Can Design Save The World?

Most people know Kanye West for his music and highly public personal life, but many are unaware that the famous rapper is also a product designer. He founded his own firm called DONDA that aims to create new products and architecture that are both beautiful and utilitarian. However, West said he feels that his work in these areas has been marginalized by the design community due to his race and public persona.

So on a recent visit to Boston, West stopped by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (HUGSD) to speak about these issues with the HUGSD's African American Student Union. He told them that he believes better design can help create utopia, but that politics often stands in the way. His brief lecture has sparked a lot of interest in the subject of design and its importance to the lives of everyday people.

In a recent interview with, several students of the HUGSD spoke about West's comments and their connection to issues such as climate change and green living. They provide some powerful insight into the need for better urban planning and design if humanity is to be able to avert global warming crisis.

"In New York City, [Hurricane] Sandy showed you can no longer just ignore these questions, like how it can operate without its subway system, or how do you design a new subway and switch system that can accommodate that kind of density without compromising the health of all those people," said HUGSD student Héctor Tarrido-Picart. "When Kanye said he wanted a utopia, I personally didn't read that as utopia in the literary sense, but rather him saying that the future has to be thought out."

West's efforts in design and his outreach to minority students of the field is important because it can help encourage more underrepresented populations to pursue this discipline. The effect of that will be more manpower devoted to solving humanity's biggest problems, including how best to implement green business ideas and create better environmentally friendly products.

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