Photo Credit: Women In the World
“Why would anybody care about the design of a temporary shelter for the homeless?”
It’s the one question I’m asked more often than any other. And at first blush, it’s a reasonable question. As consumers, we’re not trained to see items that are both functional AND beautiful. Honestly – when’s the last time you saw an amazingly designed hair brush?
As a designer with a Bachelor in Architecture from University of Southern California and founder of Cardborigami, a non-profit that creates temporary and portable shelter for homeless people and disaster relief victims, my main goal was to provide a functional solution to a real-world problem. But I always thought, why can’t it be beautiful? Design is not purely aesthetic, nor solely functional. When these elements are combined, design becomes something much more.
Functionally, the Cardborigami structure provides the basic human necessity of shelter and privacy; Architecturally, it also offers hope. With a light-hearted designer look and geometric patterns, the Cardborigami stands out in stark contrast with similar tents or makeshift encampments that it can replace. A thoughtful and beautiful form of shelter is uplifting, as opposed to a reminder of grim circumstances. In the most desperate circumstances, emotions matter – hope matters – and design impacts our emotions.
Beyond emotion, design is all too often underestimated as a powerful tool to improve our environment. Whether we create architecture, design products, or orchestrate interface with technology, design is all around us. Sometimes there are intentional and thoughtful processes behind a final product but, all too often, functionality is a primary focus, and user interface becomes an afterthought.
For example – can you think of anything more functional than a hybrid car? When your goal is to deliver a vehicle whose primary function is fuel economy, it would be reasonable to assume that design would have to take a back seat. However the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius is a great example of a product that applies design to a highly functional product.
It’s been nearly two decades since Toyota disrupted the auto industry by launching the first mass production hybrid vehicle, the Prius. However, in-line with the philosophy behind Cardborigami, Toyota’s redesigned Prius provides style with purpose, with striking character lines and features. The shape of the headlights and taillights are distinct, the lower and wider stance gives it a sporty feel. Another exciting feature for me is the trunk, which can fit five Cardborigami Shelters! The Prius aims to bring new levels of driving refinement with its modern and dramatic design. And, as a hybrid, the Prius looks good while doing good for the environment.
Design fundamentally impacts the daily life of our society and can be found in the most unexpected places. It is proven time and time again that form and function combine to create something great. Whether it’s a Cardborigami shelter or an automobile, it is my hope that we relentlessly look to the future for things that are inspiring tomorrow and continuously strive to offer more than what is expected.
Tina Hovsepian is the Founder of Cardborigami. In 2015, she was recognized as a Toyota Mother of Invention and awarded a driving solutions grant to continue her work with Cardborigami to provide shelters to those in need.