Archive for the ‘Inspirations’ Category

From Arts Education

May 27th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations, Research

I shudder to think that second graders, at least in most schools, are never taught the value of putting their mind on the page. They are drilled in spelling, phonetics and arithmetic (the NCLB school day must be so tedious), and yet nobody ever shows them how to take their thoughts and feelings and translate them into a paragraph or a painting. We assume that creativity will take care of itself, that the imagination doesn’t need to be nurtured. But that’s false. Creativity, like every cognitive skill, takes practice; expressing oneself well is never easy.

Lehrer also talks about the importance of flow in the work that we do. A great read when thinking about what the essential skills in design training are.

— Arts Education

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Environment & Learning

April 20th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research

A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

In this New York Times post, it is revealed that having more books (and other valuable resources, perhaps?) in the home increases a child’s chances of academic success.

In our thinking about design education we’ve been very focused on how to promote creative thinking in the classroom and at the school environment. Of course this is where we have the greatest amount of access to the way students learn, but it makes me wonder if there are solutions we can consider that affect the ways in which children are learning in their home environment, outside of the classroom and their peers. Without access to design classes at a K-12 level, this is the space where designers learn how to think. Many young designers are self-propelled, seeking out the necessary resources to learn about design without guidance or formal academic support until the undergraduate level.

The NYT article reminded me of the Creative Mornings talk with Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy. He began his career as an interior designer and transitioned into elementary education. He spoke about his unique position at a small school where he was able to visit his students’ homes once a year. His discovery was similar: the students whose homes were organized and clean performed better at school.

How does environment shape a child’s capacity to learn? How does it impact his willingness to think about new ideas and possibilities rather than simply following a prescribed educational track?

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How did you first discover design?

April 14th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Interviews, Research

Unless they grew up with a parent or relative who was a designer, most kids don’t know what the term “design” means. Every designer comes to a moment in his or her life where he realizes there’s a name for the all the things he’s interested in: design.

We offered the question, “How did you first discover design?” in an online survey to anyone who would answer. Here are some of the responses we received:

Through advertising. Where I went to school, no one ever exposed me to the idea of design as something you could do for a living. It was my understanding that the people who created the visual pieces that communicate to people were in advertising. Silly as it sounds, it wasn’t until the design community came to the internet that I discovered that graphic design was, in and of itself, as thing. From there, I came to realize the existence of a wide range of design disciplines, and finally to one that brought my various interests together.

I thought it was just designing logos and t-shirts in high school. I made a website senior year of college and I realized design could be all sorts of other things.

I studied fine arts in high school and college, and was regularly taught by my art teachers that fine arts was some kind of a higher calling than the more professional/vocational art disciplines: illustration, graphic design, industrial design, etc. I wanted to be a fine artist, showing my work in galleries. It wasn’t until a good ten years after graduation from college and working professionally as a game designer and interaction designer did I realize that I was, in fact, a designer.

On-the-job training, through trial and error. I never really received any formal design education, but I’ve had the good fortune to work with a few extremely talented designers over the years.

by playing LEGO

I dont really remember how i discovered design…i just like to draw. That got me into art classes, then it just spawned into type, and creating things, and then before i knew it i was already in.

I’m a writer first. Worked on a ‘zine with a friend of mine. A compilation of writing that we’d wanted to just put out there and give to our friends. 2nd issue of the zine, we’d wanted to make it look better by choosing fonts and drawing cartoons. It was then that I fell in love with what I didn’t know yet was typography. I didn’t know that graphic design was even a discipline and I could study something like typography, which was the gateway to graphic design.

It was early early on, I’m sure when my mother had us make our own crayons in order to draw. But I don’t remember being able to “call” it design until college when I was introduced to it formally.

I first discovered GOOD design as a freshman in college trying to impress my art student friends at Columbus College of Art and Design and Rhode Island Institute of Art that a small liberal arts college student could produce similar compositions. In the short term, I was largely mistaken by my capabilities. Granted, a lot of art students don’t know good design if it hit them repeatedly over the forehead, but the criticism and unwarranted snobbery pushed me into developing a more refined interest in design. I had known all the rules of composition, which had been in grained in my creative process, since my childhood art classes. However, suburban Cleveland is not a conducive environment for the creative type and a lot of exposure to design was from concert posters, which are riddled with inspiring illustrations but really poor typography. The truth is, I am embarrassed that I did not discover real design until I was 20 years old in my first typography course. I not only found good design, but fixable mount adhesive, or rubber cement, should not be left in the presence of the lead videographer at a small university because it is highly flammable and was used to set fire to my office floor. A fire extinguisher was used to put out the flames.

What about you? How did you first discover what “design” means?


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Kids as Entrepreneurs

April 12th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Business, Discovery, Inspirations

Check out this talk from Cameron Herold at TEDxEdmonton! So much of what he’s talking about can be applied to the way we think about teaching kids to be designers and creative thinkers. Definitely worth a watch.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCar_sFfEf4]

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Teaching Philosophy – Interview with Jamie Nestor

March 18th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Discovery, Inspirations, Interviews, Resources
Katie, Derek and Jamie

Katie, Derek and Jamie

Derek and I had a wonderful afternoon conversation at the City Bakery with Jamie Nestor, a graduate student at the esteemed Teachers College at Columbia University.

Overall, Jamie reiterated much of what we’ve heard from education professionals: get kids intrinsically motivated, reach them on an emotional and personal level, and keep it hands on to sustain their attention. Make sure to carefully plan the work and the group assignments, make the goals clear and be transparent about expectations.

It was great news for us to hear these concepts reemphasized through Jamie’s inspirational words, and beyond teaching method advice she also spoke about theory and philosophy when handling a class.

Teaching Philosophy, Meet Design

Jamie’s teaching philosophy revolves around two principles:

  1. Students should be the center of the learning
  2. Teachers need to be held accountable for what goes on in their classroom

The first principle particularly resonated with us. The idea that a student drives the decisions being made about a lesson plan is a direct translation of the user-centered design process we practice in our work. We were relieved to see a clear connection between what we know and what we’re trying to learn about teaching. Speaking of connections, Jamie told us about a teaching technique called “scaffolding,” in which an educator helps a student build upon existing knowledge to understand a more advanced concept. (We instantly thought of Jared Spool’s “brick” theory.)

The second principle is important for creating a community of learning within a school. If every teacher is held accountable it will produce a more dedicated teaching staff that is able to engage students through their enthusiasm and commitment to what is being taught.

Hopes & Fears of Prospective Teachers

Jamie asked us what fears we have as we prepare to teach students about design. I spoke first, sharing my fear that the kids won’t love design as much as we do as students and practitioners, and explained how that may be a difficult challenge for us to cope with. Jamie’s advice was clear: when she teaches, Jamie doesn’t expect that her students love the subject matter as much as she does (she used to teach Latin), but she does expect that they leave class with an appreciation and respect for it.

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Inspiration: Invention At Play

March 10th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research, Resources

Invention at Play is an exhibit that celebrates inventors, innovation and the creative process at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  I  recently discovered the website for the exhibit and their four approaches to playful invention might be a useful framework for our program as one of our main goals is to get kids excited about creating things.

The exhibit, website, and educator’s manual shows how these approaches – Exploratory Play, Pretend Play, Social Play, and Play with Patterns, Puzzles, and Problems – can help children understand their own creative abilities and become inventors of their own. This is definitely one of the outcomes we aim to get out of IxD program, so I look forward to exploring these concepts further as we development our curriculum.

Calling New York City Teachers

March 4th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Discovery, Inspirations, Research
Students at Vanguard High School, Manhattan

Students at Vanguard High School, Manhattan

This week Derek and I visited a local area high school to see first hand how teachers engage students in the subject matter about which they are passionate. We gained an incredible amount of knowledge just from a half day of school, and we’re all eager to visit more classrooms as we prepare our own curriculum.

If you know any middle school or high school teachers in the New York City area who would be willing to welcome us into their classroom, please send them our way!

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A Little Late Week Inspiration

February 26th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research

This week on Design Observer I came across a group of volunteers in Lincoln, Nebraska and instantly fell in love with their ambition.

Our small effort was just one part of a bunch of other small efforts by a handful of dedicated creative people who jumped in and helped make this loose collection of concerned citizens into something worthy of attention.

Their work is beautiful, and I admire that they saw a need and started doing something about it. No planning, no hierarchy, just action. As we continue to flesh out the details of our little project, Derek, Carmen and I can relate to the sometimes scary feeling that nothing is known or planned, but that we’ve found a need and are doing something about it.

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Inspiration over Tea – An Interview with Jerri Chou

February 24th, 2010 by Derek Chan | No Comments | Filed in Business, Discovery, Inspirations, Interviews, Resources

Last week, the team had a chance to meet with social innovator and co-founder of All Day Buffet, Jerri Chou, to talk about some of our thoughts on design education and what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Jerri Chou

Our afternoon meeting with Jerri, who has found enormous success with All Day Buffet, helped put some of our initial reservations to rest. She told us her story of the earlier challenges in starting All Day Buffet and how she eventually overcame them by working hard towards what she believes in and quite literally, just getting that idea out there. Of course, we know our plans are a lot different than starting an organization like All Day Buffet, but Jerri is a great example of someone who made it.

To me, she isn’t just a social innovator, but a design entrepreneur — a term we’re quite familiar with as a result of learning about entrepreneurial design in our class with Bek Hodgson. She had an idea and used creativity and design to bring it to life.

In addition to inspiration, Jerri provided us with a handful of resources of other people and organizations who have worked on similar projects as us. She also gave us suggestions on how to work with and learn from schools in the city.

Toward the end of the interview, one important question came up that we will need to address – do we want to focus on schools that are already more progressive, or schools that have not yet been exposed to the kind of education we are thinking of introducing? This thought is definitely something we will need to incorporate into our goal-setting and strategy.

We want to thank Jerri for a wonderful hour of insights and inspiration. And tea.

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Designer Survey

February 16th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Design, Discovery, Inspirations

We’re working on developing an after-school program to teach kids about design! As part of our research, we’re asking our fellow designers to talk about their first exposure to design as a discipline. Tell us your story!

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