Design for Social Impact

Within Isola Design Festival was Enhance – Design for Social Impact exhibition by DesignWanted, where designs that helped find solutions to wide-ranging societal and environmental challenges were given a platform to reach the public. We look back at the products that offer solutions for wide-ranging problems such as blood collection and supply, giving value to waste, and providing hygenic solutions in war-inflicted areas.

Amid significant design alterations and innovations, the question of how designers can address wide-ranging and significant societal and environmental challenges becomes paramount. At an event defined by its commitment to beauty and trends, DesignWanted, a journalistic headline focused on pressing issues that affect us all and showcased design solutions to these issues.

The space for Enhance was designed by Juan Torres with panels that diffused light, featuring a straightforward structure that mirrored the silhouette of DesignWanted’s logo. Constructed from semi-translucent polycarbonate panels that were  5 meters high, the design extended to the podium for product displays, employing the same material. As a result, the panels were fully recyclable post-exhibition, ensuring an environmentally responsible conclusion.

“The decision to create an exhibition focused on social impact projects was driven by an awareness of the powerful intersection between design and society. In a constantly evolving world, design is not merely an aesthetic concern but a driving force capable of shaping experiences, influencing behaviours, and addressing social challenges,” says Juan Torres, the curator and the designer of the exhibition located at Lampo – Scalo Farini venue.

To achieve this, DesignWanted showcased instances of impactful design that benefited communities and individuals. “The goal is to highlight that design transcends aesthetic appeal, focusing instead on significantly improving people’s lives,” explains Torres.

Telling us in detail about the curatorial direction, Torres says, “The idea of the exhibition, and therefore the curation, stems from the need to emphasise that design is not just about aesthetics but can be a resource for proposing solutions to various social problems, whether natural or caused by humans.”

The search for projects with positive social impact follows the SDGs, especially those related to the field of industrial design.

“It took about three months to find and select the 10 projects exhibited by Enhance, and each of them was linked to the SDGs goals such as projects for well-being and health, for affordable and clean energy, or projects related to industry and thus responsible consumption,” he says.

The Participants

Parigi 142

Fucina Frammenti presented “Parigi 142”, a table lamp that recovers waste and reintroduces it into the production chain.

 Fucina Frammenti was born in 2019, as a project to find possible new applications for Noble Waste resulting from industrial and craft pro-duction processes. Noble Waste is defined as a processed or semi-finished product that may be part of an object made by the company or that is part of the production cycle of the same.

The identification of the possible presence of Noble Waste is done by thoroughly understanding any company’s production process. Once the waste was identified, where unavoidable, it is rethought through an ad hoc design intervention that ennobles the waste material making it the protagonist of a new product with the addition of a few elements, and with the use of minimal energy.

The “Parigi 142” collection, which includes a rechargeable lamp, a wall lamp, and a pendant lamp, is intended to highlight the complexity of a “different” design and production approach that comes from production waste and to suggest future dynamics related to the context of Murano glass.


Nick Geipel & Charlotte Von Ravenstein, presented PowerPlant, a modular system designed to generate electricity for charging devices.

PowerPlant offers a solution that can be installed on top of existing infrastructure in the urban landscape. Using solar cells in combination with fluorescent acrylic makes the charging station not a visual obstacle in the city, but a new, emblematic piece of lively urban culture.

The transparent solar panel principle is particularly suitable for diffused light conditions and, therefore, for less sunny regions. The charging stations are installed in quieter urban spaces, such as squares or parks, so citizens can charge their devices while there. As a solar charging station, PowerPlant provides free public electricity and creates a social venue that eliminates the need for lockers.


Cheuk Laam Wong found a solution for girls in refugee camps called “Looop”, a menstrual kit designed for water-scarce regions.

The Looop is an innovative portable cleaning kit for reusable menstrual pads that aim to empower girls and women manage their periods confidently, even in the face of financial constraints, and limited access to sanitation facilities.

By minimising water usage through buoyancy force, it provides effective cleaning with 500-700 ml of water. With affordable injection modelling, the complete set, including polypropylene plastic washing parts and bamboo fabric pads, costs around £3-5. Designed to last up to five years, it meets the needs of refugees awaiting identity approval in camps.


Rehub transformed waste from Murano glass industry into a paste that can be used to produce a wide range of objects 3D printed at room temperature.

Each object produced by rehub is made entirely from Murano glass waste and, after printing, they are meticulously finished by hand.

“We basically transform glass waste into a paste that can be shaped at room temperature by using a wide range of techniques. This paste has a consistency similar to clay and can be transformed using the most common industrial processes such as rolling, moulding and injection; thanks to a proprietary (and patent pending) extruder. rehub is also able to 3d print that paste,” say the creators.

These new products are sustainable because they are made with MPS (secondary raw materials), but also because this innovative process requires 70% less energy than normally used to work glass.

Flashlight Kit

AmbessaPlay & Pentagram brought “Flashlight Kit”, an object designed for refugee children.

Ambessa Play’s mission is to encourage children everywhere to build, and especially those who are in difficult terrains or are displaced. Living in camps without access to electricity, these unlucky youngsters sometimes can’t read, write, or draw. The DIY flashlight that they have designed is both a source of light and a journey of achievement and building.

The distinctive blue and orange kit was designed with Pentagram industrial designer Jon Marshall and his team, but children were also involved throughout as co-designers. Partnering with charities the Refugee Council, Care4Calais, and Project Play France, the teams were able to visit displaced children in Calais to test and develop prototypes.


Birdie, is a Danish brand of indoor air quality sensor.

Two designers, Andreas Kofoed Sørensen and Hans Høite Augustenborg, Co-Founders of Birdie® and childhood friends, are on a mission to improve the indoor air quality in millions of homes, offices and schools around the world. Birdie drops when the level of CO2 is higher than 1.000 ppm for more than 10 minutes.

When the level of CO2 drops below 800 ppm again the Birdie will return to standing position. As simple as that,so when the Birdie drops down, open the windows to improve the air quality.


David Wojcik presented Bloop, a medical device that allows for the instant reuse of blood from a patient. Bloop is a live-saving 10$ device for blood salvage and retransfusion in emerging economies.

Blood reserves are rarely available in emerging economies, and in 2015, 1.2 Million people died of major bleeding during surgery complications.

The reusable BLOOP device makes it possible to collect and clean the patients leaking wound blood and give it back in to the bloodstream during surgery


BLOOP’s simple function solution is based on a common siphon principle. BLOOP allows blood to flow uphill without pumps. In the beginning a blood thinning medicine inside the vessel flows down the tube. That creates gravity which absorbs the wound blood. The blood is filtered and discharged in a blood bag at a level lower than the surface of the blood-filled wound. As soon the blood bag is filled, it will be replaced with an empty one. The first unit of collected blood can be already given back to the patient.


Jonas Krämer demonstrated Pedestrian, offering a solution for people with motor disabilities.

Pedestrian is a walking aid aimed at people with a medium-term walking disability and anyone who needs assistance. It fills the product gap between short-term solutions such as forearm crutches, which are designed for six weeks of use, and long-term assistance systems, such as wheelchairs.

The focus of the product is the minimisation of consequential damages, which often occur in connection with conventional walking aids and thus result in further disorders of the musculoskeletal system, as well as a pleasant and practical handling, which enables the affected persons to actively participate in social life even with their walking disability. The assistance system can be transformed with only a few hand movements and thus allows an adaptation of the walking aid to the affected persons and their respective assistance needs.


D-Pulp by Simon Perini offers a way for myoelectric prosthetics to be created digitally, reducing time and costs.

It also promotes the use of recyclable materials, enables a high level of customisation of the cover in a polychrome material.


Strena Medical presented D-Heart, the first smartphone-based electrocardiograph, which is simple to use, clinically reliable, portable, and affordable.

It evaluate the heart’s activity comprehensively so as to locate the origin of any anomaly by giving a timely response to any cardiac symptom. D-Heart developed two patents: the cable exit system that prevents them from being inverted and the augmented reality feature that uses the smartphone camera to guide the correct positioning of the electrodes. Anyone can take a hospital-grade ECG from anywhere.

Projects Across Borders

“The search for products was conducted without considering geographical boundaries but by carefully evaluating the projects. In the end, the 10 selected projects were designed in Italy, Germany, the UK, and Denmark,” says Torres about the projects selected.

“In the next future, we hope to replicate this initiative in other countries and have more projects to showcase to the public,” says Torres.

The knowledge garnered from the Design Week in Milan is usually too intense to comprehend and we ask Torres how he processed the feedback from all the viewers to Enhance at ISOLA.

Both Patrick Abbattista, the founder of DesignWanted, and Torres were curious to know what the audience feedback would be as Milan Design Week is one of the most important events in the world for the furniture design industry.

“From the beginning, I must say that the feedback from the audience was positive, which pleased us greatly, especially because some of the exhibitors are still students/young and it was their first time exhibiting at an event like this,” he says, “Now, almost a week after the end of the event, I think that the work done with the team, our technical partners Polypiù and E20 Progetti, and especially the designers, has been more than positive.”

“ I would like to add that the exhibitors, besides being talented designers, are also wonderful people, and during that week, thanks to the various conversations and exchanges of ideas, I learned a lot and I hope I also managed to convey something to them,” he says.

All Images Courtesy DesignWanted