BODY CATEGORY: The Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor

Designed by: Philip Goodwin (industrial designer); Stefan Zwahlen (electronics designer); John Hutchinson; (project leader). Cape Town, South Africa.
Additional credits: Professor John Wyatt, University College London, United Kingdom; Dr Joy Lawn (medical research council, South Africa); Professor David Woods, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Produced by: Ultrasound Technologies Ltd Wales UK.

What is being awarded:

The Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor is a human powered device that monitors  an unborn child’s heart rate during labor and thus can help healthcare workers to make life-saving decisions while off the electrical grid in developing countries.

The design includes  an obstetrics ultrasound device connected to the main unit by a cord. That main unit processes the signal and displays it. It also contains a power-management electronic  module, a sound amplifier and a crank for winding up the device.

Credit also goes to Freeplay Energy for its focus over the years on a series of Design to Improve Life solutions that address the needs of many people who have no access – or only irregular or scarce access –  to electricity.

The challenge addressed by the design:

The statistics speak for themselves: An estimated 136 million women deliver babies every year. Of these, up to 20 million women may develop complications of some sort, and an estimated average 1500 die every day, according to WHO. Maternal deaths have economic and geographic disparities: In the world’s least- developed countries, the likelihood of dying during childbirth is 300 percent higher than in industrialized nations, with 50 percent of all deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN.

Summing up, 99 percent of 4 million newborn deaths occur in the developing world, according to UN amounting to a problem that UN says outnumber HIV/AIDS, from which 3 million people die every year, according to WHO.

The severity of the problem has led to it being referenced in two of eight United Nations Millennium Goals, agreed to by 190 heads of state as warranting solution by 2015. One of those Millennium Goals is Child Health the other is Maternal Health. The objective of the Maternal Health goal is to reduce threats to women in childbirth by 75 percent by 2015. Unfortunately, UN estimates that this target is least likely of the goals targets to be achieved.


In terms of Form, the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor is a solid, robust, durable design that fits the context in which it is intended to be useful. It has few components and its operation is intuitive. First-time users seem able to grasp how to use it quickly.

The materials combined in the device are substantial. The crank delivers up to 10 minutes of use after one minute of winding. The read-out is precise and ensures the unit can be used successfully not only by professionals but also by semi-professional midwives and others.

The weight distributions in the design are right – the device feels trustworthy and robust, combined with professional and accessible instructions for use.

These factors of Form in the components of the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor add up to a potential for the device to achieve iconic status among off-grid maternal care design.


In monitoring an unborn child’s safety during pregnancy and childbirth, the Number One indicator of the child’s wellbeing or stress is the heartbeat of the fetus.

By developing the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor, Freeplay Energy also creates a breakthrough in making available the benefits of essential tools to people who never had this comparative “luxury”, and by that generates new hope.

In the developing world, price is one of the most important parameters affecting  the potential  impact of any life-saving design. The present price of Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor is $300 and the ultimate target price is $100, which is a fraction of the price of  competitors’ products, which often sell  at a prize of up to $ 1.000. The low price strengthens the potential for the design to have a significant impact.

The Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor has just ended the first major field tests performed by Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans frontiers), who are enthusiastic about the product. The challenge in the coming years is to gain widespread distribution to clinics and hospitals in need of the design. In this connection, it is reassuring that the company behind the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor is a pioneer in impact-by-distribution, having grown a global network of distributers, helping to expand the reach of the Freeplay series in  the developed and developing worlds.

The fact that the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor also arose from Freeplay Energy’s philosophy of making products free of electrical-power restrictions also argues for the potential impact of the design: Human power does the work.

The severe problem addressed, the solution chosen, the price and the potential for distribution all amount to an anticipated bright future of wide impact for this  off-the-grid design.


Nearly 2 billion people in the world, approximately 25 percent of the global population, still do not have access to electricity, according to Global Issues. Sub-Saharan Africa, has the lowest levels of electrification in the world, with nine  in 10 people living without  access to power.

Over 99 percent of the world’s 4 million yearly deaths of newborns — and half-a-million maternal deaths, according to the figures of UN occur in the developing world. These deaths are deemed preventable by UN if a basic program of trained personnel, reliable equipment and adequate facilities are provided. Developing nations are establishing such programs, but  the cost of medical devices remains extremely high with designs tailored to hightech first-world environments. As a result, less than 1 percent of such life-saving devices are present in low-income countries – a mismatch of tragic proportions.

The Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor is the first in a range of fit-for-purpose, low-cost, appropriate medical devices to combat this problem and make available such technology in affected low-resource settings. It is rugged in design and materials, and brings the benefit of electronic and accurate measuring of the fetal heart rate to healthcare workers, thus empowering them to make timely and life-saving decisions during childbirth.

The design team has focused on minimizing cost and boosting the robust character of the unit, while providing state-of-the-art electronics functionality with power provision in a design that elegantly fits the context.


HOME CATEGORY: Chulha indoor pollution-free stove

Designed by: Philips Design.
Design team: Unmesh Kulkarni; Praveeen Mareguddi, India.
Additional credits: Bas Griffioen; Simona Rocchi, the Netherlands.
Partners: Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI); end-users.

What is being awarded:

Chulha is a low-smoke stove that burns bio-mass fuel efficiently and directs cleaned smoke out of the house through a chimney. Also awarded is the design of the open-source business model for distribution of the design.

Finally, the fact that a large, multinational corporation like Philips is now moving to generate Design to Improve Life is being recognized.

The challenge addressed by the design:

Industrial emission is not the only polluter of the air we breathe. According to WHO the most deadly and dangerous form of air pollution occurs far away from high chimneys of industrial plants – inside homes in rural areas of the developing world.

International estimates made by WHO suggest that 1.5 million people die every year from carbon-monoxide poisoning inside their homes and from respiratory complications and/or diseases because of  poor indoor air. The problem is particularly acute in the developing world and has become so widespread that the WHO now refers to the problem as “the killer in the kitchen”. Respiratory conditions  related to poor ventilation are each year responsible for 800.000 deaths of children under the age of five, according to WHO figures.


Chulha is a recognizable generic stove, straightforward to assemble and built from materials that are aligned with its purpose. It is also a  great example of how an pure aesthetic design can be made open source to fit its context. The Chulha is designed keeping in mind local materials and processes. It builds on the aesthetic tradition of the cultures in which it’s designed to be used and it can be easily changed to fit other aesthetic demands by using different stones base materials and decorative elements.

The Chulha builds on the well-tested concept of modular design. The modular nature of the design allows the stove to be set up in multiple formats to  suit different cooking needs and fuels, using widely available materials, thus easing  manufacturing, transportation and handling.

A soot collector is installed inside the chimney.  This is a set of clay tablets stacked on of each other to let  smoke pass through in a zigzag way, increasing the length of travel of the fuel gases thus cooling them in the process, which considerably reduces air pollution. The tablets can be taken out, scrubbed and washed easily.

The form chosen for the Chulha ensures a manufacturing process with minimum assistance, low production costs, easy installment and trouble-free maintenance making Chulha a beautiful example of Design to Improve Life.


Chulha is part of the Philanthropy by Design Initiative created by Philips Design’s community, which aims to contribute to a better future for all, especially for the most fragile categories of our societies in less advanced economies. The Chulha’s value is enhanced by Philips’ decision that the business model should offer non-governmental organizations (NGOs)  a free license to use Philips’ intellectual property, including full access to the design tool-kit for the stove to  produce and sell the Chulha. Conditions for use stipulate  that The Chulha should be locally produced through  the training of new local entrepreneurs who can sell the stove for a fair price, and that records of the results achieved in the use and dissemination of the Chulha should be made, and that no existing companies can use the design for growth. This inspires local parties to become social entrepreneurs by manufacturing and selling the Chulha, widening its potential impact.

What’s more, the design has been tested according to the culinary habits and cooking behaviors emerging from a field study conducted in rural and semi-urban villages of western India. This approach – in which cooking habits are not changed, but improvements are instead made based on existing practices – helps to ensure success.

Furthermore, the modular construction of the Chulha – a factor that  reduces manufacturing complexity by exposing all its parts for easy, single-cavity molding — helps increase efficiency and speed of manufacturing and allows for easy transportation, easy installation and use. This,c ombined with the low price and the many advantages of the Chulha compared to traditional stoves, accounts for its major potential  impact.

Finally, the fact that Philips initiated the design, itself, accounts for increased potential  impact since the cooperation is represented in many parts of the world and has huge muscle with regards to marketing and further development and/or implementation.


The Chulha is addressing a pressing  but largely  unknown problem, to which global attention has been drawn only  in the last couple of years.  Most households in rural areas of the developing world depend on bio-mass fuels for cooking and do not use chimneys to lead the smoke out of the kitchen. This practice causes indoor air pollution that leads to respiratory diseases. Respiratory illness affects the health of a significant number of people in developing societies who still cook indoors with bio-mass fuels.

Co-developed in India — with a local NGO, the designers and users — the Chulha stove has a number of advantages over a traditional stove. As it is locally produced and distributed, it is inexpensive and easily made. It is easy to use and maintain, and it can significantly reduce indoor and outdoor pollution. Its modular design makes it easier to manufacture and transport because  it can be carried by the user and assembled at home.

To be sure the  design fits its intended context, the stove has been made and tested according to local production rules and augmented by specific instructions for its installation and maintenance, developed with users and applied to local regulations. The result is a design that fits its context, thus giving it a greater chance of obtaining future success.


WORK CATEGORY: KIVA  person-to-person micro-loans

Designed by: Kiva Microfunds, San Francisco, United States.

What is being awarded:

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending system, empowering individuals to lend money directly and without interest to unique entrepreneurs in need of loans to establish incomes for themselves and their families in the developing world.

Kiva follows these simple steps:

1) Lenders browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need and choose who to lend to. When lending, Kiva collects the funds and subsequently passes them along to one of its microfinance partners worldwide.

2) Kiva’s microfinance partners (Field partners) distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneurs.

3) Over time, the entrepreneurs repay the loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend, donate to Kiva or withdraw their funds.

What is being awarded is the design and the architecture of the social system represented in Kiva as well as the information architecture and programming design of kiva.org, the system interface.

The challenge addressed by the design:

The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US $1.25 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day, estimating that in 2001, as many as 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day. In East Asia, the World Bank reports that the poverty headcount rate at the $2-a-day level is about 27 percent and in Sub-Saharan Africa the number of people living in poverty is estimated to be 318 million. Extreme poverty is not only present in the developing world but also in industrialized countries. For example, in the United States, 12.6 percent of the population is  estimated to live below the poverty threshold. The first of the eight Millennium Development Goals is to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

Being poor means – among other things – that you very rarely have access to the financial services that allow people of greater means to alter their situations radically or provide them with a feeling of possibilities and security. Microfinance, as made available through Kiva, helps very poor households meet basic needs and protects them against risks.

Furthermore, Kiva is addressing two major lessons of the past decade, namely the growing lack of trust in institutions after the corruption at Enron and other corporate indiscretions and the fact that we by now know that aid is not the best aid – but that empowerment is.


In line with the concepts of Web 2.0, Kiva delivers a platform or scaffolding that you yourself can personalize. The elements that form this scaffold can be altered by the user and is used to create a peer-to-peer social community built for micro-lending.

The design of the Web site, which is the immediate face of the system design behind it, is a generic hybrid between a bank, storytelling and a social network like Facebook. The transparency of all steps within the system helps build trust and this, combined with the personal representations of lenders accounts for the success of the  system and makes transactions and choices easy and understandable for the user. Also, the personal angle  is part of the success, as it sparks empathy and willingness to help and because trust is more easily  established between people than between institutions.

It can be said that the best design of Kiva is all the things you do not see — all the sources of irritation that are not there. You can concentrate and immediately fulfill the objectives you had for using this well-crafted site.


Referring back to the impressive game-changing work of Nobel Prize-winner Mohammed Yunus and Grameen Bank, Kiva links the desire to perform humanitarian service  to market mechanisms.

The well-designed Kiva distributes precise and  clear roles for all parts of its program, including Kiva itself, the field partners, the entrepreneurs and the lenders – which ensures  smooth running and  improved impact. As a core part of its system, Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions to gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities worldwide and to improve its distribution between the people in need. The Kiva partners are supervised and monitored by on-site experts to help them choose qualified entrepreneurs from their local areas. These  entrepreneurs will then be given clearance to upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the Kiva site so private philanthropists around the world can lend them money.

So far, Kiva has helped 185.000 people with loans in developing countries and after the launch of Kiva activities in the United States, the impact is anticipated to grow even more, making it obvious that Kiva adds to the world’s overall well-being in a way that conveys major benefits to those who lack significant initial wealth endowments and therefore miss out on the  advantages of economic interaction.

On top of this, the fact that the Kiva system is built on  trust between people has helped its impact and success , with a track record showing  that 98.4 percent of all the money loaned is paid back.

Adding to the important and measurable impact of Kiva, the system is also offering a scarce and priceless commodity, namely the hope a family gains when it is  empowered to secure its own income for the future.


Kiva addresses a context in which  billions of poor people around the world have no access to even minimal financial services, leaving them little  hope of creating a future for their kids  better than the lives they live.

Being poor means – among other things – that you do not have money to open a savings account, you have no  collateral to secure a loan, you have no  credit record. And it means that you might even be unable to complete the necessary paperwork because you areilliterate. Because  of this “catch 22,” poor people often have no access to the very financial services  that could enable  them to build their own incomes.

“The great challenge before us is to address the constraints that exclude people from full participation in the financial sector… Together, we can and must build inclusive financial sectors that help people improve their lives.”- Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General.


PLAYFUL LEARNING CATEGORY: Pig 05049, a behind-the-scenes education

Designed by: Christien Meindertsma, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Additional credits: Julie Joliat.

What is being awarded:

Pig 05049 is a book that shows 186 end products made from a single pig. Among them are such  unexpected products as ammunition, medicine, photo paper, heart valves, brakes, chewing gum, porcelain, cosmetics, cigarettes, conditioner and even bio-diesel.

What is being awarded is the design of the book and the design research that goes into this unique and accessible communication design.

The challenge addressed by the design:

Alienation refers to a separation of things that naturally belong together. It also can refer to  an individual subject’s estrangement from a community, society, or world.

Alienation — or simply lack of understanding of what is around us — is a huge challenge in  the contemporary world, because that lack of understanding of our environment leads to an ignorance of how to improve or alter it. The result can be  apathy and inability to act.

For example,  a lack of understanding of how our foodstuffs get to the table  leads not only to sometimes charming anecdotes about  big-city kids saying milk comes from the supermarket but more seriously to a lack of understanding of how we eat and the importance of nutrition.


The Pig 05049 book and research project is a beautiful, tangible design, communicating in sophisticated and dense layers and re-establishing many connections between products and their end-users.

The design is simple yet not simplistic. It takes you by the hand and leads you from revelation to revelation. As you go through the book, it opens, and opens. It reveals itself in time, building meaning as it moves slowly forward and you immerse yourself into it.

By that, Pig 05049 is as a foil to the MTV quick-cut mainstream style of popular communication of the day. It  breaks with the paradigm of the quick hit, as it draws you in to spend time and be profoundly engaged.

Pig book arrests you as you scan it, when  you still are receptive to new information. You learn and explore  its encyclopedic qualities. It allows you to dive deep as well as just browse through.


The Pig 05049 book offers  connections  to the reader in a simple, non-judgmental  way, simply laying out the sources of ingredients that go into select commodities in our surroundings.

By doing this,  the book may forever change the mind and mindset of its readers, leaving them unable to return to  their previous perceptions of a pig or the 186 products associated with Pig 05049 displayed in the book.

The designer is forcing the reader to discover the huge complexity of our surrounding and opening consumers’ eyes to the reality surrounding the afterlives of some modern livestock.

The impact of communication design may not be as immediate as the impact of, for example, a life-saving medical device. But the long-term impact of world-leading communication designs of which Pig 05049 is a prominent example can help inform and elucidate the settings and workings of modern life.

It changes a reader’s way of thinking. Today, we need complexity with clarity, not simplicity with complication. This is a beautiful example of experience


The context of the Pig 05049 book is the fast-moving modern industrialized world in which more and more people seem not  to understand their increasingly complex environments. One  simple consequence appears to be that many people no longer know where many manufactured goods  come from or what goes into them This is leading to a situation in which  people are left feeling powerless,  frustrated and alienated.

The Pig 05049 book addresses this context in a way that layers complexities but remains  simple and straightforward. It does its work  value judgments  or scolding,  simply laying out  facts about  the stuff and commodities that surround us.


COMMUNITY CATEGORY: Better Place electric-transport enabling systems

Designed by: Better Place Inc., Palo Alto, United States.
Additional credits: NewDealDesign LLC (design strategy and industrial design); Nekuda DM Ltd. (Product Development).

What is being awarded:

Better Place is a large-scale system design comprising electrical-vehicle driver services and  and infrastructure. Subscribers and guests of the Better Place regime  will have access to a network of charge spots, battery switch stations and services that promise to optimize the driving experience and minimize environmental impact and cost.

Better Place’s operating companies in Israel, Denmark and Australia are leading the way in deployment and implementation of the system, while markets in the United States, Canada, Japan and other nations continue to develop.

What is being awarded is the large-scale systemic nature of the design, including the industrial segments — such as charge spots and switch stations —  and the design of services including in-car information and services for subscribers as well as non-subscribing drivers of off-program electrical vehicles.

The challenge addressed by the design:

Gasoline-powered vehicles are a major contributor to carbon emissions in the developed world, accounting for 33 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, and as much as 50 percent of carbon emissions in some of the countries in Europe, according to WHO Gasoline-powered vehicles also contribute to air pollution, which is increasingly problematic in urban centers around the world. 900,000 people die each year from causes directly attributable to outdoor air pollution according to WHO.


The design of both the tangible and  intangible aspects of the Better Place system is coherent, self-evident, contemporary and carries a potential to be one of the design icons of the future. The system design is well thought-through, from the boldness of rising of the biggest venture capital fund  ($200 million), according to Better Place, to its physical design, which should work in  most city environments around the world and allows for elegant service design.


As a venture-capital startup Better Place reverses the standard model for creating  a business. The enormity of the planned system combined with its coherence might be precisely what accounts for the eventual impact of Better Place. After many years of sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, and most times hopeless trial and error in the area of electrical vehicles,  the world seems to need fundamental approaches to fully utilize the potential of cars that emit no CO2.

Better Place forms alliances with nations as well as cities and major car manufactures in an effort to enhance its impact.  At this writing, Better Place is working with, among others,  the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which will be among the first automakers to introduce bring to market electric vehicles that can engage with the Better Place program.

Likewise, Better Place has signed agreements to make Australia, Israel and Denmark early adapters of the Better Place system. Similarly, Better Place is signing deals to make U.S. states including  California and Hawaii and the Canadian province of Ontario among the first regional governments to formally embrace the program.

In May 2009, Better Place and Copenhagen signed an agreement to jointly develop a plan for how Copenhagen can accelerate the switch from carbon-based transportation systems to sustainable mobility models that rely on renewable energy powered zero-emission vehicles. The cooperation agreement calls for Better Place and the City of Copenhagen to work together in establishing the best conditions for the rapid deployment of an electric car-charging infrastructure in the municipality of Copenhagen, initially resulting in a demonstration at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in December 2009.

At this writing, everything seems to promise major impact for  Better Place: This huge complex of partnerships and agreements, early adapters and tests appears to be in line to meet  the size of the challenge Better Place attempts to address.. At the same time, many consumers are reportedly enthusiastic about the shift to electric vehicles and the potential to eliminate exposure to surges in gas prices, foster new job opportunities, and reduce CO2 emissions for better air quality. On top of this, governments are increasingly supportive as they look to stimulate weakened economies and improve trade balances. Automakers are finally developing more electrically powered vehicles in hopes of revitalizing exceptionally weak consumer demand and avert more corporate collapses

Prospects for success and apparent need for this approach seem to indicate that etter Place can  be seen as one of the most important developments of today.


The context of Better Place is a world rapidly running out of petroleum and  heavy with CO2 pollution. To address these two parameters, we need to increase the energy efficiency of our transportation system and shift away from products that burn fossil fuels, as UN estimates that 98 percent of transportation does presently.

UN estimates that we have  consumed only 30percent of the Earth’s proven reserves up to this writing, but much of the remaining supply is locked away in unconventional sources like tar sands and deep water, making it far more expensive to extract. As we spend more on production and approach what has been termed “peak oil,” further pressure is expected amid new demand from industrializing countries such as China and India.

As for the environment, WHO now states it as a fact that gasoline-powered vehicles are a major contributor to carbon emissions in the developed world, accounting for 33 percent of those emissions in the United States and as much as 50 percent of carbon emissions in some of the countries in Europe. According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 people die each year from causes directly attributable to outdoor air pollution.

At the same time, the prices of oil are increasing at an unprecedented speed, bringing along an insecure environment for family economics all over the world. Adding to the personal appeal  of electrical vehicles, Better Place responds to the cultural fondness for  personal means of transportation and promotes  a solution that fits this desire in a world in which no electrical car solution has yet succeeded on the grand scale.

Better Place is not only designed to fit the context described here but is also universal in its approach and the potential of its proposed solution.

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