Since misery loves company, encourage conviviality in your users. Encourage them to feed one another. (Seriously.) Americans are too proud to admit they’re broke and avoiding restaurants while living on vile cheese puffs. They cannot cook, and fear asking the neighbors over for dinner. They associate the latter with Grandma’s best china, which they never use. Help them make potluck seem high-tech. Ponder the awesome Bettina blobject tableware, designed by Future Systems for Alessi. Bettina is perfect for convivial entertainment in 2009—it has a cogent air of mysterious hyperfunctionality while avoiding any tasteless hint of that stone-dead, rotten, Bush-era, rhinestone bling-bling.
Nobody ever hunkers down with a traditional 64K line. Hibernating Americans will cluster around their Obama-friendly broadband, over which they can steal free entertainment as the New York Times goes broke. Help them distribute fast free broadband to all their neighbors. The Recording Industry Association of America has given up suing pirates, so your risks here are currently minimal. Your popularity is totally guaranteed. In economic transitions, as any former Communist can tell you, your social capital is vastly more useful than the useless, rapidly vaporizing actual capital.
Except for cheap cell phones, which the global poor truly dote on, the lowest billion rarely buy “appropriate” objects designed for them by soft-hearted liberals. But formerly rich guys buying up-market peasant products? Man, that market should boom! It’s high time for designers to plunder and upgrade the vernacular technologies of the Third World: wheelbarrows, bicycle rickshaws, rainwater barrels, window boxes, awnings, and mosquito nets; or weird and whimsical wind toys, bamboo-and-Mylar windup shortwave radios. If they’re cheap and blithe, you can’t go wrong here. You want to vividly display a host of eye-catching solar gizmos, while quietly installing some humble weather stripping, which has a terrific ROI.