As we head into the New Year, it’s time to take stock of the rollercoaster that was 2018. In the last 12 months, we celebrated the eighth edition of our annual conference in Amsterdam, concluded the worldwide Climate Action Challenge, and launched two more competitions focused on clean energy and social justice. But which stories grabbed your attention the most?

From designs for the plastic problem, to reimagining Africa, take a look back at some of our top articles of the year, according to our readers and editors.


1.  ‘Our aim is to empower design communities worldwide’
With this article, we launched our third worldwide challenge: the WDCD Clean Energy Challenge. This time, designers around the globe were invited to find answers to local energy issues in five world cities on five continents: Delhi, Nairobi, São Paulo, Mexico-City and Amsterdam.

Elizabeth McKeon at WDCD2018

‘The main reason to focus this competition on cities is that we are now in a race against time to reach the Paris agreement goals,’ says Elizabeth McKeon, Head of Portfolio at IKEA Foundation, who has been very much involved in developing this new challenge.

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2. What Design Does for the Plastic Problem
Back in January, we read some alarming news in The Guardian: more than 180 billion dollars invested by fossil fuel companies in new oil ‘cracking’ facilities will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade. It means that the ‘global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years’. As if we didn’t have enough problems yet. The article prompted us to review some of the solutions designers have recently come up with.

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The People’s Pavilion at Dutch Design Week covered in Pretty Plastic tiles

3. Feeding Nairobi: Mama Salome’s Journey
The WDCD Clean Energy Challenge focusses on energy issues in five world cities. To give a better understanding of the local situation, we presented a series of stories from within. This first contribution is by Ray Mwihaki, a journalist and farmer from Nairobi, on the journey from farm to fork in the Kenyan capital.

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1. What Design Does to Counter Violence Against Women
Although violence of any kind is disturbing, it’s the facts and figures of violence against women which are strikingly high. Global estimates published by WHO (World Health Organization), indicate that roughly 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced emotional or sexual violence in their lifetime. What can designers do to help end this?

Although it is a sensitive topic, it’s imperative that it’s talked about in order to make room for more and better solutions. In this article, we took a close look at some of the initiatives already making an impact around the world.

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Mural by Fearless Collective, fighting gender-based violence with through street art

2. 10,000 Sheltersuits for the Homeless
Fashion designer Bas Timmer had a bold ambition to produce 10,000 coats-with-sleeping-bags for the roofless. In 2014, reacting on the tragic death of his friends’ homeless father, Timmer developed the Sheltersuit, designed as ‘a short-term solution for a big problem’. The suit is a specially designed, lightweight wind and waterproof coat, onto which a sleeping-bag can be zipped. The sleeping-bag can also be transformed into a larger, warm blanket. Funded by companies and private supporters the suits are donated for free to the homeless.

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3. Reimagining African Identity: A Q&A with Sunny Dolat
Sunny Dolat is a Kenyan fashion stylist, creative director and production designer. In 2012, he co-founded Nairobi based arts collective, The Nest, including filmmakers, writers, artists and designers. For their first project, the group travelled around Kenya to interview over 250 people who identify as queer. The result was the critically-acclaimed feature film Stories of Our Lives, as well as a book of the same name.

Not African Enough – a book by Nest Collective

On the grounds that it ‘promotes homosexuality, which is contrary to national norms and values’ of Kenya the film was banned there but screened in over 80 countries worldwide and won numerous awards. Ahead of Dolat’s main stage talk at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2018 we caught up with him for a quick Q&A.

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