Good intentions resulting in bad design: A Coat to Help Detroit’s Homeless

I came across this on the GOOD web site: A Coat to Help Detroit’s Homeless – Design – GOOD. Here’s what they say:

Detroit has counted over 18,000 homeless people in its population… After spending months talking to people on the city’s streets, design student Veronika Scott envisioned a way she could help, by designing a coat which could allow homeless people to stay warm, but also preserve their dignity. She designed what’s essentially a wearable sleeping bag, which she named the Elements S[urvival] coat. Scott, who is a student at the Center for Creative Studies, has chronicled her work at a blog called The Empowerment Plan, where she goes into great detail about the coat’s development. She shelled out $2,000 of her own money to construct several prototypes made from Tyvek, the insulating wrap you see gracing new construction.

I admire much about this, but when I think of it, I ask myself: would I wear this coat, and the answer is no. It may keep the wearer warm, but it is like wearing a sandwich board that says I am poor and homeless. It’s not a coat I would want to wear, and I would be surprised if there are alot of people wearing this design of coat. Now if you asked me what kind of coat I would want to wear,  poor or not, I’d say I want to wear one that keeps me warm and is the same if not better than most others. Given that,  I would recommend designers design coats that way. Focus on designing low cost coats that are warm and don’t stand out, or stand out in a positive way. People may not be immediately be struck by the design of it, but people who appreciate good design will appreciate what you did. And people who are desperate for a warm coat will appreciate that, too.

You can read more about it here. I like what she is getting at lately in the blog, namely it is not about the coat but more about empowering individuals. I think that’s smart, and much more important. So kudos to her for that. As for the coat….let’s see.

One response to “Good intentions resulting in bad design: A Coat to Help Detroit’s Homeless

  1. I think the problem is that a regular coat would not be suitable for sleeping on the ground in, hence the design of this coat.

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