DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Buck, Lyndon; Harlow, Richard
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Buckinghamshire New University, United Kingdom
Section: Ethics and Social Issues 1
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


At a 2018 community workshop for the EU Horizon 2020 WATERSPOUTT project in Chikwawa, Malawi, villagers discussed water collection from the Shire river. WATERSPOUTT aims to provide safe drinking water to sub-Saharan African communities. A consortium of EU and African researchers is carrying out a development programme based on Solar Disinfection (SoDis), making collected water safe to drink. The water in Chikwawa is polluted by upstream sewage and factory waste and rains that stir up dirt and bacteria. An analysis of global risk and the water divide (Ciampi 2012) suggested that a culture utilising science alone is insufficient when facing new problems, new solutions and appropriate innovation require experience and imagination for successful adoption. Water interventions typically arrive in a developing area with a technological solution without considering local people, environment or culture. As a result, projects can see trivial issues lead to their failure, or minimal cultural exploration lead to rejected solutions incompatible with local customs. The introduction of SoDis to Nepal's Kathmandu Valley in (Rainey & Harding 2005) had many issues, the community had insufficient space for water storage in the sunlight and the treatment was wrongly perceived to make the water less pure. The ideal solution may have been treating the water at source or by employing design methods to ensure a match for the users, their community and beliefs.

Where products are successfully implemented, the application is often limited to a specific process, application or location and when situations change the initial technologies are no longer suitable for demand. Product design methods can provide mechanisms to customise products that solve immediate daily problems while developing longer lasting solutions for those not yet in the position to create them for themselves. This is exemplified by Vastergaard Frandsen’s ‘Life straw’, P.J and J.P.S. Hendrikse’s ‘Q drum’ and Amos Winters ‘Leverage freedom chair’. These products have taken user requirements into consideration, developing long-term solutions for the intended communities. It is this application of product design methods to all stages of the water intervention process that this paper will explore, it will highlight where this has enabled undergraduate product design students to be closely involved in the project.

Previous intervention projects where design methods have been implemented will be analysed, and their effects reviewed. Communicating new arenas for innovation and new product development, the analysis will also include primary research from the WATERSPOUTT project including details of the development of a ceramic filter and solar disinfection water purification system as well as user feedback collected from target areas. The paper will discuss the importance of user engagement and the involvement of cultural factors in the advancement of new intervention products. Finally it will provide considerations in user centered design for students and educators while discussing how design methods can be used to improve the adoption and sustainability of community solutions in intervention product design. It will end with an analysis of how product design curricula could incorporate a greater level of socially responsible design thinking using examples of successful engagement with users and communities.

Keywords: Product Design, Water Treatment, Solar Disinfection, Sustainability


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