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Designing for the bottom of the pyramid

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 2, 2005

There’s a hot opening at Parsons in New York for an exhibit on designing the new taxi but I’m passing it up to be in Palo Alto for an IDSA/HP conference on designing for people who make $2 a day or less. HP’s Brand Designer and Experience Director, Sam Lucente, is running the two day event, with about 80 people from HP, P&G, Microsoft, Philips, Intel, Steelcase, plus many design consultancies such as Whipsaw, Smart Design, ECCO, IDEO, MOTO,newdealdesign, Lunar Bressslergroup and others. More later.

fuseproject’s Yves Behar will speak on designing for the individual, Jump’s Dev Patnaik talks about design from the cultural perspective, Satish Gokhale, will speak on design in India (this is getting more and more buzz), Anjali Kelkar from the Institute of Design in Chicago will talk on design for the masses, middle and lower classes, and Patrick Whitney the director of the Institute of Design and I will speak on design for a “flat” world (I’m arguing the world isn’t getting flatter but rounder). This Design About is about designing for the “other”6 billion people. C.K. Prahalad’s been talking about this for some time.

Reader Comments

Niti Bhan

November 3, 2005 6:45 PM

I'd be curious to know what you mean by "rounder" rather than "flatter".

Larry Irons

November 9, 2005 6:28 PM

I enjoyed your point about round vs. flat. It, and your later entry on the Power of Us, are right on the point in focusing on the relationship of collaboration and innovation. I recently commented on the "World is Flat" mantra of Tom Friedman, noting:

"Concentrating innovative, creative people in urban centers, or leveling out the playing field so that innovators don’t have to emigrate within a country or between countries to work on innovation projects, does not speak to the key issues in designing processes that increase the effectiveness of collaboration. Rather than focus on whether the world is flat or spiky, serious attention is better paid to how global enterprises organize collaboration and what limitations place and cultural context impose on that organization."

Nice blog!

Alex Osterwalder

December 9, 2005 9:02 AM

I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts on design at/for the bottom of the pyramid. I find this a particularly interesting area, though I certainly do not agree with all that CKP brings forward. I wrote about business model design at/for the bottom of the pyramid a while ago ( ). I've been particularly impressed by the innovativeness of businesses at the bottom of the pyramid. Looking at the issue from various perspectives I think business and design at the BOP is one of the next big things. As you say there are several billion people that are still to be integrated fully in global wealth and the global economy. This is not only an incredible pool of talent and ideas (for design), but also a huge potential market. Missing out on this opportunity would economically be a waste and morally unforgivable - Alex

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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