As a designer and environmentalist, I constantly struggle to bridge the gap between my desire to create a truly sustainable world and that to make pretty things. Can design save the world? Or at least make it a little bit better by cleverly engaging core audiences? The Rakafuki Friends project is an experiment in using fun design to help kids (and adults, for that matter) engage with the decidedly abstract concept of energy efficiency. Each little friend is a super-efficient LED light bulb, dressed up as a cute pig, chicken, or kangaroo.
Brian Dougherty, one of the founders of Celery Design Collaborative, a design firm based in Berkeley, CA, came up with the idea for the project as a way to raise money for Rosa Parks Elementary — the school his daughter attends. Dougherty’s daughter, who is a third grader, came up with the name and even wrote a theme song for the Rakafuki Friends. Several designers at Celery collaborated to make the project happen, designing everything from prototype packages to logo and website. Inside the cute package is a Pharox LED lightbulb, made by Lemins Lighting, one of Celery Design’s clients.
100% of the profits — which works out to $10 per bulb — from the sale of the Rakafuki Friends go to the PTA at Rosa Parks Elementary. The project’s goal is to raise $10,000. To achieve this, all parties involved are donating their time and providing materials at or below actual cost. New Leaf Paper also donated the 100% post-consumer paper used for the packaging.
The people behind the project hops that kids can inspire parents to change their buying habits: “We hope kids get excited and learn the benefits of energy efficiency. We also hope they persuade their families and neighbors to give it a try. Families will start saving energy and money. The Rakafuki Friends promote energy efficiency by emphasizing joy and imagination rather than fear. Kids don’t need to fret about global warming, they just need to play with a paper pig.”
One thing that this project really hits is the need to make responsible products more desirable. Consumer behavior is a strange thing, to a large extent driven by desire. If these little creatures can make long-lasting (up to 35 times longer than and incandescent bulb and 8 times longer than a CFL bulb), energy-efficient (the Pharox 400 bulb uses just 8 watts of electricity) LED light bulbs desirable, then that surely is a step in the right direction.