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Design for the Other 90%


For the first time in history, the majority of the earth’s approximately seven billion inhabitants live in cities. Close to one billion people live in informal settlements, commonly known as slums or squatter settlements, and that number is projected to swell to two billion by 2030, pushing beyond the capacity of many local institutions to cope.

Lured to the city in search of work and greater social mobility or fleeing conflicts and natural disasters, many urban migrants suffer from insecure land tenure, limited access to basic services such as sanitation and clean water, and crowded living conditions. At the same time, these informal cities, full of culture and life, increase opportunities to create solutions to the problems they face.

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES features sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies. Divided into six themes—Exchange, Reveal, Adapt, Include, Prosper and Access—to help orient the visitor, the exhibition shines the spotlight on communities, designers, architects, and private, civic, and public organizations that are working together to formulate innovative approaches to urban planning, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, nonformal education, public health, and more. The United Nations offers an ideal setting to examine these complex issues and connect with stakeholders who can impart real change.
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Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.” Through partnerships both local and global, individuals and organizations are finding unique ways to address the basic challenges of survival and progress faced by the world’s poor and marginalized.

Designers, engineers, students and professors, architects, and social entrepreneurs from all over the globe are devising cost-effective ways to increase access to food and water, energy, education, healthcare, revenue-generating activities, and affordable transportation for those who most need them. And an increasing number of initiatives are providing solutions for underserved populations in developed countries such as the United States.

This movement has its roots in the 1960s and 1970s, when economists and designers looked to find simple, low-cost solutions to combat poverty. More recently, designers are working directly with end users of their products, emphasizing co-creation to respond to their needs. Many of these projects employ market principles for income generation as a way out of poverty. Poor rural farmers become micro-entrepreneurs, while cottage industries emerge in more urban areas. Some designs are patented to control the quality of their important breakthroughs, while others are open source in nature to allow for easier dissemination and adaptation, locally and internationally.

Encompassing a broad set of modern social and economic concerns, these design innovations often support responsible, sustainable economic policy. They help, rather than exploit, poorer economies; minimize environmental impact; increase social inclusion; improve healthcare at all levels; and advance the quality and accessibility of education. These designers’ voices are passionate, and their points of view range widely on how best to address these important issues. Each object on display tells a story, and provides a window through which we can observe this expanding field. Design for the Other 90% demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world.


Updates from the Field

  • @designother90: bePRO helmet for motor taxi riders is affordable, locally produced design using fiberglass composite #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: Only 9 days left to see #other90cities at the UN, open 12/29 thru 12/31, 1/2 thru 1/6, and 1/9. Link
  • @designother90: For those without electricity, bicycle phone charger enables mobile phone to be charged while in transit #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: Only 10 days left to see #Other90Cities at the UN, open 12/28 thru 12/31, 1/2 thru 1/6, and 1/9. Link
  • @designother90: Join the Design Other 90 Network! Upload projects, share, connect with, and learn about others' work #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: Cape Town micro-farms provide settlement residents with agricultural knowledge and income #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: Join the Design Other 90 Network! Upload projects, share, connect with, and learn about others' work #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: UN closed on December 25 and 26 for Christmas Please plan your visit to #other90cities accordingly! Link
  • @designother90: Spaza-de-Move-on, a portable rolling cart, provides dignity and ease to informal street vendors #other90cities Link
  • @designother90: FT/Citi partner on Ingenuity Awards:Urban Ideas in Action, recognizing innovative urban solutions. Enter #other90cities Link

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