Solving the housing crisis (for hermit crabs): Elizabeth Demaray designs like she gives a damn

Posted by Ian on Oct 16, 2008 in blog | No Comments

The movement of human-centered design innovation has taken hold of the design market over the last 10 years, but a new challenge faces us as we realise that thinking anthropocentrically about the world just isn’t enough. Artist/designer Elizabeth Demaray in 2000 offered an inspirational example of design that gives a damn. The Hand Up Project applied design innovation to solve the housing crisis for hermit crabs – who due to ecological shifts and collapses have fewer shells to choose from (chilling parallel for today). The project was hermit crab centered, identifying the demographics core needs. The result was a simple and elegant plastic prototype with the optimum space-to-crab-craw-hold-size ratio. 25% of test subjects opted to leave their current housing for the new plastic shells.

The project does inspire the possibility for design and human agency to positively effect the lives of those other than humans; however, issues of control and further human interference in ecosystem balances certainly are central. Also, the proposition to fund the mass production of these shells by selling advertising space on the side of the shells is exciting, funny and scary. Imagine sunning yourself on the beach as you see a small hermit crab claw her way towards you, and you notice a Coke ad boldly painted on her shell. Would tortoise shells fetch higher price tags for advertising space?
(If you want to know more, a great article was done by Cabinet magazine. Read it here.)
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