business, the public sector and nonprofit organizations. The idea for "Designing Water's Future" grew out of discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, led by Brian Collins, chairman of Collins:, a New York-based transformation design firm, and journalist J. Carl Ganter, co-founder of Circle of Blue, an international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications designers that connects humanity to the global freshwater crisis. AIGA has partnered with Circle of Blue and Collins: for their expertise, knowledge on the issues and ability to provide resources to ensure that the students' ideas are realized and brought to international attention.
More than five million people die each year due to contaminated drinking water, and the UN estimates that 5.5 billion people will lack adequate access to freshwater in the next 20 years. Water scarcity has emerged as a serious threat to peoples across the world. Dubbed by the news media as "the new oil," water affects everything from health, poverty and security to climate, energy, immigration-even financial and commodities markets.
"We cannot continue to take water for granted," said Richard Grefe, executive director of AIGA. "The idea behind the Aspen Design Challenge is that creative design can change the way people think and behave. We have every confidence that these students will devise the types of solutions we need to reframe how we think about water, how we manage it and how we save it-inventive solutions that are simple, powerful and actionable."
Students and faculty from around the world will develop ideas this fall and submit proposals by December 2008. While the opportunity to participate is still open, already there are comitments from schools in Australia, China, Denmark, Qatar and the United States. An international jury of accomplished leaders in the design and environmental fields will select contest finalists in February 2009.
Students behind the finalist proposals will have the opportunity to workshop their ideas in Aspen, improving their concepts with feedback from top designers, scientists, journalists and business and NGO leaders. Further, their ideas will be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (January 28- February 1, 2009); the Aspen Environment Forum (March 25-28, 2009) and to participants of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (November 30-December 11, 2009. The most promising project will receive The INDEX:|AIGA Aspen Design Challenge Prize in August in Copenhagen.
There are no restrictions on the type of solutions that students may submit. Print design, web applications, environment design, physical devices, data presentation tools and other approaches are all encouraged, as are proposals for the conceptual framework or method of dissemination that may propel these designs into public consciousness. Design students are encouraged to lead cross-disciplinary teams of engineers, artists, ethnographers, anthropologists and scientists, and to consider the social, cultural and scientific significance of water use.
"The global water crisis is a universally threatening and immensely complex problem," said J. Carl Ganter, director and co-founder of Circle of Blue. "The causes are many-climate change, population growth, overuse-and the ramifications are felt in all areas from environment to security to economic development. This is where we need design students to step in. Design is the intermediary between information and understanding. Young people have the fresh perspective we need, and it is their future which is most at stake."