Alexander Muspratt-Williams is an industrial designer who works as an independent consultant with a busy studio in Florida (USA), supporting the design and creative ambitions of small and large organizations such as Tupperware and Kohler – an American manufacturing company that specializes in water equipment. As one of the speakers during the World Design Talks(™) on Water  in Mexico City on 12 October 2018, Alex offered interesting examples of big corporations that are tackling the clean water issue. Ultimately, he shared with us his belief that through dedicated projects, both on large and smaller scale, industrial designers in particular can help increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity (UN SDG 6.4)

Can good design help achieve SDG 6 – access to clean water and sanitation?

Design can certainly help with the widespread availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation, but I don’t think good design can work alone. It is a very small piece in a huge puzzle and I think that innovative thinking is required on every level, from the beginning of the development process, all the way to the end-user level. Challenging and embracing change in the way that we behave, in the way that we use our products, our habits, is going to help. Massive action on a higher level from the people and institutions that have the power to make big change is also fundamental and I think everyone must get involved. Clean water and sanitation a global problem and issues of this scale can only be solved if everybody is involved.

What are some design projects by big corporations that are addressing the water issue?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched off-grid toilets during the Reinvented Toilet Expo in November 2018 in Beijing. These waste-processing systems operate independently of traditional sanitation infrastructure, so there is no need for a sewer system or any water treatment plant.

The Ocean Cleanup project is run by Boyan Slat, an inventor and entrepreneur from The Netherlands. His organization is attempting to design the first truly feasible method to rid the world’s oceans from plastic. Both of these initiatives are truly large scale, but I think actions have to be on that scale to really make a difference.

There’s also the Kohler Clarity Water Filtration System – an initiative that first came up in an Innovation for Good event where Kohler realized how relevant a component such as a water filter would be. The project really made sense given Kohler’s heritage in the ceramic conversion of manufacture and the fact that the company prides itself on delivering the best possible water experiences. It was also pretty interesting from a business perspective because it enabled the company to reach a whole new market demographic that is not part of the core business, and lastly, but most importantly, it made sense because it’s just the right thing to be doing. I think it is great when these large companies leverage their power and expertise to really help the people in the world that need it most.

What are your aspirations as a product designer?

I’d like to be designing products that make a difference, that actually address real world, bigger issues. It’s rewarding to apply design or design and innovative thinking to the areas that it is less expected, and of course to design very good solutions to people in the world that need it the most.

My objectives as a designer are, first of all to really listen hard to the problem at hand, to frame the problem well, to be really well informed before putting pen to paper. And following that, I like to design by the guideline that more than enough is too much, so it’s really a case of including only very central elements. It’s about a magic balance between all the contributing factors, such as understanding the people, the end-user, and potential interactions with the project.

About Alex

Born in Hong Kong, Alexander Muspratt-Williams has been working in product and furniture design since his graduation with a first class ba honours degree from Kingston University, London, in 2000. He has been very fortunate to be part of some of the industry’s most desirable offices; from uncompromising creative studios, through consultancy, to in-house product development businesses for fortune ranked global organizations.

alexandercreate was founded in 2012 and offers design and product development consultancy which stems from a genuine desire to make things better. It draws upon a wealth of international experience, an enthusiasm for creative pursuits, and a well established international network of creative partners.