• Initial Thesis Ideas part II



    Sichuan Earthquake

    • May 12, 2008
    • 7.9M
    • Epicenter: Wenchuan (60 miles northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan)
    • 69,277 dead, 374643 injured, 17923 still missing (as of Sept 22, 2008)
    • 4.8 million homeless (possibly more)

    Current Products available

    • Hygiene kits (various NFPs)
    • School bags with books and supplies (from Shelter for Hope)
    • Temporary shelters (various NFPs)


    • Disasters are inevitable. When it happens, people should be equipped to cover the basic needs
    • I plan on taking the Sichuan Earthquake as the most recent case study and develop products that can be used in unfortunate times like this.

    Who is Most Affected?

    • Those who live in the area where the disaster struck


    • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
    • Shelter for Hope
    • Unicef
    • Hands On Disaster Response
    • Relief Web
    • World Vision
    • Sichuan Quake Relief
    • Local Chinese organizations

    Next Step

    • look for existing products that have been used in other situations and see how viable it is in other types of natural disasters
  • Emergency_exit_slide_177_

    This seems really promising. The tricky thing about designing a product intended for use in very dire situations is that cost will be the over-riding factor, and also it may seem inappropriate to add too many elements that seem like they were "designed". On the other hand, I can see some amazing opportunities to identify interesting manufacturing processes and make some very clever decisions about combining functions, structural efficiency, using color in thoughtful ways, etc. After all, even (or maybe even especially) in very desperate circumstances, good design is appreciated, such as when you have to exit the plane in a hurry.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you do next. Have you narrowed down the specific product that you'd like to make? I would recommend doing a search of the New York Times for information on earthquakes in other parts of the world; it seems sensible to try to create something that can be used in any culture, since earthquakes happen everywhere.


  • ...

    Thank you for the input, Steven. I'm currently in the process of narrowing down to couple of more specific areas. I will post more information as I go along.

  • .

    Thank you for the input, Steven. I'm currently in the process of narrowing down to couple of more specific areas. I will post more information as I go along.

  • I didn't know you were interested in this area for your thesis. I have recently pared my ideas down to disaster relief as well. It seems you want to facility that relief with an actual product or intervention such as a shelter, etc. The area I was interested was that of communication after a disaster. How a better exchange of information could better direct aid and rescue efforts. It is funny how just by being in different groups I didn't realize I had another classmate in a similar area. You have some good NFP's listed and I am looking into them as well.

    Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Typhoons/Hurricanes are disasters whose destruction is substantially amplified when they hit under developed areas. A disaster is always horrible but underprivileged areas are typically A. in a more vulnerable area to begin with such as low lying coastal regions (tsunamis,and hurricanes) and B. have buildings and infrastructure made from basic materials that literally crumble to the ground or blow away.

  • Nicole:

    I like where you're going with your project. I wanted to chime in to offer some more support and critical questions that you might consider. First, I would ask that you imagine how your project could take shape if you were to narrow your focus. When we ask in the chart, "who is most effected", we want you to think specifics. Are these people poor? How poor? Are their basic needs (shelter, water, food, work, education, health care) begin met before the disaster hits? Tell us about these people. Who are they? How do we know that this is a critical concern for them?

    I would also, as best as you can, try to think of potential local connections that might provide you relationships to non-profits or community-based groups. The Red Cross seems like a no-brainer and you should definitely keep them on your list, but you will also need to identify a few other organizations who actually have relationships with the communities you want to design with (e.g. Sichuanese). Better yet, if you're able to make some local connections to individuals and groups you may find ways to connect with actual communities in the regions you're looking to design for.

    As Anthony points out in his comments, there are typically existing political, social, environmental and economic situations that dictate "who" is most at risk in when a natural disaster occurs and "why".

    Let's look at Hurricane Katrina as an example. In this case, the faulty flood walls and lack of planning and concern for poor (mostly) black lives cost over 2,000 deaths. Not the hurricane itself. Here we can see who was most vulnerable and why. Although many were affected by the floods, there were existing social conditions brought on by things like racism which put folks at greater risk.

    Conditions that were present before the flooding, like: lack of access to transportation, housing development for blacks and poor whites constructed in flood planes and lack of access to economic resources to rebuild or even return to New Orleans pre-determined the chances of survival for poor black people there.

    I'm interested what you think about these questions? Looking forward to your project!


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