Teaching Design Play to Kids in Extreme Environments

In the images of poverty from around the world often we see young children plastered against car windows begging for alms. For those that have experiences this in person, the hands raised, bleating voices, afflictions and affectations, it’s a difficult world to navigate with an untouched mind or body.

But there’s another here as well story as well. One that starts after the begging is done, after hours on moments captured before heading home. It’s that story I want to share.

I remember sitting in the backseat of a car in Liberty market, Lahore, Pakistan. I remember staring out, fifteen and curious, at a young beggar girl playing with her friends in the hustle of the market place as the stalls closed for the night. Oblivious of audience lost were the sad faces, instead focused were all her energy entirely in the act of play. She was was transformed through an act of childhood wonder.

I don’t remember what they were playing, if at all it was a game with any real rules or not, or just a made up game, created in the spur of the moment. What I do remember is the how drastically the tone of their bodies changed as they moved from a world of want to a world of creation. They were lost in play.

That moment has stayed with me for a long time. Lurking somewhere in the back of my mind I know that if we can keep creativity and play alive we have an amazing transformative power that every child has access to.

There’s someone amazing in being lost in play. It didn’t matter what your situation is or what walk of life you come from play and playful discovery is a transformative force for children. More than that I think it’s a right for every child. A right sadly we focus too little on. This is a shame because I can think of few things that can bring a powerful transformative change to a child’s life.

Design at it’s core is has many aspects similar to play. There’s many models and methods but at it’s very core are two basic concepts. Making and Empathy. You make and game and lose yourself in it. You make something for your friends and share it. That in it’s iterative form is the bases of much design methodology.

This is what we aim to do. How can we teach a design process to kids (5 to 9) in extreme environments.

Can we, by playing like designers, create a sense of hope and bring back the belief in ownership over their own future, for kids in flooded Pakistan, or war torn Somalia, or the ghettos of Oakland.

Link to presentation slideshow

Presentation for MBA in Design Strategy – Experience Studio
Project Team : Jonathan Fristad, Chirapat Vorratnchaiphan, Susan Huang, Eric Dorf

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A New Awareness Experience

Imagine a world where location awareness was as affordable and small as a RFID tag. At 50 cents a piece, always aware location sensors would start entering the market en mass. Anyone could easily be aware of the location of anything or anyone else.
People might start putting GPS aware technology in wedding bands as a sign of a technological union along with a civil one. The idea of privacy around location might erode as we start pinning chips on our kids to ‘keep them safe’.
While tracking our loved ones could be considered good parenting, teens would still find new ways to break boundaries.
Perhaps cities could use them to track traffic patterns and adapt in real time to the needs of the citizens. Location awareness would be used to tag  endangered species.
Losing oneself would be a luxury.


Exploration for MBA in Design Strategy – Experience Studio

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Strategic Foresight – A Day in My Life in 2040

September 15th, 2040.

My alarm clock decides that this would be a good moment to wake me up. It has sensed that I am within the correct moment in my circadian rhythm and gently indicates I should get my day started with a soft vibration.

I yawn and with a snap and pop stand up wondering which city I am in today. The morning disorientation is hard to get used to with the traveling apartments.

Ah. Now I remember, Berlin.

I pick up the closest tablet device and quickly check to see stats on the city. It’s going to be 16 degrees Celsius and a slight chance of rain. Suggestions of what from the wardrobe would fit both the weather and current local fashion.

With the increasing pace of globalization the ease of traveling with a traveling apartment the world had gone from being a small place to a tiny one. A traveling apartment meant you could, in the comfort of your own home, move form city to city for work. Think of it as a trailer except larger, more comfortable, and moving autonomously on a global level.

Most Americans travel like this at least two or three months out of the year. It was the only way they could compete economically in the increasingly globalized economy. There was still a home base. You had to have one for the kids education but frequent travels away was increasingly leading to more culturally aware and diverse society.

I walk with the tablet to the bathroom and let the sensors under the tile take their daily measurements as I lean forward and place it delicately on a sill by the mirror.

I hear a soft bink and the glow of the tile fades to indicate the readings for today are complete. As I start to brush my teeth, with an organic miswak toothbrush, I get a summary of the readings.

Hmmm slight spike in my cholesterol, what did I eat yesterday that could have caused that.

I’m also given trends and can quickly see, apart from the cholesterol, that I am well within my parameters as compared to my DNA sequence.

I have the ‘Your Health Your Responsibility’ movement to thank for all the integrated sensors in my life. Collecting and providing data on my health provides me with whole slew of seamlessly integrated tools to manage my own health. After all they are necessary. Every thing I eat, every substance abused is internationally collected and used by insurance companies around the world to dynamically change cost and premium on the fly.

I jump into the shower and turn on the news.

the sonic radio tunes to BBC and starts playing a list of news stories from the previous night that I may have missed.

“The 302nd day of the Water Wars continue between Indochina and Canmerica each side claiming they will win the hearts and minds of the disbuted territory.

Water, I think as I continue to shower in the showergel, how I miss when it used to be free.
Available at any restaurant or straight from the tap. A public water fountain, when was the last time I saw one of those?

The water wars had ended all of that.

I step out of the shower and and continue to get my days updates as I prepare breakfast. I have local foods delivered to my door step and I dig through the basket to see what they have available. Ah eggs. Perfect! I prepare a soft-boiled egg and some toast as more personalized set of news, social feels and micro statuses are fed to me via a digital surface in the kitchen.

A softboiled egg and toast. Now some milk would go great with that but looks like all we have is some local strawberry juice. A bit strange, and a little more acidic than I am used to be but still good. You have to support the local foods movement.

Oh snap. I’m running late for work. Some things never change.

I quickly finish eating and grab my mobile device which also acts a key access for public transport and work and dash out of the house off to work.

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I wrote this for my Strategic Foresight class and found it a very interesting exercise. I thought I would share it here with the rest of the interwebs.

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MBA in Design Strategy – Sketchnotes from Residencies 2 to 5

Better late than never. Here are the sketch notes (attached pdfs) for the remaining residencies in semester two of my Design Strategy degree. Overall I feel like I got the most out of my leadership by design course but overall things really started to gell and everyone starting doing some amazing work this semester. Great teams, great work and I can’t wait for what the next group of lectures bring.
















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A role for marketing and design

Marketing is the skill of discovering human needs and opportunities with the purpose of developing a business.

I think marketing can be viewed as the ability for businesses to answer two key questions.

  • What should we make?
  • How are we doing with what we made?

Obviously these are two very important core questions and putting on my design hat for a moment I can’t help but see the huge overlap with what marketing and design are trying to address.

That’s why we get into so many fights. We both want to play with the same ball.

With this overlap in the types of questions design and marketing are trying to address there can’t help but be conflict but also great opportunities for learning from each world. Marketing focuses on discovering needs that people have and tries to meet them through business. Design opens up opportunities it sees in people and tried to expose them through business and art. With that mind I think where design process needs help is with scaling and ability to project where the businesses should grow and develop. I think there’s a lot that can be learned and applied from marketing strategies that designers can use to project and show the impact of their work. Ultimately, I think design could be doing a lot better job of speaking a language business can understand and there’s a lot we can learn from marketing in that realm.

Both are looking into ‘what should we make’ and both are judged by ‘are people buying what we made’ but I think the paths taken to answer these questions are very different.

The majority of marketing practices take the approach of looking for needs and really analyzing the size and ‘slice’ of the demographic to see if it’s a viable business opportunity. They try to remain impartial to ‘if the market should’ want certain things (an amoral not immortal stance) and attempt to remain factual as possible to what the data shows the market demand is.

With the majority of design practitioners I think the approach is different. There is a lot less focus on the slice or analysis of the market. Instead there is the belief that if you are able to uncover a deep desire or need a market will create itself to fit around it. The marketing model is flipped and intrinsically the assumption is made that if you create it they will come. The reason design is able to run with these rash assumptions is because they are able to prototype, test and iterate their way to the successful path. These skills allows for early risk taking and eventually (if followed through) ends up with a less risky product to market.

The other way I’d like to propose that design differs from marketing is that it takes a moral and ethical stance. Certainly design has, for ages, taken an aesthetic stance on things. Designers routinely make an attempt to say what is or is not aesthetically pleasing for people (where as marketers are happy to provide people with whatever kitsch people want). Keep in mind I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that (I for one love kitsch). Just that design has a history (and skill sets that are build on that history) of taking a stance on why they are making their choices while marketing has been far more focused on providing an unadulterated service.

With this somewhat elitist stance of ‘choosing’ and the way design is evolving I think designers have started to incorporate more and more the idea of not just aesthetic concerns also human centered, sustainable and ethical considerations as well. Maybe it’s a backlash against the egotism of what design has been in the past but certainly it’s a movement that’s strongly underway in the design community. This ‘considered’ solution is what I mean when I say design (as it is starting to evolve) is in a much stronger place than marketing to take an ethical stance and I think that’s a key way that design is going to differ from marketing in the future.

The interesting thing I think is because design has the greater ability to exploit it has the a bigger responsibility for ethical considerations.

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Design Change . Change Design – Conversation about social change

I’m helping organize a Designer’s Accord Town hall. Join us if you want to be part of the conversation about designing for social innovation.

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Design Change . Change Design: The first student-led Designers Accord Town Hall meeting will take place on Friday, March 12th at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Please join D-Rev’s Krista Donaldson and CCA’s Design Strategy MBA students as we embark on a journey fueled by lively discussion surrounding Designing for Social Change.

As we move towards building a more responsible and sustainable future, design’s value is no longer measured in terms of beauty or function. Design is a now a framework for change, used by leaders around the world to solve our planet’s most challenging problems.

The event:

6:00pm-6:45pm Networking (hors d’oeuvres and beer+wine)
6:45pm-7:15pm Keynote Presentation, Krista Donaldson
7:15pm-8:15pm Open Presentations on Social Impact, 5 min time slots
(volunteer now to present or at the door by 6:15 pm)
8:15-8:45 General Discussion + networking

CCA / Designers Accord Town Hall
March 12th, 2010, 6:00 pm
California College of the Arts
The Nave
1111 Eighth Street
San Francisco, CA 94107-2247


The event was a tremendous success! M thanks to everyone that showed up and participated in the dialogue on design for social change.

Here’s some pictures from the event (taken by the amazing Faraz Shah) > Event Photographs on Flickr

And Here we are on Core77 > http://bit.ly/9rHzzf

And a way to continue the conversation on Twitter > #designchange

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