The perennial desire to drive home the imperative of design for social good is reinforced by the first article in this edition of the journal. In the article The VHEMBE filter: a product for rural South Africa, authors Angus Campbell and Martin Bolton document a South African design project that focused on an intervention aimed at social upliftment and the impact the outcome could offer a very large segment of society through improved water quality. The article illustrates how a user-centred approach was employed to improve an existing product, the Filtron water filter, to ensure that it was better suited to users living in rural settings. The development of the resulting design, named the Vhembe water filter, formed part of a larger collaborative research project that aimed to investigate whether an intervention that improves water quality would measurably improve the health of people using the intervention. Research data was based on field work conducted in approximately 25 rural villages in the Vhembe district of the Limpopo Province, South Africa.
According to Chochinov (2010:6), '[f]rom Victor Papanek's Design for the real world to John Thackara's In the bubble, from Buckmister Fuller's World game to Bruce Mau's Massive change, there has been a perennial desire to drive home the imperative of design for social good.' The first aim of this article is therefore to document a South African design project that focuses on social good and the impact the outcome could offer a very large segment of society through improved water quality.
In this article I wish to argue for a mode of critical and expansive thinking that our profession can call designerly-knowing, design thinking, or a design conversation - if this mode of thought can be understood to be undisciplined, and understood to be critical thought that owes allegiance to no (one external) directive philosophy except the one that regulates the fluid conditions of living and being of everyday existence, as will be explained below.
In 1965, Paul Ricoeur (2007:42), referring to globalisation, highlighted the following paradox: 'The encroachment of universal civilization, while improving some qualities of life, erodes those that are most vital and creative - one's attachment to and knowledge of self in relation to place'.