Monthly Archives: September 2008

sharing about car-sharing

Living in San Francisco, biking almost everywhere I need to go, and having friends with cars that I can (usually) borrow, I haven’t had much need to join a car-sharing service. I’ve always admired what ZipCar, City Car Share and other car-sharing services do, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to see, first hand, how convenient it is to share cars.

Needing to run a few errands for work last week, I decided to sign up for Zipcar, and couldn’t say enough good things about the experience. With a wide selection of cars and locations, and with every detail of the experience thought through, I was able to get where I needed, when I needed, with little guilt and great satisfaction. I can’t speak personally to the experience with other companies, but I’d imagine that they’re all pretty comparable.

Zipcar has it’s limits, though, and I’m glad to see that other organizations are jumping on these opportunities. Organized carpooling (or ride-sharing), for example, is another great way to cut down on the number of cars on the road, and GoLoco (founded by Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar), and Pickup Pal both offer this service.  By matching drivers with potential passengers and facilitating cost-sharing between the two, there’s great potential for systems like this to help cut down the number of cars on the road. A similar, but much less organized system is already popular in San Francisco (Casual Carpool), showing that systems like this can really work. Can’t wait to try it!

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vote for change(ing the voter registration form)

I spent all morning yesterday registering new voters, and even after 4 hours of reviewing the same form, I still didn’t completely understand it. Way to go, US Government.

Should’ve known that Obama and his (brilliant) designers had a solution. Vote for Change, an incredibly intuitive, simple and beautiful page, makes it easy to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, change your address, or check the status of an earlier registration.

Although it’s doubtful that Obama’s understanding of the power of design would trickle down to the more mundane things like voter registration forms, it’d still be a relief to have someone who “gets it” in office…

jeffrey sachs on design

There’s plenty o’ buzz about design having the potential to save to world, but not too many people can substantiate that claim. Jeffrey Sachs, in a well-scripted but good interview with Design 21, speaks on the subject, offering a few tidbits of observation and inspiration.

Sachs, an economist, environmentalist and all-around expert on development, takes a very pragmatic, goal-oriented view on design and development. With the basic belief that, “the world’s problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man,” Sachs advises designers, engineers, economists and anyone else interested in development to rally around the existing “shared global commitments.” By joining forces and working towards common goals (such as the UN’s Millennium Development Goals), we can create maximum impact, even if “our governments are woefully inadequate.”

When asked specifically what role designers play in development, Sachs responded:

“Designers are the key to showing how to mobilize cutting-edge technologies, new materials, and new approaches to older materials and technologies, in order to solve problems such as clean water, safe cook stoves, low-cost housing, internet connectivity for the poor, safe methods of delivery of medicines and vaccines (such as safe syringes), and much more. Design embodied in sustainable technologies provide the blueprint. Typically, path-breaking approaches can be found at low cost. Once these are proved, then they can be taken to scale through a combination of market incentives, development assistance and large-scale philanthropic efforts.”

Couldn’t agree more with all that Sachs has to say, but I’d love to see somebody start making these design opportunities more tangible. Speaking as a young designer interested in designing for social impact, I’d love to see more Architecture for Humanity or D-Lab type forums for designers, connecting problems with problem solvers. Can’t hold this against Sachs, though- he’s a bigger picture kinda guy. And it’s good to hear a bigger-picture kinda guy like Sachs acknowledging design’s role in devolopment.