The Public Interest Design 100: Designers Changing The World

The second installment of this annual list features global designers using their craft to improve lives–from building floating schools to learning about city design from slums.

The Public Interest Design 100: Designers Changing The World

In December 2012, curator (and current Autodesk guest curator in residence) John Cary undertook the ambitious project of creating a list of the 100+ public interest designers changing the world. Now Cary has released a second, more global edition of the Public Interest Design 100. Below, some of the highlights of Cary’s new list, culled from nominations by design leaders.


Kunlé Adeyemi

The top spot goes to Kunlé Adeyemi, the principal of NLÉ–a firm known for creating a floating school in Lagos, dubbed the Makoko Floating School. NLÉ describes the project on its website: “As a pilot project, it has taken an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanizing African context. Its main aim is to generate a sustainable, ecological, alternative building system and urban water culture for the teeming population of Africa’s coastal regions.”

Shigeru Ban

Shigeru Ban, number five on the list, founded Shigeru Ban Architects and the Volunteer Architects Network (VAN). For decades, Ban has created shelters for disaster victims and refugees in places like Turkey, Rwanda, India, Haiti, and Japan. He is perhaps most well-known for using recycled paper tubes as a construction method in disaster situations.

Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner

This pair of architects (number 10) co-founded Urban Think Tank, a firm that harnesses design for more sustainable urban developments. In a book released last year, Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, Brillemboug and Klumpner argued examined how vertical urban slums (specifically, the Torre David slum in Caracas, Venezuela) can teach us how to design cities in the future.

Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz came in at number 72 on the list for founding a not-so-small organizaton called the Acumen Fund, which invests in design-heavy projects for the world’s poor, including the d.light and A to Z Textile Mills’ malaria bednets. Novogratz is also the author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, which is worth a read.

Cynthia Koenig

Koenig, number 50, is best known for founding Wello, a company that manufactures the WaterWheel–a rolling device that lets people carry up to 25 gallons of water without needing to balance anything on their heads (that’s often what happens in parts of the developing world). You can watch Koenig discuss the water drum in the Unreasonables, our series tracking participants in the Unreasonable Institute accelerator program.

It’s safe to say that every single person on the Public Interest Design 100 is worth looking into. If you haven’t already, check out the full list.


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.