For the good

Animal Connections

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The World Wildlife Fund just released an iPad app that allows users a multi-faceted view of eight species of endangered animals – including giant pandas, tigers, elephants, marine turtles and polar bears. Each species has an engaging “story,” using the unique features of the iPad to help tell it – use the device’s camera to see clearly in “Tiger Vision,” or tilt the screen and hold it still to learn a fact about polar bears keeping still for hours to catch a seal. Each animal’s tale is told in beautiful imagery and effects, even incorporating downloadable origami instructions for kids to make animals of their own.

Floored for Good

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It’s rare that any of us will own a Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry building – but for a great cause, the famous architects have worked their magic in a more attainable format. Chicago-based organization Arzu Studio Hope recruited Hadid, Gehry, Michael Graves and others to design beautiful rugs, which are then expertly woven by Afghani women. The organization’s mission is to improve the lives of Afghan women and children, through a model of social entrepreneurship, while also implementing programs improving access to food, water, shelter, education, etc.

Weaving Peace

Czechoslavakian activist and former president Václav Havel was recently commemorated with a giant, gorgeous tapestry designed in his honor, which will hang in the re-named Václav Havel Airport in Prague. Designed by Czech artist Petr Sís, the tapestry depicting a man made of birds, flying against a watery sky above Prague, measures 5 x 4.2m, woven by master weavers in Aubusson, France. Havel played a central role in promoting and protecting human rights in Europe, and 5 musicians – Bono and The Edge from U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Yoko Ono Lennon – all longtime supporters, paid for the creation of the beautiful tapestry.

Minesweeper

The variety and drive behind the creativity of Kickstarter projects can be inspiring in itself – and when they have a goal to benefit the greater good, it shows how powerful of a tool the site can be. Afghani designer Massoud Hassani, a recent graduate of the Design Academy in Eindhoven, surpassed funding for an incredibly moving project. Mine Kafon is a low-cost, lightweight, GPS-enabled mine detonator, with a tumbleweed shape based on toys that Hassani built as a child. Having reached his goal, Kafon will use the money to engineer an improved model, with the hopes of eventually using it in the deserts of Afghanistan to detect mines where he grew up.

Easy Giving

When cleaning out closets, there are always those items that sit in limbo – do they go in the trash, or to the Goodwill? A Dutch design agency came up with a simple way to dispose of these unwanted goods, designing a designated bag to recycle them, which goes right out by the garbage. One side of the bag smartly has a bright yellow band, making it easily recognizable, while the other side is a clear window, showing what’s inside – for passers-by to grab and give a new home.

Of Arms and Legs

French artist and woodworker Marc Sparfel rescues discarded pieces of broken furniture, giving them new life as beautiful abstract animal forms. He expertly both respects and twists the former arms and legs of tables and chairs, recognizing beauty in form in his wonderful sculptures. Sparfel first scoured the streets of Barcelona, where he lived, obtaining cast-off goods, before neighbors soon began leaving material on his doorstep. His sculptures, masks, and fossil pieces recall tribal artwork, expertly crafted with the soul of their past lives.

Change for Good

Year-end round-ups for 2012 can be hard to sift through, with so many blogs releasing their favorites in an endless number of categories. One that is worthwhile, and worth noting, is this round-up of the year’s best designs for social good. These innovations are inspiring and heart-warming, from a disaster preparedness kit inspired by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and a solar oven that makes salt water drinkable, to a beachside solar-powered building designed to gather the most energy possible from the sun. With social innovations this impactful last year, we look forward to what 2013 will bring.

Wooded Walls

Drab and dull designs in hospitals don’t help much to ease pain for patients – especially when the patients are kids. In an effort to improve children’s experience in the already-scary situation of surgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London contracted lighting designer Jason Bruges Studio to create an installation in a corridor to anesthesia rooms. The result is a fanciful digital forest made up of embedded LED panels, in which animals frolic through trees in response to people walking by. The interactive display, including deer, horses, frogs, hedgehogs and more, has been such a great success that the hospital plans to extend it along remaining walls by 2017.

Buyers Market

New online companies are serving as a virtual conduit between farmers and consumers, to the benefit of all parties. Farmigo recently opened up to New York and San Francisco markets, offering consumers the ability to go online and place orders for farm-fresh goods, to be picked up on a designated day at a nearby participating food community spot. And Good Eggs, currently operating out of the San Francisco area, works similarly – farmers and small-batch producers of local foods are featured online, where consumers can order and time pick-ups. Farmers get 80 cents on their dollar, compared with 20 cents wholesale, and customers get only the food they want.

All About Food

An ambitious new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History delves into the huge topic of food from a wonderful educational point of view. “Our Global Kitchen” shows the history of food and impact on our cultures, and “explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork.” From growing and cultivating food, to transporting it, and all the celebrations and traditions that surround cooking and eating it, the exhibition covers huge ground. Ancient potato varieties are on display, along with what a typical breakfast looks like for swimmer Michael Phelps, and a diorama of the incredible food at an Aztec market.

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