Students to develop solutions to global water crisis

AIGA, the professional association for design, today issued an ambitious call to the next generation of creative thinkers in its first annual Aspen Design Challenge, "Designing Water's Future." In association with INDEX and Circle of Blue, the international contest challenges cross-disciplinary student teams to develop design solutions that explore new ways of understanding, communicating and responding to the global water crisis...

Aug 20th, 2008

• AIGA, Circle of Blue and INDEX launch "Designing Water's Future," engaging cross-disciplinary teams of next-generation thinkers around the world

NEW YORK, Aug. 18, 2008 -- AIGA, the professional association for design, today issued an ambitious call to the next generation of creative thinkers in its first annual Aspen Design Challenge, "Designing Water's Future." In association with INDEX and Circle of Blue, the international contest challenges cross-disciplinary student teams to develop design solutions that explore new ways of understanding, communicating and responding to the global water crisis.

The Aspen Design Challenge is a joint project developed by AIGA and INDEX:, a global nonprofit design network, to engage the millennial generation in solving 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.

"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, the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications designers connecting humanity to the global water crisis.

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 (www.aspendesignchallenge.org). Winners will have the opportunity to refine and develop their concepts with world leaders and policy makers at the Aspen Environment Forum, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the World Business Summit on Climate Change.

Water crisis
More than five million people die each year due to a lack of safe 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. Called "the new oil" for the 21st century, water affects everything.

"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, over-use -- 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."

"We cannot continue to take water for granted," said Richard Grefé, 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."

About the Challenge
Students and faculty from around the world will develop ideas this fall and submit proposals by December 2008. Already there are commitments 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 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 Aug. 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.

"The water crisis needs creativity, attention and care -- and it needs it now," said Brian Collins. "Designers can inspire audiences to take action and inform people who may be separated by geography, education or immediate need. So our goal is to enlist a new generation of design thinkers to find better ways to communicate this problem, and drive local action and solutions."

For more information on the initiative and its developments throughout the fall, visit: www.aspendesignchallenge.org.

"Designing Water's Future" Partners

AIGA, the professional association for design, is the oldest and largest membership organization for design. Its mission is to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.

Circle of Blue is the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications designers that reports and presents the information necessary to respond to the global freshwater crisis. Circle of Blue is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and is a nonprofit affiliate of the internationally recognized water, climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute.

COLLINS is a transformation design firm based in New York. The company's team of strategists, designers, technologists, writers and architects work with some of the most iconic organizations in the world.

INDEX is a nonprofit network organization based in Copenhagen that focuses on design to improve life worldwide. INDEX works through a global network to ensure access to the best knowledge on design and the cutting edge of contemporary thinking.

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