Join our network of non-profits, companies and individuals who believe social change can happen through design.

Become A Member

Vivian Lam

New York, NY, United States

Product Designer

Member since March 10, 2008

  • Camboo

    Poverty, Industrial Design


    A design program to elevate the standards of bamboo artisans in Cambodia.

    Jagadha Sivan from World of Good has helped this project, as a very helpful research and resources advisor. She also introduces me to know many different organizations that work with artisans’ communities. Jessie McComb, a programs & new business coordinator from Aid to Artisans, teaches me the whole business process of an oversea design program. I’m also currently working with Heang Sarim, an executive director from Cambodian NTFP Development Organization (CAN-DO), which is an organization works with rural communities of Cambodia live. Bamboo artisans from this organization are actually experiencing my new designs.

    Although the Kingdom of Cambodia is rich in natural resources, decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world’s poorest countries. The pressures of a fast-growing population contribute to poverty. Because of a lack of education and skills training, people have low capabilities and inadequate employment opportunities. The cycle of poverty, ill health, and high health care costs cripple poor Cambodian families economically.

    The Cambodian bamboo artisans from CANDO are producing traditional woven baskets and cotton fabric for local markets. By analyzing the possibilities of the existing materials and craftsmanship, I’m designing a line of products that elevate their existing work into lighting fixtures. The new designs production is providing them a new working experience from targeting local markets to global markets. By promoting their new work globally, this project will aid to grow their business and gain higher profits.


    • A line of new designed lighting fixtures.
    • An instruction menu to guide the artisans to build the new designs.
    • Full scale drawings for artisans to refer.
    • A printed silk screen with graphics, frame to be provided by artisans. (Directions included)

    My mission is to

    • improve the quality of life for struggling low-income families in Cambodia, by investigating the country’s available natural resources,
    • create opportunities for the production of responsible design products to sell in the global marketplace,
    • practice production and consumption in a more sustainable manner.
    • educate consumers about the producers/artisans backgrounds

    Since this project has been started with the artisans, so I really wish to promote the line of products to wholesalers/retailers and access the new market for CANDO. And I’ve been invited to visit their community, so I’d like to travel to Cambodia this summer.

  • Vivian,

    I've been invited to give feedback to all Parsons students, regarding your thesis projects.

    Thank you for imagining a way to elevate local crafts in Cambodia, on both a design and market level. Overall, I think it's great that you've considered it in the larger sociopolitical context. You've articulated the problem and your proposed solution very clearly and thoughtfully.

    As a point of inspiration, you might want to look into the work of NY-based designer Stephen Burks and his projects in the developing world; he too takes the local global.

    Links: http://www.aidtoartisans.or

    Best of luck with your work. I hope you make it to Cambodia and bring Camboo to life! J.

  • In response to thesis feedback, posted by Jennifer Leonard,
    in the thread Camboo

    Thank you for your valuable response and suggestions. Since the last time I updated, the relationship between CANDO and me has gone much further. The instruction manual (illustrations and pictures to guide them to produce the new designs) has been editing and communicating with the artisans who don’t read a word of English through these time. After many emails and phone calls, they are actually learning and producing the new designs right now.

    Comments from the artisans’ shows that they are very interested to learn how to weave CAMBOO’s designs, they never make something like this before. They found that it is unique even though it’s challenging, but they can learn to weave it on their own with some instructions which give them satisfaction.

    Among the four artisans who leant how to weave, two can produce it. They feel very proud of making this new design from CAMBOO. And more importantly, they are very happy to know that the design produced by them will be exhibited in New York. These are comments translated by Heang Sarim, executive director of CANDO, and two pictures took by him.

    After the presentation yesterday, Tim Keating from Rainforest Relief and Gwendy Feldman from Original Women are both very interested in my project and the on-going relationship between CANDO and me. I’m very happy and willing to work more on any weak parts of my project. I really hope CAMBOO is coming to life one day!

  • In response to CAMBOO, posted by Vivian Lam,
    in the thread Camboo

    Dear Vivian,

    I am Charline, an intern in a firm of consultants which aims at promoting Socially Responsible Investing in Cambodia.

    I am currently working on a project around the concept of Bamboo value chain – namely the Bio Box project- , which meets the Camboo project on several points (motivations and objectives).

    The main idea of the project is to create a new and sustainable value chain around Bamboo farming. The Bio Box concept consists in exploiting a potentially new market - Bamboo fibre - to produce environmentally-friendly food dispensers.

    It gives the priority to small-scale industries of bamboo farming and working (close to cottage industry) for the production and transformation phases. As it targets pro-poor people living in rural underpriviledged areas and focuses on organic bamboo farming, the project has strong social and environmental dimensions.

    Currently, the Bio Box project is at a preliminary stage and is moving forward on 4 main points :

    • A technical feasibility study around Bamboo fibre which concerns the following products : trays, disposable crockery and food dispensers (large boxes).
    • Identification of communities of artisans for the production and transformation phases
    • Identification of distribution networks for the products above-cited (local and international networks).
    • Identification of potential investors.

    I come to you for some ideas. Do you know some organizations which could be potentially interested by the Bio Box project, who could help us for the implementation of the different phases ? ( The identification of communities of artisans for the production and transformation phases might be the most critical phase).

    Many thanks in advance.

    Best regards, Charline

Leave a Response

Fields marked * are required

No file selected (must be a .jpg, .png or .gif image file)

Once published, you will have 15 minutes to edit this response.


My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design