Throughout history the construct of design has sought so ‘solve’ issues that face a particular sociopolitical landscape. The manifestation of such design varies greatly between disciplines, but can be strongly identified with the context of the designer, or the context of the design solution.
The Lucky Iron Fish Project is a perfect example of how a layered understanding of the cultural context surrounding a design can decide the success of a project. Christopher Charles visited cambodia as an Epidemiologist in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of Anaemia, a blood cell disorder caused by a lack of Iron in the diet. His initial studies showed a shocking rate of this disease within the 3rd world communities, who could often not afford to eat foods rich in Iron, and suffered muscle fatigue, lethargy in extreme cases, cognitive impairment.
Charle’s initial solution to this was to distribute small iron blocks, to a few families, with the instruction to add them to the cooking of soups / stews, so that the Iron would transfer into the diet. Upon checking with the families a short while later, Charles found most of these blocks to be holding open doors, or simply cast aside. The initiative was at first unsuccessful. Through further engagement with the Cambodian culture, Charles and his team learned of the “Try Kantrop” a fish found in Cambodia, that is highly symbolic of good luck and health. (Lucky Iron Fish 2014)
Upon re-casting the iron blocks in the shape of the “Try Kantrop” families were happy and motivated to drop the fish into the preparation of their food, and the results were astounding. Among the early participating families, anaemia was almost completely gone. (The Lucky Fish 2015)
Those initial tests were over 5 years ago, The Lucky Iron Fish project has already helped over 10,000 families (Lucky Iron Fish 2014) combat the effects of iron deficiency. The Lucky Iron Fish project has worked with local industry to sustainably and responsibly package and distribute the fish, By using local weaving methods, no plastic waste is generated in the packaging process, while encouraging and stimulating the local economy.
Through a direct immersion with the context of the design solution, Charles and his team were able to successfully create a holistic innovative solution that has greatly benefited the third world countries of South East Asia. This approach is inspiring, and indicative of a shift towards meaningful design solutions that will change the world for the better.
Christie Nicholson, 2014, How Designing Something Into The Shape Of an Animal Can Actually Improve Human Heath, and Why You Shouldnt Put Condoms On Broomsticks, Core 77, Viewed 30th April 2015. < http://www.core77.com/posts/26431/how-designing-something-into-the-shape-of-an-animal-can-actually-improve-human-health-and-why-you-shouldnt-put-condoms-on-broomsticks-26431 >
The Lucky Iron Fish, 2015, The Lucky Iron Fish, Viewed 30th April 2015, < http://www.luckyironfish.com/ >
The Lucky Iron Fish, The Lucky Iron Fish : A Simple Solution for a Global Problem, Video Recording, Youtube, Viewed 30th April 2015 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY0D-PIcgB4 >