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The Smugness of the Expert on the Other 90%

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A battle of the do-gooders and the do-nothings is raging in David Stairs‘ piece “Why Design Won’t Save the World” on Design Observer. As someone who’s clearly been there and done that when it comes to working with design in third world countries, Stairs skewers the Cooper-Hewitt exhibition “Design for the other 90%” as well as many of the products and initiatives featured in the show. We knew it was only a matter of time before Cooper-Hewitt curator Ellen Lupton chimed in, with one of the best labels we’ve ever seen slapped on an argument:

David Stairs has used his formidable knowledge and direct experience to slam the team who created “Design for the Other 90%.” I call this fallacy the smugness of the expert. I’m afraid that many people will read this critique of the exhibition and say, “What a relief. Now I don’t have to bother. Leave poverty to the poor people.”

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